I admit, I pulled the title from the scheduled talk by the Pulitzer-winning journalist Chris Hedges. But it is what precisely Nicholas and Prince Andrew found. In war they found the means to fulfill their desires (one, a patriotic sentiment and the other, escape from a miserable marriage) by attending the war. Alright, so they entered the war to satisfy their desires. Nicholas Rostov enters the war believing that sacrificing for one's country is a meaningful goal.
On the contrary, Prince Andrew could care less about what others think of him. In fact, he prefers it that the people who don't understand him to fear him. Yet, his hopes of becoming a "hero" suffers a serious blow when the Russian army gets soundly beatings by the French and the diplomats still view the war as an abstract theory. The Russian army's lack of discipline also disappoints Andrew. Andrew wants to establish himself as a prominent figure in war as to give his life a meaning.
Without their realizing, the war bestows them other meanings. Nicholas Rostov never faced open hostility in his life; as he famously mused, everyone loved him and he expected the soldiers would act the same way. His belief fractures when he calls on Telyanin for stealing Denisov's purse. The officers want Nicholas' apology even though he did the right thing. The big revelation soon follows: Nicholas realizes with a shock that the enemy actually wants to kill him just because he is from the Russian Army.
The war showed Nicholas the harsh reality of life. Nicholas' social standing or vibrant, young personality does not automatically guarantee people's affections. As he lay wounded, he realizes for the first time what death entails--its voidness. Similarly, Prince Andrew impulsively aids the doctor and his wife. He regrets afterwards because while he may saved them, the action did not give him any recognition. While Andrew remains chagrined over kind behaviors, however, the reader sees that his inner thoughts return to the dying soldiers of the battlefield. The reader can hope that the horrors of war would eventually render Andrew into a more compassionate man who finds meaning in little things than in dreams of grandeur.