Count Nikolai is the brother of Vera Rostova, Natasha Rostova and Petya Rostov. At the start of the novel, Nikolai is aged 20 and a university student. He gives up his studies in a zealous desire to serve his country as a Hussar in the fight against Napoleon's French invading forces. He dreams of manly success and glory in battle, although these dreams are somewhat undermined after he falls and is injured in a battle. Nikolai is initially easily influenced and acts out of emotional responses; unlike his childhood friend, the social climber Boris Drubetskoy, to whom Dimitri Pisarev regards Nikolai "as the complete antithesis. He refuses to use his family's contacts to improve his rank in the army, and comes under the influence of the psychopathic Dolokhov, acting as his second in a duel. Nikolai promises to marry his cousin Sonya but on his first leave home he pays no attention to her, and regularly goes to visit a courtesan. When Dolokhov proposes to Sonya and is rejected, Nikolai is easily led to financial ruin and social humiliation by Dolokhov, who manipulates him into losing a vast sum at cards. Despite Sonya's rejection of Dolokhov, Nikolai later rejects her to marry the rich but plain heiress Princess Maria. In doing so he rejects Sonya's emotional attachments and her selfless desire to love in favour of the immediate and practical benefits of Maria's wealth.