Creating and Recovering Experience: Repetition in Tolstoy

By Natasha Sankovitch | Go to book overview

2. The Structure of Characters'
Experience

The urge to prove that where we intuit unity there really is unity is a deep emotional motive to philosophy, to art, to thinking itself.

- Iris Murdoch

Tolstoy presents us with characters whom we come to know as highly personalized complexes of habits, beliefs, and accumulated experience.1 Over and over, even less reflective characters modify their concept of self in response to external events and encounters with other characters, and in terms of inner psychological, intellectual, and ethical issues and conflicts. The self for Tolstoy is always becoming, and this is so in part because situations are always changing. As Patricia Carden notes, an "emphasis on growth and formation and the consequent fluid image of the self become a keystone of Tolstoy's vision as artist."2 And in reference to both Tolstoy's self-depiction in his diaries and his depiction of fictional characters, Boris Eikhenbaum asserts: "The fluidity of human experiences, the unceasing process of movements following and often contradicting one another, forms the essential ingredient in Tolstoy's

____________________
1
As Morson notes, for Tolstoy individuals have no center or inner core: they are the accumulation of their habits and thoughts ( Hidden in Plain View201, 205).
2
Carden, "The Expressive Self in War and Peace," p. 519.

-68-

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