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War and Peace

War and Peace


by Leo Tolstoy

War and Peace Ambition Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (Volume.Part.Chapter.Paragraph). We used Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky's translation.

Quote #7

Andrei could not have explained how or why it was, but after that interview with Kutuzov he went back to his regiment reassured as to the general course of affairs and as to the man to whom it had been entrusted. The more he realized the absence of all personal motive in that old man – in whom there seemed to remain only the habit of passions, and in place of an intellect (grouping events and drawing conclusions) only the capacity calmly to contemplate the course of events – the more reassured he was that everything would be as it should. "He will not bring in any plan of his own [...] but he will hear everything, remember everything, and put everything in its place. He will not hinder anything useful nor allow anything harmful. He understands that there is something stronger and more important than his own will – the inevitable course of events, and he can see them and grasp their significance, and seeing that significance can refrain from meddling and renounce his personal wish directed to something else." (

So what makes a good general is pretty much just the absence of personal ambition. On the other hand, from what we've seen of Boris and Berg, in order to get to the kind of high rank Kutuzov has, you have to plan your every day around personal ambition. So there's a paradox: how did Kutuzov get to where he is? Or how, once he'd risen to that position, how did he lose his ambition?

Quote #8

During the whole of that period Napoleon, who seems to us to have been the leader of all these movements – as the figurehead of a ship may seem to a savage to guide the vessel – acted like a child who, holding a couple of straps tied inside a carriage, thinks that he is driving it (

First of all, haha, Napoleon is an overreaching baby. Second of all, Shmoop totally used to do this in the car as a kid. Did you?

Quote #9

The aim of the Russian army was to pursue the French. The road the French would take was unknown, and so the closer our troops trod on their heels the greater distance they had to cover. Only by following at some distance could one cut across the zigzag path of the French. All the artful maneuvers suggested by our generals meant fresh movements of the army and a lengthening of its marches, whereas the only reasonable aim was to shorten those marches. [...] Kutuzov felt and knew – not by reasoning or science but with the whole of his Russian being – what every Russian soldier felt: that the French were beaten, that the enemy was flying and must be driven out; but at the same time he like the soldiers realized all the hardship of this march, the rapidity of which was unparalleled for such a time of the year.

But to the generals, especially the foreign ones in the Russian army, who wished to distinguish themselves, to astonish somebody, and for some reason to capture a king or a duke – it seemed that now – when any battle must be horrible and senseless – was the very time to fight and conquer somebody. (

Ah, now we see why personal desire for glory is a bad trait in a general. Instead of actually doing what needs to be done, on the big scale, these guys are stuck at micro level, attacking the French here and there to make a name for themselves. They don't care about the soldiers who are actually doing the unnecessary attacking and getting killed in the process.

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