Day 175 of A Year of War and Peace

Changes are afoot for our old friend Nikolai Rostov. It’s been awhile since we last met with him and today he seems a bit different. Previously, he’s been angry, quick-tempered, and irascible. Not so today. Today he’s agreeable and easy-going. Late in the chapter, as he listens to a speech by a fellow soldier he disagrees with, we’re offered a possible explanation for why he seems so well-adjusted now and that reason is that recently in his life “he had gained experience.”

What, then, has experience taught him?

The answer to this question is hinted at throughout the chapter. It’s never made explicit but it seems like Nikolai has become more cautious about battling against the natural flow of events. Before, you’ll recall, he’d get apoplectic over his father’s playful jesting or, say, the theft of a friend’s wallet.

Today, however, in response to an adverse situation — here the letter his family writes him imploring him to return home — he doesn’t get upset. He recognizes that his natural duty as a soldier is to remain with his regiment so he calmly writes back to his family that he will not be returning home.

This living with acceptance is reflected and contrasted with the experience of his fellow soldiers and the officer class respectively. For the officer class the retreat from Vilna is “accompanied by a complicated interplay of interests, arguments, and passions.” For the Pavlograd Hussars, however, “it was a very simple and agreeable business.” This discrepancy of experience of the same event is due to how the two groups approach the problem. The officer class is worried about something they have no control over: the future and the enemy’s response. The Hussars, on the other hand, merely follow orders and don’t allow themselves to think too far ahead, preferring instead to focus on the tasks at hand.

As the story moves forward, pay close attention to Nikolai Rostov’s character. Try to note when he does and does not apply the lessons he has learned from experience.


This is the one hundred and seventy-fifth 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.

I’m also very interested in hearing what you have to say about the novel. So leave a comment and let me know.

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For my friends and family, love. For my enemies, durian fruit.

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