Determined Love

Day 339 of A Year of War and Peace

Readers of War and Peace must play an active role in reading the novel. More so than with other books. This is because Tolstoy offers no explicit link between the fictional universe he creates and his historical analysis. He leaves it to the the reader to connect the dots. We are now just ten short days away from the second epilogue where Tolstoy abandons his fictional universe altogether to focus exclusively on his historical analysis. We’ve previously considered the connection between the two. Tolstoy himself has raised the issue, noting the disconnect between an obvious historical determinism and the ostensible freedom of the individual. How to link them? As it turns out, today’s chapter subtly hints at a connection.

Today our character’s hearts erupt in an ebullition of emotion. Princess Marya, joyously in love with Nikolai, is struck too shy to visit the Rostovs. Nikolai, proud of personality and pained by poverty, erects an icy cold barrier of disinterest between himself and Marya when she finally does visit. The old Countess, flush with hope, constantly and excitedly tries to get the two together. Marya despairs that Nikolai doesn’t seem interested in her anymore. She cannot tame her mind of these thoughts.

Mankind moves history and mankind is moved by thoughts. Thoughts are guided by emotions and the passions. As Hume writes, “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.” What Hume is saying is that the passions — the emotions — are the prime influencing motives of human will. Emotions are why we behave and think the way we do. But where do thoughts come from? Intuitively, it seems that they come from ourselves. Princess Marya, however, suspects that this might not be the case at the end of today’s chapter:

She looked back. For a few seconds they gazed silently into one another’s eyes — and what had seemed remote and impossible suddenly became very close, possible, and inevitable.


We say that things fall to us, as the masons too say that the huge squared stones in walls and pyramids fall into their places, adjusting themselves harmoniously to one another in a sort of structural unity. For, in fine, there is one harmony of all things, and just as from all bodies the Universe is made up into such a body as it is, so from all causes is Destiny made up into such a Cause. This is recognized by the most unthinking, for they say: Fate brought this on him. So then this was brought on this man, and this prescribed for this man. Let us then accept our fate.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

This is the three hundred and thirty ninth installment in a daily, yearlong, chapter-by-chapter reading devotional and meditation on Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. For more information on this project please read the introduction to the series here.

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