The One Desires Union, the Other Disunion

Day 134 of A Year of War and Peace

The hunt is still on. The old count has gone home and Nikolai, with Natasha and Petya watching, keenly keeps to the task at hand. He surveys the scene and determines that it should be the perfect time and place for a fox to show itself.

He’s right!

A red fox tears out of the bush and Nikolai sets his team upon it. But something happens: two alien borzoi’s burst out from the wood and give chase. Two unknown huntsman join them. Eventually they end up capturing the fox.

These huntsman and borzoi belong to a man named Ilagin. Ilagin, it turns out, is feuding with the Rostovs. So you can expect how Nikolai reacts to this development. Natasha suspects he’ll do something awful. Pretty much anyone who has been reading the novel shares her concern.

Things start off just the way Natasha suspects they will. Nikolai, with his usual absence of moderation in judgment, already hates Illagin even though the two have never met. He sets off towards him brimming with anger.

But something strange happens. Strange for Nikolai anyway. He doesn’t lead with his anger, though, indeed, he is angry. Instead, he approaches rather calmly. This calm approach, at least externally, allows for Illagin to offer an introduction and an apology.

This introduction and apology goes so well that Rostov accepts Illagin’s invitation to join him on his estate for a hare hunt.

This is an important development for Nikolai. He’s learning to shed his former, angry self. Surely a lesson in today’s chapter is that anger breeds antisocial enmity whereas calmness brings social comity.


Whether it is in accordance with nature will become clear if we turn our eyes to man. What is more gentle than he while he is in a right state of mind? But what is more cruel than anger? What is more loving to others than man? What more hostile than anger? Man is born for natural help; anger for mutual destruction. The one desires union, the other disunion; the one to help, the other to harm; one would succour even strangers, the other attack what is best beloved; the one is ready even to expend himself for the good of others, the other to plunge into peril only if it can drag others along.
Seneca, On Anger I

This is the one hundred and thirty-fourth 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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