Thursday, September 12, 2013

The other admirer of Napoleon

Pierre definitely admires Napoleon. He made this point clearly when he's trying to defend Napoleon in front of a whole bunch of "Napoleon haters". But, Prince Andrew's admiration to Napoleon appears more interesting to me.

Compared to Pierre,  Prince Andrew seems to be more reserved on his admiration. He almost keeps it to himself, never speaking of it except for that one time when he helped with Pierre's argument at Anna's soiree. Yet, I can tell he praises Napoleon just as much as Pierre, or even more. He doesn't say much about it because like his sister Mary said he has an "intellectual pride"(p90). Feeling no one else could understand his genius mind, he thus senses that it is unnecessary to share all his feelings. Moreover, he doesn't want to seem rude and weirdly different from the others, though he sets himself outside the crowd deep in mind. 

Why does Andrew admire Napoleon? Why not Nicholas or Boris? I think it's an important point that Tolstoy is trying to make about Andrew's characteristics. First of all, he does have an insight. Andrew sees the greatness of Napoleon, unlike the others who resent Napoleon just because he is leading a war against Russia. Next, Andrew yearns for Napoleon's power and achievements. He believes that individual greatness can make a difference and is almost obsessed with himself, just like Napoleon. However, what he doesn't have is Napoleon's opportunaties and abilities to achieve the so-called "greatness". 

Will the war change Andrew? I'm not sure but, I think he's starting to realize his weakness. When he sent the retreat order to Tushin, "the mere thought of being afraid roused him again"(p167). Maybe Andrew needs a stronger incident  to wake him up. 

*Credit to Glorianne Dorce, she edited the blog.


  1. I think that the subtleties of Andrew's admiration for Napoleon you point out are very important, because through his admiration Tolstoy reveals contrasting aspects of not only Prince Andrew, but also of the Russian army. I do not think that Prince Andrew is being hypocritical or disloyal by admiring Napoleon, because I think Prince Andrew doesn't admire what Napoleon is fighting for, but rather how Napoleon conducts himself and his army. In this way, we can see some similarities between the old prince Bolkonski and Prince Andrew Bolkonski. Prince Andrew seems disgusted at how disorderly the army is, especially when they will not let a doctor's wife pass on the road. At one point, one of the Russian soldiers comments on how well the French march. Napoleon's letter to his general Murat evidences why I think Prince Andrew admires him. Unlike General Kutuzov who is very casual in his relations with Bagration, Napoleon presents himself as an organized, concise, businessman. I think that Prince Andrew wishes that he could become the hero he sees in Napoleon; however, like many characters in War and Peace, Prince Andrew is young and in his ever changing world, is struggling to figure out who to be.

    1. I haven't thought about how Andrew and the Russian Army share the same contrasting aspects about Napoleon. That's a good point. And I love your idea that Prince Andrew presents himself as an organized, concise businessman. But doesn't it show that Andrew knows who he wants to be? He wants to be the chosen one; he wants to show his ambition and abilities. What he doesn't know it how to and whether he ever can fulfill his dream.

  2. I believe that discussing Prince Andrew together with Napoleon is a good point. After reading Book 1 and Book 2, Tolstoy explicitly presents us an indifferent man who values his own “intellectual pride” (like you said). But, if considering Prince Andrei’s admiration for Napoleon, which conflicts with his decision to join the Russian army, we can definitely sense a naïve and innocent boy who desires success. This is another side of Prince Andrew Tolstoy trying to show but not pointing out directly. When the war was in a tragic state, his admiration for Napoleon convinced him that he can be as great as Napoleon and finally save his army. However, the cruel reality crushed his illusion – he was not the hero and he can do nothing. I think the immature-minded Andrew Tolstoy depicts for us will make a contrast with following chapters and shows us the process of character’s change.

  3. Napoleon is definitely influential on Andrew's development as a character, as a representation of the "great man" that Andrew aspires to be. Almost all of the actions that Andrew has taken so far can be explained by his strong individualism. Andrew wants desperately to be his own man, and feels confined by socialite society. When he enters the Russian army, he feels like the world is his oyster. However, he is still fighting against Napoleon, a commander that he admires. In the Russian army, I think that Andrew feels the need to somewhat ignore his admiration for Napoleon in order to rise up and become a war hero. Admitting to himself that Napoleon is running a successful campaign against his own army would discourage Andrew, so Andrew does his best to focus all of his attention on his own goals.