For me, the "war" parts of War and Peace are monotonous and dull. Military strategy and the discussions of generals don't interest me as much as the gossip and intrigues of high society. That being said, there was one scene in this week's reading that I found particularly striking. At the end of chapter eleven, Andrew reflects on the coming battle, and realizes that he might die the next day (in fact, he takes it as a sort of macabre certainty). As so often happens, this epiphany is accompanied by a reflection on what truly matters to him in life. Prince Andrew values rank and esteem more than anything else on earth. In a rather melodramatic soliloquy, Andrew says that, "Precious and dear as many people are to me...I would give them all at once for a moment of glory, of triumph over men, of love from men I don't know and never shall know" (Tolstoy 230). This vehement admission struck me because it is one of the first times that we clearly get to see what a character stands for. I don't think a character's values and intentions will ever be spelled out as clearly as Andrew's are here.
The fact that Andrew is willing to give up his family (who, as we've seen already, he doesn't care for much) to gain the admiration of strangers not only speaks volumes about Andrew's character, it sets up a moral question for us to debate. Is it fair to abandon one's family in order to gain status or rank, or should family be valued above everything? Andrew's fate will likely provide us clues as to how Tolstoy would answer this question, and it will surely crop up again later in the novel.