Very good at saying the obvious, Nikolay is unimaginative and conservative, a man of action rather than of ideas. Although his development does not chart a course of agonized illuminations, as do the careers of Andrey and Pierre, his adulthood maximizes the positive qualities of his personality; thus, with all his shortcomings, he is a"successful" character.
Motivated by utilitarian drives, Nikolay is always straightforward and never masks his intentions by thoughts of"virtue" or"doing for others." While this utilitarianism and lack of hypocrisy cause Nikolay to reject Sonya in favor of marrying an heiress, these very qualities guarantee his marriage. Marya's religious depths provide her husband with an added dimension of soul that he lacks, even as her wealth provides him with the capital he requires. Her submission to Christian virtue is similar to Nikolay's submission to the higher authority of the state. Tolstoy thus approves of Nikolay's self-interest, and makes everything he does fruitful, at the same time disapproving of and rejecting Sonya for her empty selflessness.