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War and Peace

War and Peace

by Leo Tolstoy

Society and Class Quotes

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Quote #4

Boris clearly understood at that moment what he had foreseen earlier, namely, that in the army, besides the subordination and discipline that were written in the regulations and known to the regiment, and which he knew, there was another more essential subordination, which made this tightly-girded, purple-faced general wait deferentially while the captain, Prince Andrei, for his own pleasure, found it preferable to talk with the ensign Drubetskoy. Boris resolved more than ever to serve in the future according to this unwritten subordination, not the one written in the regulations. He now felt that, merely as the result of his having been recommended to Prince Andrei, he had at once become higher than the general, who, on other occasions, at the front, could annihilate an ensign of the guards like him. (1.3.9.6)

Once again we see Boris's amazing ability to read subtle, unwritten social rules and cues. Do you think that in this scene, the general doesn't see these rules? Or is it just that his frustration at being lower on the totem pole in this situation is making him crazy? Also, why is Andrei so eager to show off his power to Boris? Is this like him?

Quote #5

Where, how, and when had this young countess, educated by an emigree French governess, imbibed from the Russian air she breathed that spirit and obtained that manner which the pas de chale [the French shawl dance] would, one would have supposed, long ago have effaced? But the spirit and the movements were those inimitable and unteachable Russian ones that Uncle had expected of her. As soon as she had struck her pose, and smiled triumphantly, proudly, and with sly merriment, the fear that had at first seized Nicholas and the others that she might not do the right thing was at an end, and they were already admiring her.

She did the right thing with such precision, such complete precision, that Anisya Fedorovna, who had at once handed her the handkerchief she needed for the dance, had tears in her eyes, though she laughed as she watched this slim, graceful countess, reared in silks and velvets and so different from herself, who yet was able to understand all that was in Anisya and in Anisya's father and mother and aunt, and in every Russian man and woman. (2.4.7.46-47)

Natasha lives in two totally different social worlds. There's the Francophone world of the Russian aristocracy, in which she has completely absorbed the French language and culture as her own. And there's the rural Russian world that connects her to the land, to the peasants, and in some way to a more truthful and less artificial kind of existence and expression. Check out how Kutuzov also has this innate "Russian-ness," which allows him to sense what the army is feeling.

Quote #6

Since the year 1805 we had made peace and had again quarreled with Bonaparte and had made constitutions and unmade them again, but the salons of Anna Pavlovna and Helene remained just as they had been – the one seven and the other five years before. At Anna Pavlovna's they talked with perplexity of Bonaparte's successes just as before and saw in them and in the subservience shown to him by the European sovereigns a malicious conspiracy [...] And in Helene's salon [...] they talked with the same ecstasy in 1812 as in 1808 of the "great nation" and the "great man," and regretted our rupture with France, a rupture which, according to them, ought to be promptly terminated by peace. Of late, since the Emperor's return from the army, there had been some excitement in these conflicting salon circles and some demonstrations of hostility to one another, but each camp retained its own tendency. [...] Prince Vassily, who still occupied his former important posts, formed a connecting link between these two circles. He visited his "good friend Anna Pavlovna" as well as his daughter's "diplomatic salon," and often in his constant comings and goings between the two camps became confused and said at Helene's what he should have said at Anna Pavlovna's and vice versa. (3.2.6.1-3)

This section shows how little affected Petersburg was by the Napoleonic campaign. On the map, it's off to the north, nowhere close to where the actual fighting was going on. And of course, the only people we see are the highest aristocrats, who are so disconnected from any real suffering that even their conversation remains exactly the same. That's a nice bit of humor at the end – Vassily is so old that he can't keep track of who he's supposed to be kissing up to.

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