War and Peace
by Leo Tolstoy
War and Peace Men and Masculinity Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Volume.Part.Chapter.Paragraph). We used Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky's translation.
During Rostov's short stay in Moscow before leaving for the army, he did not become closer but, on the contrary, drew away from Sonya. She was very pretty, sweet, and obviously passionately in love with him; but he was in that season of youth when one seems to have so much to do that there is no time for that, and a young man is afraid of being tied down – he cherishes his freedom, which he needs for many other things. When he thought about Sonya during his stay in Moscow, he said to himself: "Ah, there will be and there are many, many like her, somewhere, whom I don't know yet. I'll still have time, when I want, to occupy myself with love, but right now I'm busy." Besides, it seemed to him that there was something humiliating to his manliness in women's society. He went to balls and into women's society pretending that he was doing so against his will. The races, the English Club, carousing with Denisov, going there—that was another matter: it was suitable to a dashing hussar. (22.214.171.124)
What do you think about Nikolai's conception of masculinity here? He doesn't have time for girls and is annoyed at having to participate in what he sees as "women's society" (which seems to include just about anything where women are present). Is Nikolai feeling guilty about avoiding Sonya? Is he just too much of a little boy still? Why is he so fixated on just being with other men?
It seemed to [Nikolai] that it was only today, thanks to that burnt cork mustache, that he had fully learned to know her. And really, that evening, Sonya was brighter, more animated, and prettier than Nikolai had ever seen her before. [...] Sonya came along, wrapped in her cloak. She was only a couple of paces away when she saw him, and to her too he was not the Nikolai she had known and always slightly feared. He was in a woman's dress, with tousled hair and a happy smile new to Sonya. She ran rapidly toward him.
"Quite different and yet the same," thought Nicholas, looking at her face all lit up by the moonlight. He slipped his arms under the cloak that covered her head, embraced her, pressed her to him, and kissed her on the lips that wore a mustache and had a smell of burnt cork. (126.96.36.199-41)
Hey now, how about a little gender-bending for some hot make-out action? This ain't your grandpa's 19th century novel, we'll tell you that much! On a serious note, Nikolai and Sonya's failure as a couple is perhaps not surprising when you consider that they are really only into each other when things are taken out of the familiar context.
The small, muddy, green pond had risen visibly more than a foot, flooding the dam, because it was full of the naked white bodies of soldiers with brick-red hands, necks, and faces, who were splashing about in it. All this naked white human flesh, laughing and shrieking, floundered about in that dirty pool like carp stuffed into a watering can, and the suggestion of merriment in that floundering mass rendered it especially pathetic. (188.8.131.52)
Ah, a scene of Andrei confronted with something he's really grossed out by in himself and in others – the human body. Think about how he's so not into his pregnant wife, and later how he's happy to leave his fiancée Natasha for a year. Not much physical affection with this guy.