The sky symbolizes the eternal, unfathomable aspect of human life, though this means something different to each character. In general, glimpses of the sky assure people that life and meaning endure beyond their immediate sufferings. When Nikolai Rostov experiences enemy fire for the first time, he suddenly finds himself enchanted by the sky’s deep blue and feels at peace, comforted that there’s something greater than death. Similarly, Prince Andrei Bolkonsky gazes at the sky after being wounded in the battle of Austerlitz, instantly changing his sense of what’s meaningful—next to eternity, even Napoleon looks utterly insignificant. During his forced march as a prisoner in 1812, Pierre, too, draws comfort from the sky’s vastness, seeing it as a reflection of the human soul that can never be bound.
Sky Quotes in War and Peace
Rostov, preoccupied by his relations with Bogdanych, stopped on the bridge, not knowing what to do with himself. There was no one to cut down (as he had always pictured battle to himself), nor could he help set fire to the bridge, because, unlike the other soldiers, he had not brought a plait of straw with him. He was standing and looking about, when suddenly there was a rattling on the bridge, as if someone had spilled nuts, and one of the hussars, the one nearest him, fell on the railing with a groan. […]
Nikolai Rostov turned away, and, as if searching for something, began looking at the distance, at the waters of the Danube, at the sky, at the sun! How good the sky seemed, how blue, calm, and deep!
There was nothing over him now except the sky—the lofty sky, not clear, but still immeasurably lofty, with gray clouds slowly creeping across it. “How quiet, calm, and solemn, not at all like when I was running,” thought Prince Andrei, “not like when we were running, shouting, and fighting; not at all like when the Frenchman and the artillerist, with angry and frightened faces, were pulling at the swab— it’s quite different the way the clouds creep across this lofty, infinite sky. How is it I haven’t seen this lofty sky before? And how happy I am that I’ve finally come to know it. Yes! everything is empty, everything is a deception, except this infinite sky. There is nothing, nothing except that. But there is not even that, there is nothing except silence, tranquillity. And thank God!...”
“Voilà une belle mort,” said Napoleon, looking at Bolkonsky.
Prince Andrei understood that it had been said about him, and that it was Napoleon speaking. […] But he heard these words as if he was hearing the buzzing of a fly. He not only was not interested, he did not even notice, and at once forgot them. […] He knew that it was Napoleon— his hero— but at that moment, Napoleon seemed to him such a small, insignificant man compared with what was now happening between his soul and this lofty, infinite sky with clouds racing across it. To him it was all completely the same at that moment who was standing over him or what he said about him; he was only glad that people had stopped over him and only wished that those people would help him and bring him back to life, which seemed so beautiful to him, because he now understood it so differently.
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.