Wednesday, October 2, 2013

After all we are men, not dogs.

I don’t think I am an emotional and easily moved person. But when I picture the same scene---an old soldier begs Rostov and claims out that “after all we are men, not dogs.”---in my mind, I cannot tell the strange feeling I am going through. It is like drinking a cup of dark coffee—the bitter taste lasts on my tongue. I keep telling myself deaths are inevitable in the war and this is just a normal death. However, my instinct tells me that this time it’s different: A young soldier dies in the corridor of hospital without anyone’s care. How ruthless the assistant was to not have mercy on him and even claim to be tired of taking his body away!

I firmly believe that the greatness of Tolstoy not only lies in his historical depictions but also lies in his humanity and love for ordinary people. Following the Rostov’s visit in the hospital, we can see two wards: one for soldiers and another for officers. Ironically, there is huge difference between two wards: sick officers can have beds to lie on, and gowns to wear, while wounded soldiers can only lay in two rows with their heads to the walls. Such difference is magnified when Tolstoy describes the death of the young soldier. Through his deliberate contrast and sarcastic description, Tolstoy tries to make us aware of the helplessness of normal soldiers, of the inequality between ordinary people and nobles, and of his care about the ordinary ones.

From “after all we are men, not dogs,” we can see that Tolstoy stresses the issue of inequality and desires to build equality between normal people and aristocrats. It reminds me of a quote from Jane Eyre “It is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God's feet, equal,--as we are!” I believe that Tolstoy embraces the same hope.


  1. Great post Kai!
    This emotional scene definitely highlighted the major differences between the Russian elites and the common people. Tolstoy came from a well-known family of nobility and had desires to help the poor. (That's very much similar to Pierre who seems to be a reflection of Tolstoy himself.) In all, I think his mentioning of the serfs, and the ill treatment of common men in the hospitals illustrates Tolstoy's personal experience in war and how much he disapproves of it all.

  2. I really enjoyed your post Kai! I agree that Tolstoy adds a degree of humanization to the ward scenes. I think it's really interesting to look for moments of social criticism underneath the regular narrative. These moments are everywhere and I really appreciate you pointing one out!