War and Peace by Tolstoy – Volume 1, Part 2

*Potential Mild Spoilers for Volume 1, Part 2 in This Post*

I can’t believe it y’all! I actually enjoyed Part 2!! As I ventured into this section that is all focused on war and the battlefield, I was nervous that I would find it just meh again. Or that it would become a slog to get through. But that was not the case at all. Sure there were a few parts here and there that I kind of just zipped right through so as not to get bogged down with it. But by and large, it was very engaging! In fact, parts of it were quite gripping. In addition, there were passages where Tolstoy just blew me away with his writing.

I find that a lot of classic literature I’ve read is often layered and one could read them multiple times and still glean things from the text. This is certainly true of Tolstoy’s writing! Therefore, I’m not worried about trying to pick up on everything as I read. So, in Part 2, I focused mostly on characters we have already been introduced to in Part I. In particular, I watched what was happening with Prince Andrey and Count Nikolay Rostov. I noticed some interesting points of character for Prince Andrey. And in case you are wondering, it didn’t change my mind about him. Yet.

Things I Picked Up On with Prince Andrey

First, I noted this particular passage and found it interesting:

“Although it was not long since Prince Andrey had left Russia, he had changed a great deal during that time. His facial expression and the way he moved and walked showed barely a trace of his former affectation and languid boredom. He had the air of a man too absorbed in enjoyable and fascinating work to think about making an impression on other people. His face showed greater contentment – with himself and those around him. His smile was easier; a warmer charm shone in his eyes.” (p. 128-129)

It would seem that he is changing. That before, he was just kind of drifting and couldn’t find meaning in the way his life was going. But now, he has found purpose and is more content. Yet, that almost feels somewhat contradictory to things we read about him further into the volume.

Some other things I noted:

  • It mentions that he daily wrote to his father. But there’s no mention whatsoever of any correspondence at all with his wife. Maybe I’m reading into this too much, but I couldn’t help but think yeah, he could make time for his father but not for his wife. I’m sorry. But that vexed me.
  • I couldn’t help but react to this part: “He felt humiliated, and the sense of humiliation soon transformed itself imperceptibly into a quite unjustified belief that they were treating him with contempt.” (p. 159) When I read that, I couldn’t help but think – “Well Andrey, maybe that’s exactly how you have made your wife feel. Have you even thought that maybe you have humiliated her and made her feel like she is being treated with contempt?” Right. Still not a fan of Andrey…..
  • We also see in several places where it seems apparent that Prince Andrey is all about himself and what can advance him and bring him fame and glory.

Now, to his credit, I did feel like he stepped outside himself in the scene with the doctor and wife. He stepped up and championed their cause and tried to help them out. It says: “He could see that his championing of the doctor’s wife in that odd contraption was exposing him to the one thing he most dreaded – becoming a laughing stock – but instinct spoke differently. Hardly were these last words out of the officer’s mouth when Prince Andrey rode straight up to him, his face distorted with fury, and raised his riding whip. ‘Let – them – through!’” (p. 175) Ok. You might have redeemed yourself a bit there Andrey. Maybe. We’ll see how his character develops or if it develops at all. Knowing that Tolstoy writes layered, complex characters, I suspect Andrey will continue to develop and that maybe there is more to why he is the way he is and just more to him than this generally speaking. I will continue to be watching his character as I read. I think he potentially makes for a very interesting, complex character study. 😉

Tolstoy’s Beautifully, Well-Crafted Writing

I think the thing that really struck me the most in Part 2, was found in Ch. 8. Tolstoy’s writing in this chapter in particular just blew me away. Through the whole chapter I was just in awe of Tolstoy’s writing. It is gripping and has you on the edge of your seat. And at the same time, he writes so descriptively that readers can picture it in their mind’s eye. The other aspect is that in this particular chapter, there are places where he writes what the soldiers are thinking. He masterfully captures these thoughts in words and not only are those portions exquisitely done but also the other passages in the chapter I already spoke about are as well. Simply magnificent!

Now for just a few passages I marked in other parts of Part II for the beautiful, descriptive writing:

Looking down over the railing, Prince Nesvitsky could see the splashing low waves of the fast-moving Enns as they rippled and swirled, chasing each other and crashing against the bridge-supports.” (p. 145)

It was a dark but starry night and the road shone black against the white snow that had fallen on the day of the battle.” (p. 158)

It was quite dark when Prince Andrey drove into Brno, and found himself surrounded by tall mansions, well-lit shops, houses with bright windows, street lamps, fine carriages rattling down the streets and the whole atmosphere of a great living town which is so appealing to a soldier back from camp.” (p. 159)

The wind had dropped and black clouds loured above the battlefield, melting on the horizon into the pother of gunsmoke.” (p. 205)

Some Fun Little Connections

*There was a mention of Demosthenes. That was exciting for me to see as I had read about Demosthenes in Plutarch’s Lives last year!

*There was a big battle scene in Ch. 18. The footnote said about that battle that it was the attack where both sides were marching towards one another with determination, neither side giving in until they collided. That made me think of the big battle scene in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe which I thought was portrayed in the 2005 movie magnificently!

*When the character Bilibin is being described, Tolstoy writes: “His speech was invariably salted with polished phrases, original, witty but of general application. They were fabricated in some inner laboratory of Bilibin’s mind, portable and ready-made for social nonentities to commit to memory and take around the other drawing-rooms.” (p. 162) When I read that, I couldn’t help but think of Mr. Collins and the dinner scene in Pride and Prejudice. (It’s at the 1:40 mark in this video clip.)

And that wraps up my reflections on Volume 1, Part 2. Onward to Part 3!

One thought on “War and Peace by Tolstoy – Volume 1, Part 2

  1. Pingback: War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy |

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