Character Analysis Prince Andrey Bolkonsky


Like his father, Andrey is the"best of his generation," but is also a product of it. He sees how the rigid standards of his autocratic father isolate the old prince from his closest relations and how he suffers in a world of his own making. From this, the sensitive Andrey concludes that suffering and death are not as terrible as the power that allows people to inflict it, a conclusion that implicitly turns him away from life to seek perfection in death. To overcome the emotional anguish of these observations about his father, Andrey has developed a cold, intellectual approach to life which, by defining experience, also limits it. With his reason constantly pointing out to him the futility of his own life and the lives of those around him, his basic moral values are negative ones. Andrey's career thus becomes a quest to rid his civilized self of the burden of isolation his intellect imposes upon him, just as his father is isolated by the burden of rigid class values.

Primarily seeking a career in which to forget himself, Andrey joins the army, becomes disillusioned with the futility of warfare, and, reaffirmed in his nihilism, retires from active life. Through Natasha, however, Andrey renews his life-commitment, for love promises him the possibility of an ego-dissolving relationship. Her frailty proves to him the imperfection and futility of all the activities of life and impels him to seek perfection in death.

Death, for Andrey, is not so much the final affirmation of life, as it is the cessation of being an individual. In death he discovers the release from his possessive egotism, an ultimate reassertion of the natural order where the creature is valueless save as an element in the infinite physical process.