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.