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War and Peace

War and Peace

by Leo Tolstoy

Society and Class Quotes Page 3

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Quote #7

On the ninth of August Prince Vassily at Anna Pavlovna's again met the "man of great merit." The latter was very attentive to Anna Pavlovna because he wanted to be appointed director of one of the educational establishments for young ladies. [...]

"Well, have you heard the great news? Prince Kutuzov is field marshal! All dissensions are at an end! I am so glad, so delighted! At last we have a man!" said [Prince Vassily].

The "man of great merit," despite his desire to obtain the post of director, could not refrain from reminding Prince Vassily of his former opinion. Though this was impolite to Prince Vassily in Anna Pavlovna's drawing room, and also to Anna Pavlovna herself who had received the news with delight, he could not resist the temptation. [...] The "man of great merit," who was still a novice in court circles, wished to flatter Anna Pavlovna by defending her former position on this question [. . . but] Prince Vassily would not now yield Kutuzov to anyone; in his opinion Kutuzov was not only admirable himself, but was adored by everybody. [...]

"They even say," remarked the "man of great merit" who did not yet possess courtly tact, "that his Excellency made it an express condition that the sovereign himself should not be with the army."

As soon as he said this both Prince Vassily and Anna Pavlovna turned away from him and glanced sadly at one another with a sigh at his naïveté. (3.2.7.10-27)

OK, so there's a lot going on here – as many layers as an onion. Layer 1: Vassily, Anna Pavlovna, and the other guy are talking about Kutuzov being appointed commander in chief and what conditions he has asked for. Layer 2: Vassily and Anna Pavlovna are basically backtracking on whatever negative comments they might have made about Kutuzov in the past, while also trying not to look like they've ever had a bad thought about him. Layer 3: The third guy doesn't get the whole ignore-what-we-said-earlier shtick and keeps pointing out how they are now contradicting themselves. Layer 4: The third guy is also trying to impress Anna Pavlovna because he wants a job. Layer 5: Vassily and Anna Pavlovna are having a meta-conversation with each other over the third guy's head, through looks and gestures, about how way lame he is at acting in society and how he totally doesn't get how to behave. Yikes!

Quote #8

The most cunning man could not have crept into her confidence more successfully, evoking memories of the best times of her youth and showing sympathy with them. Yet Pierre's cunning consisted simply in finding pleasure in drawing out the human qualities of the embittered, hard, and (in her own way) proud princess. [...] His servants too – Terenty and Vaska – in their own way noticed the change that had taken place in Pierre. They considered that he had become much "simpler." Terenty, when he had helped him undress and wished him good night, often lingered with his master's boots in his hands and clothes over his arm, to see whether he would not start a talk. And Pierre, noticing that Terenty wanted a chat, generally kept him there.

"Well, tell me . . . now, how did you get food?" he would ask.

And Terenty would begin talking of the destruction of Moscow, and of the old count, and would stand for a long time holding the clothes and talking, or sometimes listening to Pierre's stories, and then would go out into the hall with a pleasant sense of intimacy with his master and affection for him.

The doctor who attended Pierre and visited him every day, though he considered it his duty as a doctor to pose as a man whose every moment was of value to suffering humanity, would sit for hours with Pierre telling him his favorite anecdotes and his observations on the characters of his patients in general, and especially of the ladies.

"It's a pleasure to talk to a man like that; he is not like our provincials," he would say.

There were several prisoners from the French army in Orel, and the doctor brought one of them, a young Italian, to see Pierre.

This officer began visiting Pierre, and the princess used to make fun of the tenderness the Italian expressed for him. [...] Pierre had evoked the passionate affection of the Italian merely by evoking the best side of his nature and taking a pleasure in so doing. (4.4.13.4-15)

Pierre figures out that the key to being a good conversationalist is to be a good and engaged listener. Sounds hokey, but it's hard to do, and it does really work. Go ahead, try it.

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