Book Review: The Federalist Papers

“It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.”

– Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 1

The Constitution of the United States is one of the most important documents in American History, and it caused its share of controversy when it was first proposed. The Federalist Papers were written to defend it, and to convince the American people of its merits. Consisting of 85 essays, the Federalist Papers were written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, and covered six basic arguments:

  1. Why and how America would be more prosperous politically and economically as a union than as independent states, or a loose coalition.
  2. That the Confederacy was not strong enough to keep the states together.
  3. The need for a stronger government to preserve the union (resulting in prosperity).
  4. That the proposed constitution is in line with the principles of republican government.
  5. How the Constitution is similar to existing state constitutions.
  6. Adopting the Constitution will secure republican liberties, not infringe on them.

Keep in mind that the Federalist is only one side of the debate. There were many prominent figures on the opposite side, and the reader must decide for himself whether the arguments with which the authors back up these bold assertions are sufficient. Whether or not you agree with them will most likely depend on your own political philosophy, rather than the authors’ persuasive powers.

I could not possibly cover all the essays in one post, and some of them are now outdated and irrelevant, due to changes in our political system, but I will link to a few of my favorites, and summarize them.

The Federalist 10: The Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection

Madison argues that one of the main dangers of a “popular government” is its propensity to divide people into factions, (by which Madison specifically means a group motivated by a common cause or belief that is antagonistic to the beliefs of other citizens, not just a difference of opinion), and the chaos caused by these factions clashing. To avoid this danger, one can:

  1. Remove the cause or
  2. Control the effects

Within option one, there are two ways to remove the cause: by taking away liberty, or by brainwashing everyone into having identical beliefs and goals. Neither of these is an acceptable solution (and the second one is impossible), so Madison moves on to option two: controlling the effects.

This is most difficult if the troublesome factor makes up a majority of the population, since a popular government is supposed to carry out the will of the majority, and this is one reason that America is a republic, not a democracy. Governing by representation rather than a direct democracy helps to control factions, because issues are decided by men at one remove from the concern, and thus able to look at the matter with more fairness, and the bigger the republic the better, since the sheer number of people makes it less likely that a majority will agree on something that hurts the public welfare. It does happen occasionally, but less often.

Some of these arguments are countered by the two party system we have set up now, but it is still a fine piece of reasoning.

The Federalist 37,  38, and 39

In No. 37, Madison explains how difficult was the task of the constitutional convention, and how impossible to get everything exactly right. The founding fathers never expected a perfect government, but they were striving for balance. They intentionally set people’s personal interests against one another. No. 38 continues this theme, going back into the history of Greece to further illustrate how difficult a task the convention has undertaken. Madison also attacks the arguments of the anti-federalists, showing that their objections are incoherent and they do not even agree with each other—there is no unity in their dissent. In addition, many of the things they dislike about the Constitution are even worse in the Articles of Confederation. No. 39 argues that the Constitution conforms to republican principles, and explains the difference between the terms “federal” and “national”.

The Federalist 78

Hamilton describes the role of the judicial branch in this essay (the subject is continued in No. 79), how the judges will be appointed, the length of their tenure, and why it is essential that the judicial branch be independent from the legislative.


Closing thoughts:

Overall, I prefer Madison’s style of writing to Hamilton’s. He lays out his arguments very logically, and is more even-handed as he deals with the questions raised by the opposition.

The Federalist is excellent to read in small doses; if too much is attempted in one sitting the topics tend to run together.

When I was about three quarters of the way through the essays, it occurred to me that perhaps I should have re-read the constitution before starting them. I’ve read it a few times, for different courses in high school and college, but it has been a while. For others embarking on The Federalist Papers, I would recommend you begin by re-familiarizing yourself with the constitution, as it will help you follow the arguments.

If The Federalist Papers looks interesting to you, you might also enjoy:

Democracy in America, by Alexis de Tocqueville

The Constitution of the United States

The Articles of Confederation

The Anti-Federalist Papers (I read a few of these as I was going through Federalist, and it was interesting to see the other side of the argument.)

If you’re feeling especially ambitious you could even look into:

Leviathan, by Thomas Hobbes

Two Treatises on Government, by John Locke

The Rights of Man, by Thomas Paine

The Spirit of Laws, by Charles de Montesquieu

Book Review: Don Quixote (In Which I find Cause to use the word “Inconsequentialness”)

Historic Background:

Don Quixote was written by Miguel de Cervantes, and first published in 1605 (the sequel/second part was published 10 years later). As one of the very earliest novels, it has influenced Western literature and culture right down to the present day. It is also one of the best known Spanish literary works of all time.

Setting:

Don Quixote is set in the Spanish countryside, in the region of La Mancha. The time period of the story is supposedly many years before Cervantes is writing (he claims to have found old “records” of Quixote’s adventures, which he is now publishing).

Plot:

Don Quixote is a romantic gentleman, who rides about on his horse seeking adventures in an attempt to revive the practice of chivalry. He does find adventures, but they are mostly of the humorous sort, at least from the reader’s perspective. Quixote himself considers them to be serious matters of honor and valor. He meets many people in the course of his wanderings, and they often laugh at him, or encourage him in his delusions.

Characters:

Don Quixote, knight errant—is he insane? Most people seem to think so, and he is certainly delusional when it comes to such things as mistaking a windmill for a giant, or a herd of animals for a great army. On other matters, however, he is quite sensible, and he has a strong sense of justice, which he tries to enforce on others. The reader usually feels rather sorry for him.

Sancho Panza—the sidekick, Quixote’s squire. He is somewhat of a “skeptic”, wavering between believing Quixote—he is following the knight because he promised to make Sancho a governor—and trying to convince him of what is going on in the real world. Like others in the book, he often deceives Quixote, only pretending to fulfill the quests that Quixote sets him.

Style:

This is a book written more than four hundred years ago, and it definitely shows. I read a lot of older literature, and I struggled to get through some of the dialogue and drawn out descriptions. It was sometimes hard to keep track of what was going on, because of the archaic language. There may be more modern translations that would be easier for a twenty-first century reader, however. Scattered throughout the story are many poems and songs, as well as short stories related by one character to another, or to a group of characters. Cervantes seems to enjoy layering stories within stories.

There is a second part to this book, which I have not read, and given my experience with this first part, I doubt I will take the time to do so. I enjoyed the book, but there was too much rambling and inconsequentialness for my taste, without enough plot or character development to make up for it.

Themes:

Reality vs. Illusion. Quixote has a very different view of reality from all the other characters, and anything that fails to match up to his version of reality is explained away as being the result of magic or enchantment. In our world as well, it is impossible to convince people with evidence that their view of reality is incorrect—they will always have an explanation that makes sense to themselves, however nonsensical it may seem from another point of view.

Deception and lying. By the end of the book, everyone is lying to Quixote in one way or another, whether for their own amusement, or in an attempt to get him back home without him realizing where they are going. Whether their motives are good or not, the result is to make Quixote look ridiculous. Is it right to lie to someone for their own good? Cervantes does not answer the question, but leaves it for the reader to consider.

Comedy. For the most part, this book is just a rollicking adventure, replete with jokes and laughter. There are some serious themes to be found, but the book as a whole is quite lighthearted.

Book Review: Great Expectations

Historic Background:

Great Expectations is one of Dickens’s later novels, published as a serial between 1860 and 1861. At this time Dickens was a famous public figure, but he still wrote, edited, and published for newspapers.

Setting:

The novel is set earlier in the 1800s, roughly between 1810 and 1835 (except for the last chapter). It begins in the country—a rather damp and dreary country, from Pip’s description—where Pip divides his time between the forge, a warm, welcoming place, and Miss Havisham’s grand house, which is very gloomy and dark. In contrast with this setting is London, where Pip goes later in the book. While London is more exciting than Pip’s village, it is dirty and lonely, especially when he first arrives.

Plot: This is a coming-of-age book, centered on Pip, using his narrating voice. The tale starts when Pip is just a village lad, who is scared out of his wits by finding a convict on the marshes one Christmas eve. Pip’s life begins to change shortly after that event, when he is sent to Miss Havisham’s house to “play”. Though he is scared of the eccentric lady, he meets Estella and gets a taste for gentility there, and begins to be discontented with his station. He initially tries to better himself with education, but his life takes a sudden turn when he is informed that he has “expectations” from a mysterious benefactor, and is to go live in London. Pip is so happy to become a gentleman, and so anxious about his social standing, that he cuts himself off from the village entirely, even being rude to Joe when he comes to visit.

In London, Pip is extravagant, spending money foolishly because of his “great expectations”. He gets into debt, and drags his friend in with him. Sure that his benefactor must be Miss Havisham, Pip believes that he will marry Estella, who is now also in London, in the same circles as he is. When he comes of age, Pip decides to find out who his patron is, but is interrupted by a tramp called Magwitch suddenly showing up. Confused at first, Pip eventually understands that this Magwitch is the convict whom he helped when he was a boy, by bringing him food secretly when he was in hiding. Pip is stunned to learn that the man has made his fortune in Australia, and all this time it is he who has been his benefactor, not Miss Havisham at all. By coming back to England, Magwitch is in danger of being arrested, and Pip tries to help him get out of the country. Compeyson is working against them, however, and Magwitch is arrested, all his property is confiscated by the crown, and that is the end of Pip’s expectations.

Of course, it’s all really much more complicated than that, being Dickens. I had to ruthlessly leave out many subplots which are integral to the story to condense it even this much.

Characters:

Phillip Perrip: (Pip) An orphan, but being brought up by his older sister and her husband.

He starts out as a nice boy, but as soon as he starts wanting to be a gentleman he becomes rather annoying. For most of the novel Pip is selfish and extravagant, but when he learns who actually left him his “great expectations” he does begin to change, and to see more clearly what is valuable in life.

The Gargerys: Are bringing up Pip by hand. Mrs. Joe Gargery is Pip’s sister, who goes on rampages at the slightest provocation. Pip is afraid of her, especially when she has Tickler. Joe, a blacksmith, treats Pip as a son, and is his best friend. He is not educated, but is kind to everyone, honest, and innately polite.

Miss Havisham: A creepy lady always dressed in a wedding gown.

Pip has to go to her house as a companion, to walk with her, or play cards. She is very rich, but unhappy because she was abandoned by her fiancé right before their wedding. Appears to enjoy making everyone around her uncomfortable.

Estella: A spoilt beauty, the adopted daughter of Miss Havisham.

Miss Havisham is training Estella to take revenge on the male sex, by making all men fall in love with her, but never being in love herself. This certainly works on Pip.

Magwitch: Also called The Convict, terrifies Pip when he is a small boy, but is later his benefactor.

Pip, under threat of being eaten alive, brings him food when he has escaped from the convict ship and is hiding on the marshes, and Magwitch is grateful to him, even though he is soon recaptured and sent off to Australia.

Wemmick: Lives in a castle with his Aged Parent, works for a lawyer named Jaggers in London. Wemmick has two sides to his character, his “Walworth sentiments” at home and his “official sentiments” at the office in London. He gives Pip advice and guidance while he is in London.

Compeyson: Another convict, Magwitch’s mortal enemy.

The reader does not even hear of this fellow until near the end of the book, but he is responsible for Miss Havisham’s blighted life, Magwitch’s life of crime, and Pip losing his great expectations. In a way he is the villain, although I always think of Pip himself as the “villain”, because it is his weaknesses of character that are the main source of conflict.

Themes:

Valuing Friendship

Throughout the book, Pip is careless of his friends, often ignoring them until he needs them, yet they still stand by him and help him through every scrape he gets into—Joe cares for him when he is sick and pays his debts, Herbert gets him a job after he loses his expectations, and Wemmick gives him advice and helps him with Magwitch even against his own better judgment. By the end of the story Pip realizes that his friends are more important than social standing and money.

Wealth

Wealth is portrayed as at least dangerous, if not altogether bad. It makes those who have it either suspicious of everyone, like Miss Havisham, because she thinks everyone must be trying to get money out of her, or corrupt, like the lawyer Jaggers who squeezes all the money he can out of others, or lazy and self-indulgent like Pip, relying on his money rather than on his own talent and work.

The Treatment of Convicts

If there is a social issue expressed in Great Expectations, it is the treatment of convicts, and the prison system as a whole. Magwitch, for a minor crime, has his whole life ruined, while Compeyson, who has done much worse things, gets off easily. Dickens is quick to spot and decry this injustice.

 

Book Review: The Pickwick Papers

Historic Background:

The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club—usually shortened to The Pickwick Papers—is the first novel Dickens wrote, and it was published in installments between 1836 and 1837. Though only 24 years old when he began the novel, Dickens had already had some experience and success in writing for newspapers.

Setting:

The book begins in London, at the Pickwick Club, and then ranges from a country house, where the Pickwickians stay for several days, to a town in the middle of a Parliamentary Election, to Fleet Prison, where Mr. Pickwick is incarcerated for some time.

Characters:

Mr. Pickwick is an elderly man, who likes to observe human nature. For this reason, he is traveling around England with three other members of his club, collecting interesting facts and stories. Pickwick is a kind man, but rather idealistic. At times he lets his temper get the better of him, becoming especially indignant at fraud and injustice.

Mr. Tupman is one of Pickwick’s companions, portrayed as very susceptible to feminine wiles, though he is not a young gentleman any longer.

Mr. Snodgrass, another companion of Pickwick, is of a poetical turn of mind, though he has not actually written any verses. His love story is developed mostly in the background, culminating in a wedding at the end of the book.

Mr. Winkle, supposedly a sporting gentleman, is in reality very timid, with little experience in shooting, hunting, or any other manly exercise. When he is content to stop pretending, however, he wins the love of a nice girl, and manages to elope with her.

Sam Weller, Pickwick’s servant, is the comic relief of the book, but he ends up being very much attached to Mr. Pickwick, and is willing to do anything for him, getting him out of a lot of difficulties.

Alfred Jingle attaches himself to the Pickwickians as a friend, but he causes trouble first for their host, and then for Pickwick himself, trying anything he can to get money, until he winds up in debtors’ prison, without even food to sustain himself.

Plot:

As is often the case with Dicken’s books, there are multiple plot lines moving throughout the story. In fact, Pickwick Papers is even more disjointed and episodic that most of his later works. The characters’ expressed goal is to see a wide variety of English life, for which purpose they set out over the countryside and get embroiled in all kinds of adventures along the way, as well as hearing many outlandish tales from those they meet, which are basically just short stories sprinkled through the book that add nothing to the plot. The first larger plot arch begins when the four Pickwickians meet Alfred Jingle, the villain of the book. Jingle befriends the Pickwickians, and they happily introduce him to their other traveling acquaintances. He is not exposed as a villain until he has tried to run off with a lady whom Mr. Tupman has been courting. Being thwarted in this scheme, Jingle vows vengeance on Mr. Pickwick, and through the rest of the book does all he can to cause him trouble. Meanwhile, Mr. Winkle and Mr. Snodgrass have both fallen in love with young ladies, and meet with all manner of obstacles in love. Mr. Pickwick himself is sued for a breach of promise, due to a misunderstanding with a widow, and is required to pay damages. Conscious of his own innocence, Mr. Pickwick refuses to pay, instead submitting to being locked up in a debtor’s prison—much to the dismay of his friends—where he once again encounters Alfred Jingle. Now, however, the erstwhile conman is suffering extreme deprivation, and Mr. Pickwick is merciful instead of seeking vengeance. Mr. Pickwick is finally persuaded to pay his fine in order that he might have the liberty to straighten out his young friends’ romances, and all ends happily.

Themes:

Loyalty and friendship

There are examples of both good and shallow friendships in the book. Most significant is Sam’s loyalty to Mr. Pickwick, perfectly shown in the moment he gets himself arrested for debt in order to stay in the prison where Mr. Pickwick is being held.

Humourous misunderstandings versus little social deceptions

There is a lot of deception throughout the book, mostly in the form of people pretending to be something they are not. Mr. Winkle is especially prone to this, almost shooting a person while hunting because of his unwillingness to admit that he does not know how to use a gun.  In his treatment of such scenes, Dickens clearly shows that he believes this to be wrong. On the other hand, there are accidental misunderstandings due to a character happening into the middle of a situation and jumping to the wrong conclusion, which is used for comic effect.

The state of the downtrodden

As with his later books, Dickens is concerned with social reform, and the state of the poor of England. Many of the short stories sprinkled through the book—anecdotes told to the Pickwickians by various minor characters they meet in their travels—concern paupers, drunkards, widows, sick men and children, and how their condition is due at least in part to the law and custom of the land.

The corruption of the English legal and political system

The grand finale of the book, Pickwick’s imprisonment, is due to his protest against corruption in the legal system, specifically the idea that truth does not matter. This theme is also shown earlier in the book when they go to watch an election, in which Dickens ruthlessly satirizes the politics of the time as being blindly partisan, with no concern for actual issues.

Forgiveness

Mr. Pickwick is a forgiving man. When his friends foolishness disappoints him, or when his enemy is reduced to dire straits, he forgives and does what he can to help the situation. I was glad to see that forgiving Alfred Jingle was viewed as a good action on Mr. Pickwick’s part, not foolish or silly, regardless of whether or not Jingle would reform his behavior. This is only a faint reflection of God’s forgiveness for sinners, but it was encouraging to see the idea represented without confusion or doubt.

Personality Tag: All about the…

Well, if I told you my personality right up front, it wouldn’t be much fun, would it?

Anyway, the person who tagged me for this (my sister, incidentally) already knows my personality, so I’m not being cruel.

The Rules: (if I must, I must.)

 

1. (optional) Thank whoever nominated you/Post the above button
2. Find two favorite quotes for your personality type
3. Name three favorite movie characters that have your personality
and one weakness in your personality that you’re trying to change (or more if you really want to)
4. Tell us a little bit about your personality
5. Have you ever taken a personality test? If so, which one?
6. Tag three to five people

Thank you Rebekah, but I’m not posting the button. Sorry. If you want to read about her personality, go here.

Also, I’m going to do these all out of order, starting with telling you a little bit about my personality. First off, the “all about” part of the title is misleading. It would be impossible to fit everything about any personality all into one blog post. My personality requires me to clarify this point right from the beginning. My personality is a favorite of authors, and random people discussing personalities online, but the inaccuracies in such conversations are rampant:

  1. We are not purposefully mean to people. Usually.
  2. We do not constantly break rules. Most rules make sense, at least in my life.
  3. We do not make all decisions based on logic. Everyone is irrational occasionally.
  4. We are not cold and heartless. Just because you can’t see feelings doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
  5. We do not consider ourselves superior to other personalities. Just because I wouldn’t want to be you doesn’t mean you have to want to be me.
  6. We do not want to rule the world.
  7. We are NOT all mastermind super-villains. This is such an annoying stereotype. The other points have a least a grain of truth, a tendency we have to fight against, but this is just ridiculous.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m an INTJ. I love using unusual words and punctuation, when they precisely convey my meaning. I see the world as a fascinating web of information, all woven together and connected to itself. I am obsessively accurate, and constantly learning new things. At any point in a conversation, I may very well be playing devil’s advocate. In general, I am rather awkward in social situations, especially if they involve hugging.

Well, that’s quite enough of that, I think, so now I’ll find a couple quotes.

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So true, so annoying. I would add, “and remember it for the rest of their lives as proof that you’re human.”

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I can’t force my brain to pay attention to these mundane, everyday things. Random historical facts, people’s credit card numbers, how to convert centimeters to inches, this all sticks. But remembering the name of someone I just met, let alone what they were wearing? Not a chance.

Have I taken a personality test? Of course. Every one I could find online. Multiple times, changing my answers to screw with the results. Over-analyzation is practically the definition of my personality, what else do you expect?

Movie/book characters:

  1. Elrond, from The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.
  2. Mr. Darcy, from Pride and Prejudice
  3. Professor Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes

Real people:

  1. C.S. Lewis
  2. Isaac Newton
  3. Jane Austen
  4. Augustus Caesar
  5. Abigail Adams

As far as weaknesses go, there are two I’d like to change:

  1. I’m not very good at reading people, or knowing how to respond to them emotionally when they need it, while on the other hand I am extremely reluctant to open myself up to others or explain my feelings.
  2. I hate being wrong, or looking ridiculous, which makes me very hesitant to try new things.

Finally, the tagging.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well…pretty much all the bloggers I know have already written about personality types, so I’m actually not going to tag anyone. I think people feel compelled to share their personality already, without being tagged to do it.

Quote Challenge: Day Three

Well, here we are again…and because I put this off too long today, I’ll have to pick a quote quickly. No reading through pages and pages of favorites, chuckling and hesitating between all the options. Instead, I will give you one of my favorite writing quotes, declaimed (by myself) to many children of various ages over the years:

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

― Mark Twain

There were so many quotes I could have picked…Mark Twain alone could have filled all three days. Winston Churchill is one of my favorite people to quote, yet there are none of his sayings here. We use quotes in our family all the time, often carrying on whole conversations with them. This was a fun tag to do, and I may post more quotes in the future!

Quote Challenge: Day Two

See the advantage of not telling anyone the rules? No one knew whether I would have another quote today or not. I didn’t myself, in fact. Since yesterday was a serious, change-the-world-and-send-shivers-up-your-spine-because-it’s-so-awesome type quote, I decided to do a more light-hearted one today:

“Hallo, Rabbit,” Pooh said, “is that you?”

“Let’s pretend it isn’t,” said Rabbit, “and see what happens.”

—A. A. Milne

Opens up an interesting field of speculation, doesn’t it?

This was so hard to narrow down. Winnie-the-Pooh is simply stuffed with amazing, hilarious quotes, and I got rather side-tracked as I was trying to pick one, since I am quite a Pooh aficionado. There can never be too many random Winnie-the-Pooh quotes on the internet, so I am happy to contribute another. Milne has a way of almost saying what we expect, and then twisting it at the last moment, inducing a continuous stream of laughter, no matter how often you have read the books.

War and Peace—Review

War and Peace-1

Finals are done. Summer has come again. I can finally leave my theologies and grammars to collect dust while I once again head to the literature section. Entrees are served: Tennyson, Longfellow, and Frost. Along with the house special: Shakespeare. Next for a delightful helping of mystery stories, most notably Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Whimsey Series tops my list. I may add some Agatha Christie to spice things up a bit. Next comes the main course: A three-layered dish composed of the greatest Russian classics: War and Peace, Crime and Punishment and the Brothers Karamazov. The cook is still deciding whether Fathers and Sons (what is it with the conjunctions in Russian titles?) should be included in the meal. A friend brought a sumptuous dish called The Mysterious Benedict Society which I am dying to try. For dessert a chocolate concoction of swashbuckling adventure by the Italian cooks Emilio Salgari and Rafael Sabatini will fill out my perfect summer reading menu.

I find a spot in the grass. My toes wriggle in the warm dirt as the breeze ruffles my hair. I can hear the nostalgic hum of a mower in the distance as I pop in my earbuds preparing to fill my ears with the vibrant music of fugues by Bach. At last I am ready to begin my summer reading.

Nearly three thousand years ago Solomon wrote that all is vanity without God. As I read War and Peace this point was burned in my mind. At the beginning of the novel the characters are young and fresh, excited by the future stretching ahead of them. The protagonists are wealthy, healthy and beautiful—they have it all. But a subtle change happens, as they experience life—society, riches, love, and war—they begin to realize that nothing that they are pursuing is fulfilling them. One of the characters—Pierre Berzukev—even searches masonic mysteries in a futile attempt to find the peace that he cannot find in life.

As Napoleon in a stunning string of victories advances into the heartland of Russia, even capturing Moscow in 1812, the whole country is left in pandemonium. The status quo world of the aristocracy was rocked. Throughout the novel Tolstoy argues that the war was not determined by Napoleon, or Alexander, or Kutuzov—the Russian commander in Chief—but by the thousands of random, seemingly inconsequential, events which happened every day leading to retreat or advance, fear or excitement, and defeat or victory—this thesis is strongly questioned by many savvy historians, by the way. The vanity of war is painted in striking relief. Why do men throw themselves against each other? Why this pointless rage?

Real life is presented as being more significant than politics, like Voltaire in his satire Candide, Tolstoy, with his gross satire of Napoleon and inaccurate portrayal of Kutuzov seems to say that history only matters insofar as it is a mirror of each man’s private life—that swashbuckling adventure and heroic deeds should be replaced by one’s private garden. This theme is reflected in his description of the soldier Pierre meets in prison—Platon Karataev—who shows him the value of the simple peasant life where a wife, children, hearth and table are what fulfills a man.

Reflecting the duality—of individuals in a quest for self-definition and the mass movement of history—many characters represent larger groups within the nation. Prince Nikolay Bolonsky illustrates the traditional aristocracy of Old Russia. Prince Andrey pictures the more critical younger Russia, desperate to leave their mark on the pages of history. Pierre pursues individuality seeking to define the world around him by his dominant personality. Natasha lives out frivolous, selfish life, for a time—dictated by her emotional sensitivity—which she finally resolves through marriage and family.

Even more significant than the national war was the personal, moral war being fought by each character. This emotional and spiritual war is fought not for riches or honor or land, but for purity and righteousness. Sadly few of the characters knew how to fight such a war. Their whole life became a struggle against transience for purpose in life. Some payed homage to the facade of Russian Orthodoxy. Others worshiped at the altar of social status. Only their pride kept them from committing heinous sin. Many did live in grave sin and simply used their wealth to keep critics at bay. Most tried to use their lifestyle—whether in brilliant society in Petersburg or amongst the cannon fodder on the front—to drug away their nagging conscience. Pierre finds that most men live life soldiers under fire, diverting themselves with cards, women, horses, parties, in order to forget about the impending death.God becomes nothing more than a foil for their vain life. Only in death could they find a final cure for the pain. Some critics argue that. “Pierre learns freedom through imprisonment, and Andrey achieves love through hate and a knowledge of life as he lies dying.” Yet even here the characters find little peace. Andrey dies in pain and Pierre is still plagued by his rebellious conscience.

All is vanity. Fame. Wealth. Sex. Triumph. Family. These are all idols. Nothing can bring true hope and true satisfaction except the Son. He came to bear our sins and give us His righteousness and He promises that in Him we will never die.

Quote Challenge: Day One

I was actually tagged about a month ago for this challenge by Rebekah, from Rebekah’s Remarks, but I’d forgotten about it, even though I intended to do it. (Sorry Rebekah!) Gretald also tagged me last week, and I hereby take up the gauntlet!

There are rules attached to this challenge, but I am going to shake the world of blogging to its foundations and NOT POST THEM. Shocking, right? If you are an internet super sleuth, I suspect you may be able to find them on your own, in which case you will know if I am following them.

Now I love quotes, and have quite a collection of them. For a quote challenge, there are so many considerations: inspirational or funny? Famous quote or obscure one? Christian quote? Nerd quote? The possibilities are endless. However, for my first quote, I have to share one that has been a favourite for several years now:

“Enemy-occupied territory — that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.”

― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

I’ve read through Mere Christianity three or four times now, and this hits me every. time. C. S. Lewis has theological issues, but his way with words is indisputable. My home right now is a rebel base, full of undercover soldiers being trained to fight against the ruler of this world with every fiber of our being. One soldier has already left, and is working on starting his own resistance hub in an undisclosed location, building a network of saboteurs to help him.

I relish this way of picturing the world. I could fill this post ten times over with quotes from Lewis that I’ve saved over the years, but I won’t. Am I a romantic? Definitely. Every Christian must be at some level. We love stories because they are built into the framework of the universe by God, and we idealize reality because there is an ideal to be realized.

Well…that got dense and philosophical quickly. Sorry, but it’s an occupational hazard of reading C. S. Lewis.

To wrap up, I am going to tag a few people to do this challenge, all certified internet sleuths who will be able to find the rules, don’t worry:

Madi, at Once lost, now found

Sharon, at the smallest Small

Heather, at A Writer’s Reflections 

There you have it. Have a great day, and find opportunities to sabotage the Enemy’s plans!