War and Peace
by Leo Tolstoy
War and Peace Women and Femininity Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Volume.Part.Chapter.Paragraph). We used Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky's translation.
At that time there was a special atmosphere of amorousness in the Rostovs' house, as happens in a house where there are very nice and very young girls. Every young man who came to the Rostovs' house, looking at these young, susceptible girlish faces, always smiling at something (probably their own happiness), at this lively rushing about, listening to this young female babble, incoherent but affectionate towards everyone, ready for anything, filled with hope, listening to these incoherent noises, now of singing, now of music, experienced the same feeling of readiness for love and expectation of happiness that these young people of the Rostovs' house themselves experienced. (22.214.171.124)
Or maybe we spoke too soon. Really, Tolstoy? "Incoherent babble"? That's what young women talking sounds like to you?
His room was on the first floor. Those in the rooms above were also awake. He heard female voices overhead.
"Just once more," said a girlish voice above him which Prince Andrew recognized at once.
"But when are you coming to bed?" replied another voice.
"I won't, I can't sleep, what's the use? Come now for the last time."
Two girlish voices sang a musical passage – the end of some song.
"Oh, how lovely! Now go to sleep, and there's an end of it."
"You go to sleep, but I can't," said the first voice, coming nearer to the window. She was evidently leaning right out, for the rustle of her dress and even her breathing could be heard. Everything was stonestill, like the moon and its light and the shadows. Prince Andrew, too, dared not stir, for fear of betraying his unintentional presence.
"Sonya! Sonya!" he again heard the first speaker. "Oh, how can you sleep? Only look how glorious it is! Ah, how glorious! Do wake up, Sonya!" she said almost with tears in her voice. "There never, never was such a lovely night before!"
Sonya made some reluctant reply.
"Do just come and see what a moon!...Oh, how lovely! Come here....Darling, sweetheart, come here! There, you see? I feel like sitting down on my heels, putting my arms round my knees like this, straining tight, as tight as possible, and flying away! Like this…." (126.96.36.199-18)
Sonya and Natasha are two very different kinds of women. One is quiet, humble, self-sacrificing, basically exactly what a woman was supposed to be according to the behavioral guidelines of the time. The other is adventurous, a little strange, joyful, and unpredictable. Guess which one appeals to the characters of this book? Now put Sonya and Natasha into other 19th-century books that you've read. Which one would be praised? Which would be seen as problematic? Which would appeal to male characters? Female characters?
After dinner Natasha went to her room and again took up Marya's letter. "Can it be that it is all over?" she thought. "Can it be that all this has happened so quickly and has destroyed all that went before?" She recalled her love for Andrei in all its former strength, and at the same time felt that she loved Kuragin. She vividly pictured herself as Andrei's wife, and the scenes of happiness with him she had so often repeated in her imagination, and at the same time, aglow with excitement, recalled every detail of yesterday's interview with Anatole.
"Why can't it be both together?" she sometimes asked herself in complete bewilderment. "Only so could I be completely happy; but now I have to choose, and I can't be happy without either of them. (188.8.131.52-21)
Natasha wants a ménage à trois! Again, it's impressive for a 19th-century book to put this kind of thought into its heroine's head without then having her die some gruesome death because she has somehow become "impure."