War and Peace by Tolstoy – Volume 1, Part 3

*Potential Spoilers In This Post*

As I entered Part III, I was cautiously optimistic that maybe soon I might see Prince Andrey grow and change. So I was on the lookout for that. It was a bumpy ride, filled with doubts all the way until the very end of this section. Like this part for example:

Prince Andrey was always invigorated by guiding a young man and helping him on in the world. This propensity for helping other people – the kind of help he would have been too proud ever to accept for himself – kept him in close touch with the circle which had success in its gift, and which he found attractive. Only too pleased to take up Boris’s cause, he took him to see Prince Dolgorukov.” (p. 265-266)

To me, this reveals more of his propensity for wanting to be in circles where he will gain prestige. He wasn’t really that interested in helping Boris for the sake of helping Boris. It was more about him helping himself by helping Boris. Then there is this part where Andrey is thinking to himself:

I know many people are dear and precious to me, my father, my sister, my wife – my nearest and dearest, yet, however terrible and unnatural it may seem, I would give them all up for one moment of glory, triumph over men, to be loved by men I don’t even know, and never shall know, to be loved by these people there….” (p. 281)

But then, right before the section ended, there it was. That glimmer of hope that his character would begin to become different. It said:

He was just glad that someone had stopped and was standing over him, and his only desire was for these people to help him and bring him back to life, because life was good and he saw it all differently now.
(p. 311, emphasis mine)

I continue to watch Prince Andrey’s character with great interest.

In regards to Pierre, something I noticed about him in this section is that he appears to be pretty naive. How will this play out? He also seems to second guess his intuition. It is clear he knows deep down that marrying Helene is a mistake. “Neither did he know whether or not it would turn out to be a good thing – he had an inkling that it wouldn’t – but he did know it was going to happen.” (p. 219) He senses this is not a good decision…that it may not turn out well. And he continues to question it more and more. Why did he seem to think he had no choice but to marry her despite his nagging suspicion it was a wrong decision? I am puzzled by that.

“‘All this had to be and couldn’t have been otherwise,’ thought Pierre, ‘so it’s no use wondering whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. It has to be a good thing because it’s something definite, and there’s no more of that agonizing suspense.’” (p. 227)

Now let’s talk about Marya. Oh my goodness! I felt so sorry for her. She desperately just wants to be loved….to be married, to have children.

In her thoughts about marriage, Princess Marya dreamt of family happiness, a home with children, but her first, her strongest, her most secret desire was for earthly love. This feeling was at its strongest when she was trying hardest to conceal it from others, and even from herself.” (p. 234)

I was so livid with her father for the way he spoke to her one time in front of company. It was horrifying! But then he turns around later and tells her that whether she marries Anatole or not is her choice. He said, “‘Remember this, Princess: I stick to the rule that a girl has every right to choose. And I give you complete freedom. Remember this: your happiness in life depends on your decision. No need to worry about me.’” (p. 244)

One of the things that I think Tolstoy does so well is that he portrays characters as very complex and multi-faceted. He allows a character to err, to have flaws, to have greatness, to do good….all wrapped up in one. His characters aren’t fairy-tale characters. They are real in all the messiness of life.

Tolstoy’s writing is phenomenal. Here are just a few of the passages I marked that I thought were so well written:

all of them felt they were doing something profound, solemn and serious. Every general and every soldier was aware of his own insignificance, like a tiny grain of sand in an ocean of humanity, yet as a part of that vast whole they sensed a huge collective strength.” (p. 260)

The intense activity that had begun that morning in the Emperors’ headquarters and then stimulated all the ensuing activity was like the first turn of the centre wheel in a great tower clock. One wheel began its slow rotation, another one turned, then another, and round they went faster and faster, wheels and cogs all revolving, chimes playing, figures popping in and out, and the hands measuring time, all because of that first movement.” (p. 273-274)

When the sun had completely emerged from the fog, and the fields and the mist were ablaze with its brilliance…” (p. 291)

There’s so much more I could talk about for this section. It is such an amazing novel already!

One thought on “War and Peace by Tolstoy – Volume 1, Part 3

  1. Pingback: War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy |

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