Pierre Bezukhov Quotes in War and Peace
“There’s war now against Napoleon. If it were a war for freedom, I could understand it, I’d be the first to go into military service; but to help England and Austria against the greatest man in the world . . . is not right.”
Prince Andrei merely shrugged his shoulders at Pierre’s childish talk. He made it look as though he could not reply to such stupidity; but in fact it was hard to reply to this naive question in any other way than Prince Andrei had done.
“If everyone made war only according to his own convictions, there would be no war,” he said. […]
“Well, what makes you go to war?” asked Pierre.
“What makes me? I don’t know. I have to. Besides, I’m going . . .” He paused. “I’m going because this life I lead here, this life— is not for me!”
“All this had to be so and could not be otherwise,” thought Pierre, “therefore there’s no point in asking whether it’s good or bad. It’s good because it’s definite, and there’s no more of the old tormenting doubt.” […]
“Something special is said on these occasions,” he thought, but he simply could not remember precisely what was said on these occasions. […]
“It’s too late now, it’s all over; and anyway I love her,” thought Pierre.
“Je vous aime!” he said, having remembered what needed to be said on these occasions; but the words sounded so meager that he felt ashamed of himself.
A month and a half later he was married and settled down, as they say, the happy possessor of a beautiful wife and millions of roubles, in the big, newly done-over house of the counts Bezukhov in Petersburg.
“For centuries, starting with our forefather Adam and down to our days, we have been working towards that knowledge and are infinitely far from reaching our goal; but we see our incomprehension only as our weakness and His grandeur . . .”
With a swelling heart, with glittering eyes, Pierre gazed into the Mason’s face, listened to him, did not interrupt him, did not ask anything, and believed with his whole soul what this stranger was telling him. Whether he believed those reasonable arguments in the Mason’s speech, or believed, as children do, the intonations, convictions, and heartfelt emotion in the Mason’s speech […] in any case he wanted to believe with his whole soul, and did believe, and experienced a joyful feeling of peace, renewal, and return to life.
Pierre did not know that the village where he was offered bread and salt and where a chapel to Peter and Paul was being built was a market village with a fair on St. Peter’s Day, that the chapel had been begun long ago by the wealthy peasants, who were the ones that welcomed him, and that nine-tenths of the peasants in that village were completely destitute. […]
“How easy it is, how little effort it takes, to do so much good,” thought Pierre, “and how little we care about it!”
“To live only so as not to do evil, so as not to repent, is too little. I used to live that way, I lived for myself, and I ruined my life. And only now, when I live, or at least try to live” (Pierre corrected himself out of modesty) “for others, only now have I understood all the happiness of life. No, I won’t agree with you, and you don’t really think what you’re saying.” Prince Andrei silently gazed at Pierre with a mocking smile.
“Maybe you’re right for yourself,” he went on after a brief pause, “[…] But I experienced the opposite. I used to live for glory. (What is glory? The same as love for others, the desire to do something for them, the desire for their praise.) So I lived for others and ruined my life— and not almost, but completely. And I’ve been at peace since I began living for myself alone.”
The old oak, quite transformed, spreading out a canopy of juicy, dark greenery, basked, barely swaying, in the rays of the evening sun. Of the gnarled fingers, the scars, the old grief and mistrust— nothing could be seen. Juicy green leaves without branches broke through the stiff, hundred-year-old bark, and it was impossible to believe that this old fellow had produced them. “Yes, it’s the same oak,” thought Prince Andrei, and suddenly a causeless springtime feeling of joy and renewal came over him. All the best moments of his life suddenly recalled themselves to him at the same time. Austerlitz with the lofty sky, and the dead, reproachful face of his wife, and Pierre on the ferry, and a girl excited by the beauty of the night, and that night itself, and the moon— all of it suddenly recalled itself to him.
“Take no prisoners,” Prince Andrei went on. “That alone would change the whole war and make it less cruel. As it is, we’ve been playing at war— that’s the nasty thing, we act magnanimously and all that. It’s like the magnanimity and sentimentality of the lady who swoons when she sees a calf slaughtered […] We’re told about the rules of war, about chivalry, about parleying, sparing the unfortunate, and so on. It’s all nonsense. I saw chivalry and parleying in 1805: they cheated us, we cheated them. They loot other people’s houses, spread false banknotes, and worst of all— kill my children and my father, and then talk about the rules of war and magnanimity towards the enemy. […]
If there was none of this magnanimity in war, we’d go to it only when it was worth going to certain death, as now.”
From the moment when Pierre saw this horrible murder performed by people who did not want to do it, it was as if the spring that upheld everything and made it seem alive had been pulled from his soul, and it had all collapsed into a heap of meaningless trash. Though he did not account for it to himself, his faith in the world’s good order, in humanity’s and his own soul, and in God, was destroyed. Pierre had experienced this state before, but never with such force as now. […] But now he felt that it was not his guilt that caused the world to collapse in front of his eyes and leave only meaningless ruins. He felt that to return to faith in life was not in his power.
Karataev had no attachments, friendships, or love, as Pierre understood them; but he loved and lived lovingly with everything that life brought his way, especially other people— not any specific people, but those who were there before his eyes. He loved his mutt, his comrades, the French, he loved Pierre, who was his neighbor; but Pierre sensed that, despite all his gentle tenderness towards him […] Karataev would not have been upset for a moment to be parted from him. And Pierre was beginning to experience the same feeling towards Karataev. […]
But for Pierre he remained forever as he had seen him the first night, the unfathomable, round, and eternal embodiment of the spirit of simplicity and truth.
The satisfaction of his needs— for good food, cleanliness, freedom— now that he was deprived of them all, seemed perfect happiness to Pierre, and the choice of an occupation, that is, of a life, now, when that choice was so limited, seemed to him such an easy matter that he forgot that a superfluity of life’s comforts destroys all the happiness of the satisfaction of one’s needs, and that a greater freedom to choose one’s occupation, the freedom which in this life was granted him by education, wealth, social position— precisely that freedom made the choice of an occupation insolubly difficult and destroyed the very need and possibility of an occupation.
All Pierre’s dreams were now turned to the time when he would be free. And yet afterwards and for the whole of his life Pierre thought and spoke with rapture of that month of captivity, of those irrevocable, strong, and joyful sensations, and above all of that full peace of mind, that perfect inner freedom, which he experienced only in that time.
Formerly he had been unable to see the great, the unfathomable and infinite, in anything. […] He had armed himself with a mental spyglass and gazed into the distance, where the petty and humdrum, disappearing in the distant mist, had seemed to him great and infinite, only because it was not clearly visible. Thus he had looked at European life, politics, Masonry, philosophy, philanthropy. But even then, in moments he regarded as his own weakness, his mind had penetrated this distance, and there, too, he had seen the petty, the humdrum, the meaningless. Now he had learned to see the great, the eternal, and the infinite in everything, and therefore, in order to see it, to enjoy contemplating it, he had naturally abandoned the spyglass he had been looking through until then over people’s heads […] And the closer he looked, the calmer and happier he became.
Pierre told of his adventures as he had never told them to anyone, as he had never yet recalled them to himself. It was as if he now saw a new significance in everything he had lived through. […] Natasha, not knowing it herself, was all attention: she did not miss a word of Pierre’s, not a waver in his voice, not a glance, not the twitch of a facial muscle, not a gesture. She caught the not-yet-spoken word in flight and brought it straight into her open heart, guessing the secret meaning of all Pierre’s inner work.
She, as they put it, let herself go. Natasha took no trouble either about her manners, or about the delicacy of her speech, or about showing herself to her husband in the most advantageous poses, or about her toilette, or about not hampering her husband with her demands. She did everything contrary to these rules. […]
The subject that absorbed Natasha fully was her family— that is, her husband, who had to be kept in such a way as to belong entirely to her, to the household; and her children, whom she had to carry, give birth to, nurse, and bring up.