. In War and Peace and Anna Karenina events that prove crucial to the characters’ lives sometimes occur during gala balls. Do you see a symbolic significance in this?
Anna Karenina and War and Peace are both novels that are set in two opposing settings, city, and country. In the context of the city, Tolstoy brings in several party scenes that represent the decadence of city life. It is during these scenes that the readers see the real nature of the characters.
In War and Peace, the novel opens with a gala party at the home of Anna Pavlovna in Petersburg, Russia. It is a grand and high society party where people gather to demonstrate their intellect and courage. In the setting of a party, Tolstoy demonstrates the shallowness of the people who attend through his choice of words in the opening paragraphs.
It was in July 1805, and the speaker was the well-known Anna Pavlovna Scherer, maid of honor and favorite of the Empress Marya Fedorovna. With these words, she greeted Prince Vasili Kuragin, a man of high rank and importance, who was the first to arrive at her reception. Anna Pavlovna had had a cough for some days. She was, as she said, suffering from la grippe; grippe being then a new word in St. Petersburg, used only by the elite (1).
In this passage, Tolstoy throws on the “high-class adjectives–“maid of honor,” “favorite of Empress,” and “man of high-rank.”
Another clue that the parties symbolize the true shallowness of city life is that the lavish affair goes on while a serious war rages in Europe. People speak as if they are concerned with politics and war, but their actions do not reflect this concern.
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