Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Freemasonry in "War and Peace"
At the beginning of book ten is where we are introduced to the freemasons. Pierre is empowered by this traveller, and later by Count Willarski, to change his life, stand up for himself, and reaffirm his faith in god. This is very interesting to me because there are so many negative stereotypes surrounding masonic society. Politically, both the far left and the far right distrust and denounce freemasons. They are seen as a powerful and threatening political and social force. Many conspiracy theories link them to the Illuminati or other secret societies on a quest for world control. They are supposed to be a sort of cult, which perpetuates its own existence and ends and nothing more, according to its critics. They were persecuted and killed by the Nazi's, by Saddam Hussein when he was in power in Iraq, and almost disbanded by Parliament in England after the french revolution. This last point is even more interesting due to its proximity in time to "War and Peace". I know all of this information about the masons because I happened to have interviewed a 90 year old man who was a freemason, and he complained about the conspiracies theories and the negative mass-media perception of what he viewed as an entirely law-abiding and possitive influence in society. That is also how Tolstoy portrays freemasons in "War and Peace"; They are a possitive influence on the world around them, turning a downtrodden and hopeless man into an optimistic and productive member of society. Pierre changes his life for the better, and renounces all negative influences in his life, after being initiated by the freemasons. He even stands up for himself, something we haven't seen from him as of yet in the novel. I just enjoyed seeing how Tolstoy describes the "traveller" (305) who changes Pierre's life. The traveller makes Pierre "(listen) with a swelling heart", as though his heart were growing in his chest with this new opportunity to find himself (307). This leads me to think that Tolstoy as a writer, though certainly having his own opinions politically and expressing them in his writing, is not afraid to give credence to highly controversial views and actions within his characters. I appreciate it.