Monday, September 12, 2011

Rostóv and the Emperor

One character in War and Peace who has started to interest me is Nicholas Rostóv. I was not surprised in Chapter 5 of Book 1 when he claims, "I simply feel that the army is my vocation" (35). Many other young men at the time clearly felt compelled to join the army as well, whether from love of their country or of glory. In this case Rostóv's action is typical.

In Chapter 5 of Book 2, he gets his chance to participate in battle and comes to the realization that he is a coward. "The fear of death and of the stretchers, and love of the sun and of life, all merged into one feeling of sickening agitation" (128). This also seems like a natural reaction, and it makes sense that an untrained soldier would be shocked and afraid when seeing the reality of battle for the first time.

My main interest in Rostóv comes in Book 3, especially in Chapters 9 and 12, where we see him take a new attitude, inspired by the Emperor. He seems to have overcome his fear of death and is now willing and even eager to die for his Emperor. "What happiness it would be to die - not in saving the Emperor's life, but simply to die before his eyes" (222). The Emperor is able to evoke strong feelings of love and patriotism from the soldiers, and for the time being at least he has cured Rostóv of his cowardice. He even requests to serve at the front in the upcoming Battle of Austerlitz. It is interesting that love of Emperor is stronger by far than love of country or family for Rostóv and I think it is because the Emperor is a personification of the strength and valor of Russia. I am curious whether this new found devotion will continue to lead to feelings of bravery or whether Rostóv will let down the Emperor he loves.


  1. I agree with you that, the Emperor is the embodiment of national pride for Rostóv. These two characters are connected through the novel(so far) . They are also linked by their similar views on the war.

  2. Stephen: I think you've found an example of Nicholas's unique personality worth following throughout the novel. What will become of Nicholas's hero worship?

  3. I completely agree that Rostov loves the emperor because he personifies the strength and valor of Russia, but I also think Rostov likes him because the emperor is youthful and popular. Although Rostov nearly worships the emperor, I think he connects to him because he is a relatively young emperor and that idea inspires Rostov to believe that young people can do great things.