Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Pierre's Masculinity

War and Peace has so far focused heavily on Pierre Bezukhov who I think is a very interesting main character to have since he doesn't always live up to the social constructs one would usually think a main character of a dramatic novel like War and Peace would. Specifically, I'd like to look at the construct of masculinity. Pierre is the center focus of the peace times of War and Peace which is not very masculine since he never leaves the protective sphere of society to go to war, but at the same time his greatest vices are women, drinking, parties, etc, which are all masculine pastimes. His partiality to women especially lends him heterosexual privilege, but the fact that he doesn't seem to actually attract many women somewhat undermines that. Because of all this, he is a relatively average character in terms of masculinity. When he marries Helene, however, things shift for his character. First of all, he has to give up his vices. On the other hand, he's able to land a beautiful and coveted women. When her rumored affair reaches him, he challenges Dolokhov to a duel which would've been a very masculine way of settling things back then, but then immediately regrets it. However, his regret is internal, and the fact that he is still able to wound Dolokhov (as ungraceful and probably accidental as the act might've been), still he is able to prove himself to some degree. When Helene finally confronts him about the incident and ridicules his masculinity by saying that any woman married to him would want to have an affair with a more worthy man, he nearly becomes abusive in an attempt to display his masculinity in the worst way possible. I'm curious to see how his character will grow from now on and if he'll keep struggling towards a higher degree of masculinity now that he has the public's eye on him or if he'll recede back and be just as naive and submissive as ever. The end of his fight with Helene when he gives her control of his estates in Great Russia and leaves for Petersburg makes me think that perhaps the latter is more probable, but who knows! What do you guys think?

5 comments:

  1. I definitely also found it odd that after the big fight with Helene he would just give her his properties....odd indeed :-D. Maybe the reasoning behind it will be revealed in the next chapters/books. Great piece though!

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  2. yeah it was definitely a weaker reaction than I expected. Also thanks!

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  3. I think it is really interesting how you explained both sides of Pierre and in what ways he is masculine and what ways he isn't. I think, subconsciously, he doesn't like Helene because marrying her does force him to quit his masculine games. Also, although you say he regrets injuring Dolokhov, I think it is still a very masculine move. Almost any human being, besides a sociopath, would have some regret when they injure another human, even if they had many masculine properties.

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  4. I totally see what you're saying but would argue that if dolokhov had been the one to injure Pierre he probably wouldn't have reacted as strongly. Empathy and guilt definitely would've still been present, but because Pierre hasn't seen war and hasn't had his emotions as oppressed as some of the more masculine men in this book his reaction was probably more genuine and therefore in a way more feminine.

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  5. I really enjoyed your writing focusing on Pierre-s masculinity, a theme I wouldn't have given a second thought. Do you think if Pierre evolves into a more masculine person, would it give him more maturity and clearheadedness? He seems to be like a child who does not realize what he can do and, being unsure of himself, submits to others for guidance, etc.

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