War and Peace
by Leo Tolstoy
War and Peace Morality and Ethics Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Volume.Part.Chapter.Paragraph). We used Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky's translation.
He asked Rostov to tell them how and where he had received his wound. This pleased Rostov, and he began telling the story, growing more and more animated as it went on. He told them about his Schongraben action in just the way that those who take part in battles usually tell about them, that is, in the way they would like it to have been, the way they have heard others tell it, the way it could be told more beautifully, but not at all the way it had been. Rostov was a truthful young man, not for anything would he have deliberately told an untruth. He began telling the story with the intention of telling it exactly as it had been, but imperceptibly, involuntarily, and inevitably for himself, he went over into untruth. If he had told the truth to these listeners, who, like himself, had already heard accounts of attacks numerous times and had formed for themselves a definite notion of what an attack was, and were expecting exactly the same sort of account—they either would not have believed him or, worse still, would have thought it was Rostov's own fault that what usually happens in stories of cavalry attacks had not happened with him. He could not simply tell them that they all set out at a trot, he fell off his horse, dislocated his arm, and ran to the woods as fast as he could to escape a Frenchman. Besides, in order to tell everything as it had been, one would have to make an effort with oneself so as to tell only what had been. To tell the truth is very difficult, and young men are rarely capable of it. They were expecting an account of how he got all fired up, forgetting himself, how he flew like a storm at the square; how he cut his way into it, hacking right and left; how his saber tasted flesh, how he fell exhausted, and so on. And he told them all that. (188.8.131.52)
Here's a nice little explanation of Tolstoy's theories about the ethics of telling realistic narratives and writing about history. There's a temptation to just fall into formula the way Nikolai does. Authors know what readers want, and it's easier to just go with the tried than to stick to the true, regardless of how unusual or unexpected it sounds. Tolstoy believes in nothing but the truth, and that's what he's trying to accomplish with War and Peace and the five years of historical research he carried out for it.
There was nothing over him now except the sky—the lofty sky, not clear, but still immeasurably lofty, with gray clouds slowly creeping across it. "How quiet, calm, and solemn, not at all like when I was running," thought Prince Andrei, "not like when we were running, shouting, and fighting; not at all like when the Frenchman and the artillerist, with angry and frightened faces, were pulling at the swab—it's quite different the way the clouds creep across this lofty, infinite sky. How is it I haven't seen this lofty sky before? And how happy I am that I've finally come to know it. Yes! everything is empty, everything is a deception, except this infinite sky. There is nothing, nothing except that. But there is not even that, there is nothing except silence, tranquility. And thank God! …" (184.108.40.206)
Andrei has a few of these moments of being overwhelmed by feelings of universal love. They are at the core of Marya's religion, and she keeps trying to get him to believe in them. Mostly, though, he has them when he's been injured. Why do you think that is?
Three days later the funeral service was held for the little princess [Liza], and, in bidding farewell to her, Prince Andrei went up the steps to the coffin. She had the same face in the coffin, though her eyes were closed. "Ah, what have you done to me?" it kept saying, and Prince Andrei felt that something snapped in his soul, that he was to blame for something he could neither set aright nor forget. He was unable to weep. The old man [Prince Bolkonsky] also came and kissed her waxen little hand, which lay calmly over the other hand, and to him her face also said: "ah, what is it that you have done to me and why?" And the old man turned angrily away on seeing that face. (220.127.116.11)
How does Andrei deal with his guilt over Liza's life and death? How do other characters handle it? Does the novel offer a suggestion for coping with this emotion?