Friday, September 23, 2011

Universal Youth

Youth—that ever-disappearing time in our lives that seems to grant unlimited possibilities of vivacity. The younger generation of men in War and Peace are in this time in their lives; they are exploring, discovering, and making mistakes Pierre, Nicholas, Boris, and Andrew all find various activities to occupy themselves; be it women, society gatherings, the war, or various sins, these men have many occasion to explore their youth. In this, however, they discover various perils of growing up: an unhappy marriage, debt, social status, and death. These men, who grow up so much in the first two years of the novel, seem to be in a perpetual state of self-discovery.

It is comforting to read War and Peace as a first year college student; one of the lasting aspects of Tolstoy’s novel is its ability to relate to young people in any generation. College students everywhere also find themselves entwined in tales of women, debt, social gatherings, perhaps war, and many sins. We see Pierre’s mishaps with high society analogous to our own various foot-in-mouth moments as we navigate our society today. Nicholas’s ability to lose his money faster than he gets it is all too familiar to many youth of our generation. Discovering how to act, what to value, and who to trust are all aspects of growing up that young people today share with the young people in War and Peace. So, although we are now centuries past the time of Tolstoy’s novel, the issues faced today by young people in the journey of growing up are universal—and that’s a little reassuring.


  1. I am constantly surprised by my ability to relate to these characters. It is interesting to see how different characters choose to deal with the same issue in varying manners. Pierre deals with his confusion and angst by seeking religious guidance, while Prince Andrew deals with his own loneliness through deliberate isolation. It seems to me that many first year students in college face very similar issues; however, students tend to manage their problems very differently. Sometimes it seems as if Tolstoy's writing is a microcosm of the current struggles of the "universal youth".

  2. I agree with your thoughts. Since the beginning of civilization youth have faced the same issues again and again. We have read this in parables, epic poems, and other novels. Even though this novel is fiction, we see the same issues today. I guess that every generation must learn from their mistakes.

  3. Personally, I have always found it difficult to relate to characters in novels. I can see where they are coming from, sure, but I would not react the same way in these given situations.

    Some of the same issues are always present for the Youth of each generation, but as Society grows, the potential responses change. New issues arrive, and somethings just don't compare.

    In essence, Ellen, I agree with you. But our societal norms make some of Tolstoy just awkward and unrelatable.

  4. I agree with you, Ellen. I totally relate to many of the problems these characters face. While I agree with Teddy that are responses have changed, I think the essential questions that young adults face in the novel are very similar to what we face today. There are several points in the novel I have found myself thinking, "This is exactly what I am seeking, feeling, going through, etc."