Prince Andrei’s Friendships

On another look, I am not wrong in seeing Prince Andrei as preferring
friendships in which he can patronize the friend. In Volume I, Part
One, VI

Prince Andrei looked at [Pierre] with kindly eyes. But in his
friendly, gentle gaze, a consciousness of his own superiority still showed.

We have just read, after a consideration of Pierre’s views, that

In the best, the friendliest and simplest relations, flattery or
praise is necessary, just as grease is necessary to keep wheels

In Volume One, Part Three, IX, when Prince Andrei is helping Boris to find a position on the staff,

Prince Andrei always became especially animated when he had to guide a young man [in this case Boris] and help him towards worldly success. Under the pretext of this help for another, which out of pride he would never accept for himself, he found himself close to the milieu which conferred success and which attracted him.

(He would never accept help, yet somehow Prince Andrei is one of Kutuzov’s adjutants, and his father is one of Kutuzov’s comrades from the wars of Catherine the Great. In fact, Kutuzov may be his uncle; his wife’s remarks in  Volume I, Part One, VI suggest this but are not clear.)

His liking for Captain Tushin is of the same sort. Both are captains
(and one has to read far into the novel to learn Prince Andrei’s
rank); yet in that “more essential subordination” which Boris has just
perceived, Prince Andrei outranks generals, let alone artillery

In Volume I, Part Two, III, we find that the officers with whom Prince Andrei serves fall into two groups: the smaller group looks up to him, and “with these people Prince Andrei was simple and pleasant”; the larger group dislikes him, but respects and even fears him. This may be part of what it is to be a Bolkonsky, since that seems to be the case with his father. Kuragins may hold them cheap, but not the rest of the world. It does not make for equal friendships.

Prince Andrei’s superiority to his contemporaries may be necessary to the book. He is the exemplar of intelligence and energy, which will be seen as deficient compared to wisdom. For those of us who take an interest in things of the mind, the renunciation of worldly goods gets a nod of approval, and may or may not make us question our lives. But Prince Andrei, in Volume IV, will be questioning the value of intelligence, erudition, wit, qualities that we at least respect and perhaps pique ourselves on.

Leave a Reply