Motive as a Motif
A major motif in War and Peace is the varying motivations that influence the characters' decisions. Characters are motivated by many factors ranging from their social status to their gut feelings.
The very first character that the reader meets, Anna Pavlovna, is motivated largely by her desire to have an influence in upper-class society. Anna Mikhaylavna contrasts greatly with Anna Pavlovna; almost everything she does in the book is in an attempt to help her son Boris without regard to her social standing or peoples' opinions of her. First, Anna Pavlovna asks Prince Vasili to have her son put in the Guard. Then, she tries to get inheritance money from the dying Count Bezukhov in order to pay for her son's uniform. She even states to her friend that “God grant you never know what it is to be left a widow without means and with a son you love to distraction!... I don't care what they think of me,” (War and Peace 40).
Every major character has a prominent motivation, if not several. Andrew is largely motivated to go to war by his marital dissatisfaction. Natasha is largely motivated to pursue Boris in Book 1 of the novel because she sees Sonya kissing Nicholas. Nicholas says he is motivated to go to war because he feels his place is in the army. However, his father speculates that he is going to war to follow his friend Pierre.
Do you think Nicholas joins the army because he feels pressured to conform to all of the men around him who are also joining the army, or is he intrinsically motivated?