As I am reading War and Peace the second time, many of the motifs and themes that had escaped me the first time are becoming more apparent, I start to notice more aspects of the personality of characters and it is a very interesting experience.
I know that most of the rest of the people in our class are having their first experience with War and Peace and potentially with Tolstoy as well. The question that our conversation in class on Monday brought to me was - how do we engage with the characters we see? What makes us see good or evil in one or another and why do we like some better than others? Obviously, some of them do really good deeds, others not so much, some are just oblivious to the unhappiness they cause. Yet, in my previous class on War and Peace, there was someone who really liked Dolokhov and kept insisting that he is a good guy ( and as Rostov discovered, he does have a family that he loves very much) and now Cynthia brings up a very good point about Helene's honesty about her manipulative nature which could redeem her.
It is very interesting to me how much of ourselves we allow into our readings. Like I mentioned in class, Natasha seemed like a charming ideal of femininity to me (although I didn't love her) and I was obsessed with Andrew, with his calm and composed nature and his ability to anchor other characters and learn from his experiences. This time around I respect Mary so much more than I did the first time, I find it hard to relate to Natasha's exuberance anymore and Andrew, although still appealing, has lost his capacity to awe me. I was a first-semester first-year when I first read War and Peace and I definitely grew up since then. Thus, is the way I relate to characters now a result of my growth or a result of being able to re-read the book and noticing the details I couldn't see the first time?
My question for all of you is - do you think that upon reading the book a second time you would empathize with the same characters or change? And if you think you would change your minds, would that be a result of your own change?
For instance, just to change the frame a little bit - imagine reading Family Happiness as a happily married individual 20 years from now. Imagine reading it as a recently divorced individual. Although Family Happiness is not an accurate description of modern life - could it maybe have a different meaning for you in different contexts?