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War and Peace | Quotes


I ... want glory ... want to be known to people, want to be loved by them ... it's the only thing I want.

Andrei, Vol. 1, Part 3, Chapter 12

Prince Andrei has this thought after he is not able to give his opinion about the strategy at the war council before the Battle of Austerlitz. He has come back from Vienna thinking that he can play some crucial role in the campaign—that he can save the army. He dreams of doing something extraordinary for the war effort and becoming a famous warrior, because he wants people to remember him and love him. He also realizes that he is willing to give up anything for glory, including his life.


Everything is empty, everything is a deception, except this infinite sky ... there is nothing except silence, tranquility.

Andrei, Vol. 1, Part 3, Chapter 16

After Andrei is hit in the head on the battlefield while charging the enemy, he has a moment of enlightenment, realizing that the petty struggles of human beings, up to and including war, mean nothing against the backdrop of infinity, symbolically represented by the infinite sky. However this thought does not depress him in his heightened spiritual state. Rather it gives him comfort to think that he can take refuge in silence and tranquility.


All people seemed to be such soldiers, saving themselves from life.

Pierre, Vol. 2, Part 5, Chapter 1

Pierre becomes depressed after Andrei gets engaged and his mentor dies. He thinks about how his life is dull and essentially meaningless. Then he compares life to a war, in which people are just soldiers, trying to protect themselves from boredom and despair, by drinking, eating, gambling, having sex, engaging in politics, and so forth. They distract themselves to avoid facing the triviality of their existence.


Millions of men, renouncing their human feelings ... had to go from west to east to kill their own kind.

Narrator, Vol. 3, Part 1, Chapter 1

The narrator, who in this quote is synonymous with the author, is commenting on the irrationality and immorality of war. The war took place as a result of innumerable causes, and thus the war was inevitable. Just as people had, centuries ago, gone from east to west to kill their own kind, they would be repeating history and going west to east. The inevitability of war, however, doesn't make it any less horrifying.


History ... the unconscious swarmlike life of mankind, uses every moment of a king's life ... for its purposes.

Narrator, Vol. 3, Part 1, Chapter 1

In this instance the narrator's ideas about history parallel those of Tolstoy, who has begun explaining his ideas about history. He argues that history cannot be explained as the result of key figures performing certain actions to change history. Tolstoy says there is the personal life and the collective life, the life people live as part of a society or group. As such, human beings, even the great, are at the service of history, which uses them as instruments.


So that's ... so-called heroism? ... And what harm had he done, with his dimple and his light blue eyes?

Nikolai, Vol. 3, Part 1, Chapter 15

After Nikolai leads a charge, he captures an enemy soldier and suddenly the young Frenchman doesn't seem like the "other," but rather like himself, a human being who didn't do anything to Nikolai that he should want to kill him. Nikolai momentarily questions how killing a human being for an abstract cause can amount to something good—and even be heroic.


He, ... executioner of the peoples, assured himself that the goal of his actions was the good of the peoples.

Narrator, Vol. 3, Part 2, Chapter 38

The narrator here is the equivalent of Tolstoy, who views Napoleon with disgust and loathing as a man who, mostly because of fortuitous circumstances, was in the position to wield tremendous power. Napoleon was in some sense responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands of people but, like all dictators and tyrants, justified his actions by saying he did mankind more good than harm.


The hardest and most blissful thing is to love this life in one's suffering.

Karataev, Vol. 4, Part 3, Chapter 15

Platon Karataev, the wise peasant/foot soldier whom Pierre meets in captivity, helps him see the world in a new way and experience a spiritual transformation. Nonetheless Pierre turns his back on Karataev during the forced march with the French because he knows that the old man will be shot for not keeping up. After Karataev dies, Pierre has a dream and remembers what Karataev said—to love life despite the fact that so much of it consists of suffering. If a person is able to do that, they will also experience bliss, Karataev says. This is because once a person becomes detached from suffering they can live in freedom.


Only a person who believes ... God ... rules over us can endure such a loss as hers.

Pierre, Vol. 4, Part 4, Chapter 16

Pierre gives another view of how to live with suffering when he speaks to Natasha and Marya about the loss of Petya. For a parent there is nothing worse than losing a child because of the expectation that children will outlive their elders. Countess Rostov is still sunk in grief, as are so many who have lost people to the war. Pierre says to the women that the only way to bear such suffering is by believing in God and thinking God at least knows the meaning of human suffering since he rules over all.


He's become somehow clean, smooth, fresh—as if from the bathhouse ... morally from the bathhouse.

Natasha, Vol. 4, Part 4, Chapter 17

Natasha makes this comment to Marya after seeing Pierre again after the war. Both of them are wiser because of the grief they have been through, and Natasha can see that Pierre is different and has gone through a spiritual transformation. For this reason she says to her friend that he seems cleansed, as if from a bathhouse. He is cleansed of his old ways of thinking and has a much better idea of how to live and what would constitute a good life.

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