War and Peace Notes – My Mistake about the Word “He”

War and Peace on the Brain Banner

Written for Slavic 90A: Introduction to Russian Civilization – Spring 2013. Read more of my previous notes on “War and Peace” here.

I got confused in this part: My professor let me know it was the elder Bolkonsky who cried, but due to my language processing of the word “he”, I imagined Prince Andrei in this scene.

More specifically, I had imagined Prince Andrei crying in his father’s arms, rather than the senior, because in the previous scene, Prince Andrei “began to cry, as children cry” after the his son’s birth (351). At the same time, the death of Princess Lisa must have caused Prince Andrei to be extremely emotional, since both a happy event and tragedy occurred simultaneously.

In the following scene, the Oxford translation states: “Two hours later Prince Andrei stepping softly went into his father’s room. The old man knew everything. He was standing close to the door and as soon as it opened his rough old arms closed like a vice round his son’s neck, and without a word he began to sob like a child.”

I see that grammatically it makes sense that the old man was the person crying, because he’s the main actor/subject in the sentence. However, when I saw the the phrase “he began to sob like a child”, my thoughts transferred back to Prince Andrei’s emotional turmoil and role as the elder Bolkonsky’s son.

*Fun Fact: In Russian, there’s a neat distinction between the pronouns which English can’t match. More precisely, there’s его/её “his/her” and свой “his/her own”.

Compares these two examples:
-Ferris Bueller hates his (own) hair. Феррис Бюллер ненавидит свои волосы.
-Ferris Bueller hates his (other person’s) hair. Феррис Бюллер ненавидит его волосы.

Works Cited: Tolstoy, Leo, Louise Maude, Aylmer Maude, and Amy Mandelker. War and Peace. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. Print.


Please follow and like us:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *