Pierre, who from the moment Prince Andrew entered the room had watched him with glad, affectionate eyes, now came up and took his arm. Before he looked round Prince Andrew frowned again, expressing his annoyance with whoever was touching his arm, but when he saw Pierre’s beaming face he gave him an unexpectedly kind and pleasant smile.
This early picture of Pierre and Andrew from Book One, Chapter 1, shows us a great deal about the characters of both men. We see that Pierre views the prospect of greeting Andrew with sincere and simple pleasure, his “glad, affectionate” eyes showing a nearly canine joy in making contact with someone he likes. Tolstoy thus presents Pierre to us as a deeply social person who thrives on human connection. Andrew, by contrast, instinctively dislikes human contact and is not ashamed to show this detachment, “expressing his annoyance with whoever was touching his arm.” Andrew does not like being touched, though in the case of Pierre he makes an exception to his rule and returns Pierre’s show of affection. It is not that Andrew secretly dislikes Pierre, but rather that Andrew’s instinct is to avoid human contact, whereas Pierre’s instinct is to pursue it.
When broadly applied to the lives of these two men, this contrast in attitudes toward human contact shows us much about how the men live and the choices they make. Pierre jumps all too eagerly into human contact when, in Helene, he makes a disastrous choice of a wife. However, the identity crisis that follows from Helene’s deception of him pushes him on a search for wisdom. Pierre ends the novel happily married, having apparently learned from his earlier mistakes in forging the wrong kind of connections with people. Andrew, by contrast, is alone at the end of the novel, unmarried to the woman he loves seemingly because he insisted on following his father’s wish in delaying the marriage—but perhaps really because he secretly feared starting another relationship. Both Andrew and Pierre arrive at surprising and life-changing realizations that they love Natasha, but Andrew remains alone and untouched in the end, while Pierre is able to forge a union with her. In this regard, this early scene with the two men prefigures larger, more significant developments that occur much later in the novel.