Marya’s Response

Day 197 of A Year of War and Peace


Few things are more irksome than frustrated intentions. It’s easy to lose patience when you don’t get what you want, particularly if your plan is, by all objective measures, perfectly reasonable.

Today Marya has a plan that, by all objective measures, is perfectly reasonable. She recognizes the threat posed by the invading French forces. In response she proposes to flee the country estate for the relative safety of Moscow. She offers the peasants free room and board. She assures them that they will lack nothing.

Their response?

Angry resolve to remain. In addition, they insult her, claiming that her offer of grain and shelter is no more than a ploy to further enslave them.

Marya’s response?

Calmness. This isn’t something we’d expect from the other characters. Nikolai would likely, despite his recent development, erupt in rage and lash out at them. Prince Bolkonsky would probably insult the peasants, lock the grain storehouse, and leave them to the mercy of the French. As for Pierre, we can’t be sure. He’s so mercurial it’s difficult to see where he’d go in this situation.

As it happens, though, Marya simply goes into her room to be alone with her thoughts. She doesn’t explode in anger or even malicious thoughts. It’s a testament to her character that she doesn’t allow the actions of others to disturb her own mind.


What concern to me is anything that happens, while I have greatness of soul? What shall disconcert or trouble me, or seem grievous to me? Shall I fail to make use of my faculties to that purpose for which they were granted me, but lament and groan at what happens?
Epictetus, The Discourses

This is the one hundred and ninety-seventh installment in a daily, yearlong, chapter-by-chapter reading devotional and meditation on Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. For more information on this project please read the introduction to the series here.

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