War and Peace

War and Peace


Leo Tolstoy

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Oak Tree Symbol Analysis

Oak Tree Symbol Icon

The oak tree symbolizes the indispensable role of hope in human flourishing. One day in 1809, Prince Andrei sees a gnarled oak tree in the woods, which seems to resist the coming of spring. At that time, the tree symbolizes the stagnation in Andreis own life; he feels theres nothing to live for. Later, after meeting Natasha Rostov and seeing her joyful openness to life, Andrei feels renewed hope for his future. When he spots the same oak tree again, it’s bursting with fresh leaves, almost unrecognizably transformed.

Oak Tree Quotes in War and Peace

The War and Peace quotes below all refer to the symbol of Oak Tree. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Society and Wealth Theme Icon
Volume 2, Part 3: Chapters 1–6 Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Prince Andrei Bolkonsky (speaker), Pierre Bezukhov, Natasha Rostov, Princess Lise (Liza) Bolkonsky (“the little princess”)
Related Symbols: Oak Tree, Sky
Page Number: 423
Explanation and Analysis:
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Oak Tree Symbol Timeline in War and Peace

The timeline below shows where the symbol Oak Tree appears in War and Peace. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Volume 2, Part 3: Chapters 1–6
Happiness and the Meaning of Life  Theme Icon
...visits his son’s estates at Ryazan. Along the way, his coach passes a massive, gnarled oak tree towering above the younger birches; it seems to scorn spring’s arrival. Prince Andrei keeps turning... (full context)
Love, Marriage, and Family Theme Icon
Happiness and the Meaning of Life  Theme Icon
...departs for home. Once again, he pauses in the birch woods, looking for the old oak tree . He doesn’t spot it immediately; in the past weeks, its leaves have burst forth,... (full context)