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War and Peace

War and Peace

by Leo Tolstoy

Family Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #7

Sonya burst into hysterical tears and replied through her sobs that she would do anything and was prepared for anything, but gave no actual promise and could not bring herself to decide to do what was demanded of her. She must sacrifice herself for the family that had reared and brought her up. To sacrifice herself for others was Sonya's habit. Her position in the house was such that only by sacrifice could she show her worth, and she was accustomed to this and loved doing it. But in all her former acts of self-sacrifice she had been happily conscious that they raised her in her own esteem and in that of others, and so made her more worthy of Nikolai whom she loved more than anything in the world. But now they wanted her to sacrifice the very thing that constituted the whole reward for her self-sacrifice and the whole meaning of her life. And for the first time she felt bitterness against those who had been her benefactors only to torture her the more painfully; she felt jealous of Natasha who had never experienced anything of this sort, had never needed to sacrifice herself, but made others sacrifice themselves for her and yet was beloved by everybody. And for the first time Sonya felt that out of her pure, quiet love for Nikolai a passionate feeling was beginning to grow up which was stronger than principle, virtue, or religion. Under the influence of this feeling Sonya, whose life of dependence had taught her involuntarily to be secretive, having answered the countess in vague general terms, avoided talking with her and resolved to wait till she should see Nicholas, not in order to set him free but on the contrary at that meeting to bind him to her forever. (4.1.8.4)

Wow, that's like a little self-contained novel of its own right there. And an insightful summary of what it must have been like to be a dependent in someone else's family. Sonya is related to the Rostovs, but she's a poor orphan who relies on them for everything. She ends up staying in this position of self-sacrifice and being taken for granted forever. How does this bode for Nikolenka, the other orphan character taken in by relatives? Is it different because he's a boy, or because he has an inheritance from his father?

Quote #8

Countess Marya remained in the sitting room.

"I should never, never have believed that one could be so happy," she whispered to herself. A smile lit up her face but at the same time she sighed, and her deep eyes expressed a quiet sadness as though she felt, through her happiness, that there is another sort of happiness unattainable in this life and of which she involuntarily thought at that instant. (Epilogue.1.9.53-54)

This is Marya thinking about the difference between the happy family life she has now and the spiritually secluded life she gave up in exchange for it. (At one point she wanted to be a holy wanderer, remember?) It's a nice little bittersweet thought about what might have been. Mostly we just love how in tune Tolstoy is with the kind of things that run through people's minds. Who hasn't had a daydream about the way life might have been if not for x, y, or z?

Quote #9

The subject which wholly engrossed Natasha's attention was her family [...]. And the deeper she penetrated, not with her mind only but with her whole soul, her whole being, into the subject that absorbed her, the larger did that subject grow and the weaker and more inadequate did her powers appear, so that she concentrated them wholly on that one thing and yet was unable to accomplish all that she considered necessary. [...] If the purpose of dinner is to nourish the body, a man who eats two dinners at once may perhaps get more enjoyment but will not attain his purpose, for his stomach will not digest the two dinners.

If the purpose of marriage is the family, the person who wishes to have many wives or husbands may perhaps obtain much pleasure, but in that case will not have a family.

If the purpose of food is nourishment and the purpose of marriage is the family, the whole question resolves itself into not eating more than one can digest, and not having more wives or husbands than are needed for the family – that is, one wife or one husband. Natasha needed a husband. A husband was given her and he gave her a family. And she not only saw no need of any other or better husband, but as all the powers of her soul were intent on serving that husband and family, she could not imagine and saw no interest in imagining how it would be if things were different. (Epilogue.1.10.6-14)

This is a nice contrast to the previous quote. What do you think about this theory of love – that the point isn't romance for its own sake, but to create a family? Is there something appealing about this idea? This may explain why the book extends into the marriages and parenting lives of the characters, rather than just ending with a big happy wedding like most 19th century novels. (And it's still the case in most modern romantic comedies and other movie genres.) Instead of the false finality and satisfaction of a wedding, we get the messier, more demanding, and much more realistic description of what happens afterwards.

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