The Tolstoyan Ideal of Divine Love: Platon and Natasha Examined

In War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy clearly values characteristics such as spontaneity, honesty, vitality, and liveliness. He makes this obvious to the reader through narratives that indicate that he values forms of naturalness over forms of artificiality. In the novel, Tolstoy’s exoteric message is that a devotion to divine love, or a love for all things that exist, is the best way to live. However, in comparing two important characters, Platon Karataev and Natasha Rostova, his esoteric message seems to be that most people cannot be completely devoted to divine love, as those who understand, or who come to understand, divine love almost always do so at their peril or at their end.

Platon, a middle aged, Russian soldier taken prisoner in a French controlled Moscow, is eventually shot by two French soldiers, because he is sick and weak, and can’t keep up with the rest of the prisoners. Tolstoy holds Platon up as ideal for his honesty, his balance of masculinity and femininity, and his traditional Russian peasant manner which evokes vitality and earthliness. Natasha, a young Russian woman, is also very natural, and this is apparent from the moment she is introduced in the novel; bursting into a room, knocking over some items and startling some people (Tolstoy 68). Tolstoy wants the reader to admire her lack of inhibition and disregard of social customs and norms. However, unlike Platon, Natasha finds that her genuineness is called into question when she falls for Anatol, a handsome character who projects fakeness, and superficiality. After learning that her fiance, Prince Andrei, was injured in battle, Natasha repents for considering an elopement with Anatol. After Prince Andrei’s death from his war wounds, she marries and grows old with another character, Pierre who is neither as superficial as Anatol or as ultimately enlightened as Prince Andrei. Initially, it seems as if Tolstoy casts harsh judgment on Natasha for succumbing to the temptations of earthly, romantic relationships, but when comparing a character like Natasha to one like Platon, as well as others like them, it becomes clear that while Tolstoy believes Platon’s character to be more ideal, he understands that most people cannot attain that ideal, and is ultimately forgiving. A comparison of these two characters highlights Tolstoy’s otherwise esoteric message, that a complete devotion to divine love is optimal but not expected, given the price those that attain it, sometimes end up paying. Tolstoy values characteristics and themes of naturalness, such as spontaneity, vitality, and rejection of social customs. He finds the opposite traits of artificiality and rigid conformism, to be characteristics of a superficial person.

War and Peace opens with a scene set in a soiree hosted by Anna Pavlovna. The gathering is clearly dominated by social customs and norms of upper class people who are overly absorbed in the royal system, which Tolstoy obviously dislikes. Every guest performed the ceremony of greeting this unknown, uninteresting, and unnecessary aunt. Anna Pavlovna followed these greetings with solemn, melancholy attention, silently approving them. Ma tante repeated exactly the same phrases to each of them concerning his health, her own, and that of Her Majesty, who, thank God, was better today. (Tolstoy 34)Tolstoy’s disdain for the upper class social ritual of meeting Anna Pavlovna’s aunt is evident in his narrative description of the Aunt as “unknown, uninteresting, and unnecessary”. He also makes it clear how repetitive, and generic the ritual is, and that it is similarly meaningless to the Aunt. What Tolstoy does find worthwhile and meaningful, is a character’s genuineness and liveliness. When describing Natasha, it becomes clear that she exhibits this trait of liveliness:The visitor’s daughter was already smoothing down her dress and looking at her mother inquiringly when suddenly from the next room were heard the footsteps of boys and girls running to the door, the crash of a chair knocked over, and then a girl of thirteen, hiding something in the folds of her short muslin skirt, darted in and stopped short in the middle of the room… The little girl, not pretty but half full of life, with her black eyes and wide mouth, her childish shoulders from which the bodice had slipped in her rapid flight, black curls tossed back, slender bare arms… (Tolstoy 68, 69). Both Tolstoy’s meticulous description of Natasha’s appearance, which describes her as not conventionally pretty, but still clearly attractive, as well as her sudden, spontaneous burst into the room, that he describes as “full of life”, seem to indicate that Natasha demonstrates qualities valued by Tolstoy, even at first introduction.

Characters that show complete devotion or full understanding of Tolstoy’s ideological notion of divine love end up dying. Both Platon and Prince Andrei are an example of this theme. Platon who is admirably described by Tolstoy as kind or spontaneous, tries to assure a frightened Pierre who has been thrown in a prison cell: ‘You’ve seen a lot of trouble, sir, eh?’ said the little man suddenly. And there was such simplicity and kindliness in that sing-song voice that Pierre tried to reply, but his jaw trembled and he felt tears rising to his eyes. ‘Eh, don’t fret, dear man,’ he said in the gentle, caressing, singsong voice in which old Russian peasant women talk. (Tolstoy 1157)In addition to his comforting voice, Tolstoy emphasizes Platon’s affinity for animals, as well as his representation of traditional, hard working down to earth Russian culture and spirit, that Tolstoy associates with naturalness in the novel. Yet, despite these admirable traits, Platon still dies at the hands of French soldiers in Moscow (Tolstoy 1271). Initially, it seems tenuous to say that Platon’s death was somehow caused by his characteristic spiritual understanding of the connection of himself to the world, but the nature of Prince Andrei’s death begins to demonstrate Tolstoy’s message. As a character, Prince Andrei has ignored earlier opportunities to be self-reflective; and only really has a revelation as he sits on his deathbed:‘Love? What is love?’ he thought. ‘Love hinders death. Love is life. All, all that I understand, I understand only because I love. Everything is, everything exists only because I love. All is connected by love alone. Love is God, and to die means that I, a particle of love, shall return to the universal and eternal source’. (Tolstoy 1175)Initially, this dialogue seems out of place. The words seem like delirious ramblings from a near death Prince Andrei. However, Prince Andrei is talking about divine love, meaning a love for all and everything, rather than a love for the material, and the particular. He uses the word ‘love’ many times, but this love encompases the notion that there is a universal and eternal source. Tolstoy seems to indicate that as Prince Andrei is about to die, or is close to death, he finally understands something deeper about the universal truth of ‘divine love’ and recognizes a higher power.

The death of Prince Andrei makes it more clear that Tolstoy believes death to be associated with a final comprehensive understanding of life. Platon indirectly is led to his death by his sweet, gentle nature and an understanding of the divine love, while Prince Andrei realizes it on his deathbed, too late to apply his newfound knowledge to his relationship with Natasha and to his life generally. While there is not a direct causal relationship between their natures and their deaths, Tolstoy seems to conclude that those who abide by a sincere divine love will ultimately die because of it or only understand it fully at their deaths. Some will never come to understand or appreciate it. While Tolstoy’s most enlightened characters meet a fatal end, he demonstrates a forgiveness towards Natasha, a character who seems to have the qualities of genuineness and spontaneity admired by Tolstoy but who reaches more and more towards an earthly understanding of love rather than a universal divine love by the end of the novel. Natasha’s descent begins with the opera scene, where she is seduced by Anatol, and gives into the social decorum of the opera. …turned their attention in eager expectation to the stage. Natasha too fixed her eyes on the stage… a door leading to the parterre on the sides nearest the Rostovs’ box creaked and the masculine footsteps of a belated arrival were heard… Natasha, following the direction of the Countess’s eyes, saw an extraordinarily handsome adjutant approaching their box with a self-assured yet courteous bearing (Tolstoy 677, 678).As the reader later finds out, this military officer is Anatol Kuragin, who Natasha later considers eloping with. Not only is she demonstrating earthly love by her fixation on Anatol, but she also begins to enjoy the facade that is the opera, where every action is quite literally planned beforehand, and all the emotions seen on stage are artificial, merely a creation of someone else. In this way, Anatol too mirrors the artificiality of the opera, distancing Natasha from Tolstoy’s ideals. However, as the reader learns later in the novel, Natasha ends up marrying Pierre, and growing into an “old Russian woman,” someone who, while not having achieved the same level of enlightenment as Platon and Prince Andrei, can still be admired for her authenticity.

Tolstoy delivers a well thought out, mature message in his attempts to understand life and the world around him. He shows the reader that he values liveliness, Russian tradition and culture, spontaneity, authenticity, vitality, and a rejection of social decorum. He also highlights the importance of divine love, or an appreciation for everything, as well as highlighting a dislike for earthly love, or a fixation on the individual, the particular, or the material things in life. However, while Tolstoy considers these traits to be ideal in a person, he concedes that a complete devotion to them is connected to death, whether it be the cause of the ideals, or a product of them. Because of this, he understands the actions of those who do not attain the status of his ideal person, and does not judge them harshly. This is what seems to be Tolstoy’s innate message in War and Peace, as viewed through a comparison of Natasha and Platon.

Works Cited

Tolstoy, Lev. War and Peace. New York: Penguin Books, 1968. Print.

Self-Begotten Fantasy in Gatsby and War and Peace: Satiating the Spiritual Void

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Jay Gatsby is an utterly American character: deviant and romantic idealist; tenacious yet sensitive; ostentatious yet nostalgic. At his core is a transcendental yearning, and for this reason as a character he never quite comes into focus. To the “Great” Gatsby, Daisy is a vision of an ideal, one tied up thoroughly with the past, and to that end, Gatsby is a victim of his own creation. In light of Gatsby’s lonely demise, the question remains whether The Great Gatsby is ultimately a critique of Gatsby, or of his dream. To consider such a question, it is helpful to adopt a perspective that treats human nature with almost biblical sensibility, to analyze by locating aspects of reality and human nature that cause us to see them both differently. This is what Tolstoy offers the reader. Pierre Bezukhov of War and Peace appears to embody the sort of vitality that Gatsby lacks. Though Pierre meanders somewhat aimlessly amongst half-hearted pursuits for nearly half the novel, once he finds an image to fill the void in his soul, he is raised to a higher spiritual plain. If we regard two essential moments in these novels – one each in War and Peace and The Great Gatsby – we find their protagonists launched to higher spiritual plains by the force of a cosmic yearning fulfilled. Careful examination — of what is at stake for each character, and in what ways achieving their dreams placates their internal longing – will serve to illuminate the significantly divergent fates for Pierre and Gatsby. It is only after having ‘known’ him for over half of the novel that we first hear the story of Jay Gatsby’s birth: out of the ashes of his far less glamorous former self. James Gatz was a rather unexceptional character of rural, middle-class origins. But Jay Gatsby is a prodigious example of self-creation, not only for his unlikely ascent into the upper rungs of society – we are invited to forget his rather adulterous methodology – but for the effort he exerts to generate an identity in accordance with his mind’s eye. Fitzgerald characterizes Gatsby, in his moment of self-begetting, as “a son of God,” immaculately conceived, founder of his own image, omnipotent in his ability to fashion himself after his own imagination. Indeed James Gatz gives birth to his idea of himself; “Jay Gatsby, of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself.” With a sublime power of generation, James Gatz imbues ideological aspirations with earthly existence, and so Gatsby is born. He models himself according to a perfect, unchanging ideal. That Platonic ideals are ultimately inaccessible to those who walk in the world of sensation and instability escapes Gatsby’s “instinct toward his future glory.” In fashioning himself according to his own Platonic idea, Gatsby makes the same mistake as the prisoners of Plato’s cave: chained to the earth, they take to be real what is in fact only an illusion, a shadow of images their eyes cannot perceive. Platonic ideals become imperfect in their journey towards earthly terms, in which all things are unstable, ever-changing, and subject to time and death. So it is with Gatsby’s desire to fashion himself after an ideal, revealing the hubris of trying to embody a perfect being. He is indeed only a shadow of an ideological conception, less than the perfect, eternal, unchanging image he seeks to generate. This is made clearest in the moment when Gatsby recalls his first kiss with his beloved Daisy, when his fantasy is ruined as soon as it comes true. Pretend as he might – indeed, as he does for the duration of the novel – Gatsby cannot live as a self-made creation. He is a victim to his past, just as we all are. And though he finds a place for himself in 1920’s America’s upper class, he is its prey, too: chewed up, spit out, and cast aside with little ceremony.If both Gatsby and Pierre are misfits in the social circles they inhibit, Pierre is more willingly so. Pierre Bezukhov is an outsider to the Russian upper class, his awkward, unpretentious ways overlooked only when the bastard son comes into his father’s substantial inheritance. In both himself and those around him, Pierre senses the transformation that wealth affords him: “Formerly, Pierre had constantly felt…that his remarks, which seemed clever to him while he was preparing them in his imagination, became stupid as soon as he spoke them aloud…Now everything he said came out as charmant.” Welcomed as he is into high society, niceties cannot serve to assuage the turbulence in Pierre’s soul over the insincerity of this world of appearances: this world where “‘the stupidest woman in the world…appears to people as the height of intelligence and finesse,’” and everyone bows down to her. Haunted by evil and falsehood, Pierre is unable to participate in life with actively. In spite of his existential unrest — the unanswered questions and doubts, the want for meaning and inspiration in life — Pierre still has to live. Self-preservation motivates him to subdue these inquiries with sensory pleasures: “It was too frightening to be under the burden of all the insoluble questions of life, and he gave himself to the first amusements that came along, only so as to forget them.” Pierre ascribes an enigmatic quality to the “questions of life.” This amounts to a tacit admission that there is no solution to the most basic question: why should I live? It would seem then that Tolstoy understands Pierre’s anxiety as proceeding not from an inability to produce satisfactory answers, but for lack of a suitable distraction.Pierre and Gatsby share the label of outsider, and a profound struggle for belonging. Both are of the element in which they find themselves immersed, but also helplessly other. In each narrative, we find a moment when Pierre and Gatsby’s ideas of themselves find fruition in relation to the object of their love. These instances are both instantiated in specific, momentous occasions in the respective novels. Additionally, these profound relationships unite a cosmic yearning with a mortal incarnation of that yearning. After these experiences, these men are, quite simply, never the same. And while both moments afford a reprise from eternal questioning in the form of a mortal love, these men are distinguished by their subsequent relationships with these moments of clarity. Gatsby spends the rest of his life trying to recapture what he felt when the stars aligned above his first kiss with Daisy, while the rest of Pierre’s life is propelled forward by his lasting image of Natasha, which fills the part of him once occupied by uncertainty. In order to discern the relationships Gatsby and Pierre cultivate with these vital revelations, we must first investigate what is revealed in the moments themselves.Nick Carraway traces Jay Gatsby’s self-creation back to that moment, at the dawn of winter, when Gatsby first kissed Daisy under bustling stars. He calls the language Gatsby uses in recollecting his memory appalling in its “sentimentality” – Gatsby’s words are unbelievable precisely to the degree that they are poetic. Walking together, Daisy and Gatsby come to that immense and pure spot “where there were no trees and the sidewalk was white with moonlight.” Cosmic excitement in the force of the changing seasons echoes the longing Gatsby feels towards his love. There is palpable emotion in the air: “mysterious excitement,” a “stir and bustle among the stars.” Imagery links human yearning with the concerns of nature: cosmic matters seem in sympathy with Gatsby’s emotion, suggesting in turn that there is a natural similarity between the threshold Gatsby longs to cross and the inevitably changing seasons. It is as if the world around him has prepared itself for this moment in Gatsby’s life, and knows and understands his insatiable longing. This anticipation finds expression in Gatsby’s esteem for the powers and forces that have aligned to facilitate his incarnation. In a moment that could not have lasted very long, when Gatsby knows his kiss with Daisy is fast approaching, his soul prepares for a great ascent. Daisy is the substance of his dream, in which forces work to form a ladder that “mounted to a secret place above the trees – he could climb to it…and suck on the pap of life, gulp down the incomparable milk of wonder.” There is no question in Gatsby’s mind that this moment will form the axis of the rest of his life’s ambition. It is clear that when he drinks the elixir of wonder he will be forever and irrevocably changed. But perhaps the great Jay Gatsby does not realize fully the extent to which this morsel of perfection will damage irreparably his penchant for fantasy, ruined as soon as those fantasies become corporeal. Gatsby hesitates. Lust as he does after Daisy, he longs to draw out the feeling in his soul at the image of her face approaching his. Perhaps he also hesitates in light of the cost of achieving his goal: He knew that when he kissed the girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of a God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips’ touch she blossomed for him like a flower and the incarnation was complete. Gatsby lingers as long as he can, engaged in the activity of listening to the sublime vibrations of the cosmic universe, before sealing his commitment to a single, time-resistant role. To wed his “unutterable visions” to Daisy’s “perishable breath” is to conjoin Gatsby’s Platonic idea of himself with a particular moment in time – when that self touched earth and Gatsby kissed Daisy. Once this union is sealed it cannot be changed, and Gatsby looses his power of self-creation. Though he has crafted his own Platonic idea, he hereafter becomes trapped in its incarnation, in this single moment in time. That sublime power of generation, that omnipotence in his ability to fashion himself, are casualties of Gatsby’s pastoral yearning. Both in this moment, and in Nick’s final estimation, Gatsby appears obsessed with recovering something about the past. To the extent that he continues forward on the trajectory of his life, Gatsby is also irreparably bound to his past, “borne back ceaselessly” into it. Daisy’s kiss deals a mortal blow to Gatsby’s eagerness to preserve an innocent and still untried world, tethering his lofty ideals mutable flesh. His mind will never again romp around “like the mind of a God” because it has been made corporeal: incarnate, fixed, stuck in his first union with Daisy. Pierre’s soul climbs to similarly lofty heights in his interaction with Natasha after she has broken off her engagement with Prince Andrei. Pierre is disheartened by Natasha’s outward display of hopelessness, her sense that nothing makes sense. Perhaps because Pierre shares that sense, he comforts Natasha with such a “meek, tender, heart-felt voice” that she weeps tears of gratitude. At first, Pierre surprises even himself with his sudden outburst of emotion, confused at the feelings welling up in his chest. With a tender glance, Natasha leaves feeling consoled for the first time in days. Pierre is at a loss for what to do next:‘Where to?’ Pierre asked himself. ‘Where can I go now? Not to the club or to pay visits.’ All people seemed so pitiful, so poor in comparison with the feeling of tenderness and love he experienced, in comparison with that softened, grateful glance she had given him at the last moment through her tears. Having felt such a profound connection of love with Natasha, everything else seems to Pierre impossibly insignificant. Until now he was unaware that his soul could soar to reach a feeling of the sublime. It seemed that there was nothing worthwhile in his mundane surroundings. Now, he can only regard the world around him with pity and poverty of spirit. But in his next gesture, commanding his driver to take him home, Pierre reveals an internal transformation. His “joyfully breathing chest” takes in the new air around him, soaking in a brighter spiritual realm where, even in spite of doubts, life is surely worth living. Rather than find everything base and meaningless in comparison to his soul’s pleasure Pierre employs Natasha’s image to bestow his approach to life with a newfound sense of purpose. The bright comet of 1812 travels across the starry sky above him, echoing his soul’s new heights. The comet, which was supposed to foreshadow destruction, evokes a sense of calm in Pierre, shielding him from the “insulting baseness of everything earthly.” As it is said, having discovered his “why” of life, Pierre is poised to tolerate any “how.” We picture Pierre standing sub specie aeterni, the “huge expanse of starry night” nearer because of the comet’s closeness to earth, the void in his heart filled with his nearness to Natasha.Careful examination of the language Pierre uses to describe the comet’s journey across the sky demonstrates the motivation he acquires from this sublime feeling. His soul follows the same “parabolic course” as that “bright star.” In awe of this cosmic moment, Pierre’s internal yearning sympathizes with an event that is both of this world and yet rings with a universal energy. It seemed to him that “this star answered fully to what was in his softened and encouraged soul, now blossoming into new life.” In this moment of unity between Pierre’s newly discovered sense of eternal purpose and cosmic greatness, his soul is reborn. It is filled with the image of Natasha, rooted in time by the most fixedly situated historical event of the novel: the great comet of 1812. Even the comet takes notice of Pierre’s internal development:Having flown with inexpressible speed through immeasurable space on its parabolic course, [the comet] suddenly, like an arrow piercing the earth, seemed to have struck here its once chosen spot in the black sky and stopped, its tail raised energetically, its white light shining and playing among the countless other shimmering stars. To Pierre, this comet’s odyssey is his own. Having searched vast distances, “traveled through immeasurable space,” it lands in this one moment, poised in the dark sky. In its stillness, the contented comet shines brightly and with an energetic spirit. That the comet has traveled a “parabolic” course evokes a metaphor for Pierre’s internal journey, and draws attention to the alignment that is taking place as disparate events – “countless other stars” – are brought into balance. This is a moment of renewal, when Pierre conceives of a hope that encourages his soul and propels him forward in the course of his life, and when that feeling is incarnated in the comet’s “chosen spot in the black sky.”Juxtaposition of these two moments of incarnation — when an image of cosmic yearning finds flesh in a feeling of love that elevates the soul — might seem to suggest that Jay Gatsby and Pierre Bezukhov will go on to make similar choices, and meet similar ends. In fact, Gatsby and Pierre carry out quite opposite reactions to these somewhat perfect moments. For the rest of his life, Gatsby is obsessed with recovering the moment when his dreams became reality, when, consummated by Daisy’s kiss, his idyllic self-created image for a moment touched the earth. He is chained to this moment, fighting to recover “some idea of himself that” that was lost once his lips touched hers. Pierre’s journey moves in precisely the opposite direction, propelled forward in time and life by a memory of perfect alignment in his soul. Natasha’s face becomes the totem of this memory: Pierre “was not as horrified as he used to be…not because she answered the questions that presented themselves to him, but because her image immediately transferred him to a brighter realm of spiritual activity…” He has only to close his eyes and reach up with one hand to recover her image and shake off any present burden with an eternal comfort. How are we to understand these opposing trajectories: the one propelled to an elevated future, the other “borne back ceaselessly into the past”? The crux of the discrepancy is located within what it means to have a gift for life, that very basic reason or motivation for continuing to put one foot in front of the other. In order to truly possess that gift, one must have access to a constant source of strength. This is the case with Pierre, whose image of Natasha is always with him, traveling close to his heart. Tragically, Gatsby’s raison d’être is lost along with his ability to remake himself. Attempting to will reality in accordance with his own image is like trying to bring fantasy to life. With slavish devotion to his imagined identity, Gatsby succeeds in achieving a solitary moment when his fantasy is realized, but even he anticipates the devastating consequences. Once consummated in a terrestrial act, Gatsby’s fantasy is tainted, ruined – no longer the same. He cannot recover that basic motivation to live, for all of his efforts and plans towards grandeur only serve to lead him farther away from that part of himself that was lost when he kissed Daisy.Given the various purposes of these two passages in their respective novels, perhaps the most important function of juxtaposing them is to illustrate both destructive and instructive powers of memory and fantasy. Our fantasies are only so because they are not materially true, because there is something corruptive about uncertain human existence subject to the relentless tug of time from which the realm of imagination is protected. What ultimately secures an eternal reprise from doubt is the ability to experience a timeless feeling that gives one the sense that life, in all its base drudgery, is worth living. No earthly occurrence can interfere with this feeling because once the soul has been elevated beyond terrestrial matters, the heart carries a talisman as its reminder. Memory proves to us every day the existence of a reality not temporally present, where one can become either trapped or liberated. It is, after all, in relationship to a moment preserved by memory that Gatsby becomes eternally trapped, and Pierre discovers a reason to live in the present. Works CitedFitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Scribner Paperback Fiction, 1925. Tolstoy, Leo. War and Peace. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, trans. New York: Vintage Classics, a Division of Random House, Inc., 2007.

Pierre’s Abortive Mission

Throughout War and Peace, Pierre exhibits Tolstoy’s ideals of passivity, humility, and passion. However, even Pierre succumbs to self-centered willfulness. He uses a highly contrived occult numerology and calculates the value of almost every possible rendition of his name until he reaches L’russe Besuhof, which, when added up, yields the number “666.” Pierre concludes that this coincides with the numerological value of Napoleon’s name, and with an outrageous stretch of logic, he decides that he has a divine mission to alter history by assassinating Napoleon. By subscribing to the belief that Napoleon is the sole demonic cause behind the destruction of Europe, and that he himself is the man destined to alter the course of events for the salvation of Russia and Europe, Pierre succumbs to the myth of the Great Man that Tolstoy so fervently opposes. Despite this shift from passivity to an aggressive willfulness, Pierre is simply incapable of maintaining such a false mentality without faltering and eventually forsaking it. Tolstoy shows us that Pierre’s passion is constantly puncturing his rational plan.Though Pierre uses every bit of his rational powers to come to his apocalyptic conclusion and to plan out his mission, it is, when viewed in its totality, completely irrational. He uses logic illogically, repeatedly changing his name and the letters in his name until it yields the answer he was subconciously looking for. When planning, Pierre goes over everything in “the minutest detail” (1079), yet he misses the fact that his pistol is unloaded and is too conspicuous. Thus, he has to hastily and clumsily revise his plan at the last minute. Pierre also fails to notice the logical inconsistencies within his philosophy of life and of his mission. When he experiences a “vague sense of his own insignificance” (1077), in the very next sentence his passivity changes to a desire for action as he starts getting the idea of taking part in the defense of Moscow in the belief that he can actually alter a series of events that are beyond his control. He also says that passion compels him upon his mission, that it is the “Russian contempt for everything conventional, artificial, and human,” which causes “the drunken man to smash mirrors and windowpanes for no apparent reason, though he knows it will cost him all he possesses, the feeling that causes a man to commit actions which (from an ordinary point of view) are insane, testing, as it were, his personal sovereignty and power, and bearing witness to the existence of a higher judgement of life beyond mere human conditions” (1078-1079). Here the allusion of the drunk man who smashes mirrors and windowpanes at personal cost alludes to Dolokhov, who acts with passion regardless of the consequences. He reflects a personal freedom that is not contingent upon his actions’ effect on the outside world or the outside world’s reaction to him. Pierre’s mission, however, encapsulates none of these ideals. He is not acting with spontaneity, but with deliberate intention, and the worth of his actions are completely dependent upon the effect that they have on the outside world. Thus, Tolstoy shows us that, since humans are naturally irrational, human logic is an illusion and is not an adequate instrument for deriving truth. Logic is only used to confirm a preconceived idea that arises from our passions. People like Pierre rationalize their passions to make it seem as if they are based on reason.As a result of the clash between his artificial rationalization and his true nature, Pierre experiences a cognitive dissonance that severely affects his identity and self-confidence. He experiences this clash when he begins spending time with the Frenchman, Ramballe. His mission requires him to be secretive, isolated, closed off. Such a mentality runs strongly against his natural disposition of honesty and openness. Because he both wears his heart upon his sleeve and now feels it necessary to conceal his intentions, Pierre feels insecure and exposed around others. Only Ramballe, a completely self-absorbed individual, puts him at ease: “If [Ramballe] had been endowed with the least faculty for discerning the feelings of others and had had even the faintest inkling of his companion’s feelings at the moment, Pierre probably would have left him, but his lively insensibility to everything other than himself disarmed Pierre” (1084). However, when Pierre inquires about Napoleon, Pierre’s “face assumed a melancholy, embarrassed expression” (1087). During this conversation, he also “stammered sheepishly” and displayed a “guilty look” (1087). Pierre’s lack of confidence betrays his unconscious moral resistance against his ostensibly righteous mission. This dualistic conflict makes him suffer, but Pierre attributes this suffering to cowardice. He is frustrated that his intentions “had been dissipated like dust by contact with the first man he met” (1088). This contact with another person subconsciously reminds Pierre of his humanity, a humanity that he confuses for weakness. This humanity makes impossible the idea that Pierre could actually murder another human being.By this time, Pierre’s self-image is already vested in the completion of his mission, regardless of whether it turns out to be successful or unsuccessful. The fact that he has already fled from his house and acquired a peasant coat and pistol commits him to his plans; he would feel ridiculous if he forsook his mission after already investing so much in it. When the time comes for him to carry out his plot, Pierre has already lost his enthusiasm while his strategy looks increasingly flawed and inadequate. “But as Pierre’s chief aim seemed to consist not so much in carrying out his plan as in proving to himself that he would not renounce it and was doing all that he could to achieve it” (1105).Pierre’s crisis of self-identity is evident in his attempt to hide his name. When talking to Ramballe, “After blushing and trying to invent a name, Pierre replied that he could not tell him who he was, and was about to speak of his reasons for concealing his identity when the Frenchman interrupted him” (1085). Later, he does give away his name and rank to Ramballe. His blushing indicates a lack of confidence that prevents him from lying or concealing information. When Pierre is confident, he can lie effortlessly. After Pierre saves a little girl from a fire and another woman from sexual harassment, Pierre firmly withholds his name from French soldiers and lies to them that the little girl he saved is his daughter. This change represents a process he undergoes in which his confidence is restored and enhanced by passion.This change begins at the sight of the fire burning in Moscow, when “he felt himself liberated from the ideas that had been weighing on him” (1109). The crisis of the fire displaces his original mission and gives him a more compelling sense of purpose. Pierre’s subconscious knows that saving the little girl from the fire is a noble act whereas killing Napoleon is not. This replacement of purpose gives Pierre a sounder basis upon which to act, so his self-assurance expands accordingly.Such instances, in which Pierre’s natural compassion breaks through, occur throughout the entire assassination endeavor. When the French come, he had planned to be clever and hide, but “an invincible curiosity kept him there” (1081). Pierre takes too much of an interest in others to shut them out, in sharp opposition to the self-absorbed Ramballe. Later, when Ramballe meets a German hussar, it is Pierre that understands the languages of both men and has to help them communicate. The Frenchman is contained unto himself whereas Pierre is expansive and naturally perceives everyone around him.While trying to carry out his plan, Pierre keeps “forgetting.” The narrator says: “Forgetting his intention of concealing his knowledge of French, Pierre… exclaimed in French: ‘You are not wounded?'” and ” ‘Oh, I am really in despair at what has happened,’ said Pierre quickly, completely forgetting the part he had intended to play” (1082). Pierre’s absentmindedness, though a social vice, is a moral virtue. Just as he keeps forgetting the superficial social conventions that he must follow in social settings, he also forgets the details of his unholy plan due to his genuine concern. When he actually sets out into town to kill Napoleon, he is unwittingly sidetracked by the distress of a little girl who is caught in a fire and a lady who is being harassed by a French soldier. Pierre’s carefully outlined scheme suffers multiple ruptures by involuntary eruptions of compassion towards those who are unrelated to his plan, but whom he is nonetheless highly attentive of.Tolstoy likens Pierre’s suspension of his passive and compassionate self to sleep, to a dream, and to drunkenness and insanity. Pierre, throughout much of this episode, acts as if he is in a trance: “He heard and saw nothing around him” (1106). “All that he saw or heard around him seemed to take place in a dream.” He is in the midst of a “reverie,” a daydream (1077). He compares the concept of his divine mission to “dreams” (1078). Also, “Pierre was in a state bordering on insanity” (1077) and he was in “a state of nervous irritability bordering on insanity” (1079). The narrator’s description of Pierre makes Pierre sound like a drunk man: when Pierre “remember[ed] his intention, he grew dizzy and felt so faint that he leaned against the fence to keep from falling” and with “unsteady steps… lay down on the sofa and instantly fell asleep” (1092-1093). Thus, Pierre’s destructive intentions inebriate him and dull his common sensibilities. Figuratively, “Pierre was as it were intoxicated” (1114). Pierre’s servant, Makar Alekseyevich, acts as a doppelganger for Pierre in that Makar, who is actually physically drunk, is insane with delusions of killing Napoleon. “Pierre… looked with pity and revulsion at the half-crazy old man. Makar Alekseyevich, frowning with exertion, held onto the pistol and cried out in his hoarse voice, evidently imagining some heroic scene” (1080) [italics added]. Of Makar, Pierre says, “He is a madman, an unfortunate creature who did not know what he was doing” (1082), but Pierre does not consciously recognize his own reflection in Makar.The quality that sleep, dreams, and drunkenness all exhibit is that they wear off over time. In the same way, the weeping of the mother amongst the burning houses causes Pierre to suddenly return to his natural self, “as if awakening from a dream.” Whereas before Pierre was in a listless trance, he is suddenly imbued with “breathless alacrity” and he feels “as though he had suddenly come to life after a deep swoon” (1108). Pierre’s obsession with altering history and saving Russia is merely a temporary condition, from which he inevitably awakens.This change restores Pierre’s confidence, which had been floundering under the mental conflict created by his mission. He “held his head higher… [and walked] with swift strides” (1108) and “he triumphantly strode off between the French soldiers” (1114). Pierre’s righteous act of saving the Oriental lady intensifies him and “his strength increased tenfold” (1113). This leads to a more negative aspect of Pierre’s passion, which is his tendency to exaggerate. After saving the girl, Pierre confidently and willfully lies outright to the soldiers, calling the girl “my little daughter, whom I have just rescued from the flames” (1114), thus imbuing his actions with a more noble, personal, and melodramatic flavor. Pierre’s tendency towards excess is what led him to excesses in hedonism with wine and women, and then to an excess in over-wrought spirituality with Masonry. When Ramballe describes his similarly exaggerated love affairs, which “consisted primarily in an unnatural relation to the woman, and in a combination of outrageous circumstances that imparted the chief charm of the feeling” (1090), Pierre is highly attracted to this perverted, contrived, and over-dramatized conception of love. Ramballe’s description of love is artificially and unnaturally altered from its true nature, but it has such an effect on Pierre that he is suddenly filled with passion and starts to exaggerate about his relationship with Natasha. Pierre recalls and reconstructs his last meeting with Natasha: “At the time, the meeting had not made a deep impression on him – he had not even thought of it since. But now it seemed to him that there had been something very poetic and significant in the encounter” (1091).During that conversation, Ramballe puts forth ideas that have many parallels to Pierre’s deluded mission. Just as Ramballe places significance on “a combination of outrageous circumstances” (1090), Pierre places significance upon the numerology of his name and the coincidence that he is still in Moscow when Napoleon arrives. Pierre echoes Ramballe’s attraction to something “unnatural” with his own attraction to the “alien and awesome” qualities of his assassination plot. They also mirror each other in their farcical rehearsal of melodramatic phrases; Pierre with “Not I but the hand of Providence punishes you” (1079) and Ramballe with “I have saved your life, and now I save your honor!” (1091). The two men experience passions that are fervent but perverted.Altogether, Tolstoy presents an ambiguous view of Pierre’s passion. Ramballe’s perverted passion prompts Pierre to give a somewhat embellished account of his life story. However, this tainted dialogue with the self-absorbed Frenchman does eventually purify Pierre. After his conversation with Ramballe, Pierre “experienced a joyous tender emotion” (1092) and describes the sky, which is associated with divine experience of truth throughout War and Peace. Later on, when Pierre saves the little girl out of his natural compassion, he is “seized with a sense of horror and revulsion… But he made an effort not to throw the child down” (1110). In this case, he uses his reason against the promptings of his passion, which was urging him to commit the immoral act of casting the child away. Also, though Pierre naturally bends towards goodness in the midst of the tribulations caused by the fires in Moscow, Tolstoy paints all the characters around him in a negative light. There is the cowardice and selfishness of the father who will not go save his daughter, the faked concern of the servant girl for the trapped little girl, and the looting of the French soldiers. The French looter explains, “Must be human, we’re all mortal, you know” (1110). Thus, Tolstoy in no way says that passion is unequivocally good or that man’s true nature is good. He does not give us a conclusive verdict on passion, reason, or human nature.Tolstoy does, however, display a guarded preference for passion over reason. It is Pierre’s willful rationalizing, along with the deductions of Napoleon and other major characters in the book, that lead to futile and isolated egotism. Because Pierre subconsciously recognizes that his mission is contemptible, he lacks the passion necessary to carry it out. He remains self-conscious until compassion for other people, whether it be Natasha or the little girl in the fire, releases him. This passion gives Pierre the confidence to withhold his identity and lie to the French soldiers. Even the passion engendered by Ramballe’s falseness leads Pierre to a momentary epiphany of truth. Pierre’s nature resembles the drops of the watery globe, which are expansive to the point that they disappear. Pierre is so naturally attuned to others and forgetful of himself and of his own designs that various events successively sidetrack him from his original purpose, thus dooming his original assassination plan to failure.*All text citations from the Ann Dunnigan translation, Signet Classic, c.1968