War and Peace
The famous Russian author Leo Tolstoy wrote “War and Peace” in 1865. It is a story about the lives of the Russian royal family from 1805 to 1815. This book depicts things and events that happened during the war. The novel describes the war with Napoleon in which many countries were involved such as Russia, Austrian, Prussia, Spain, Sweden, and Britain. However, the novel mainly focuses on Russia. It reflects the different views and participation in the war of Russian aristocracy.
Showing the war, Tolstoy describes Napoleon’s attack on Russia, the battle of Borodino, the slow retrieval of the Russian army, the conquest of Moscow by Napoleon, the fire in Moscow, and the retrieval of Napoleon’s army during a deadly winter. Napoleon had to retreat from Russia under attacks by Russian peasants and horsemen on those who fell behind. His army also suffers from cold and hunger, since the Russians destroyed all food supplies. The takeover of Moscow by Napoleon proved to be useless, and in the long run, destroyed a large part of his army.
Alongside with these historical events, Tolstoy describes the different classes of Russian society in the terms of their participation in the war and what kind of an impact war had on their lives. In the beginning of the novel, the Russian aristocratic class, which was in the czar’s circle, wanted Russia to participate in the war. They wanted a quick victory and pride for the Russian nobility. They did not anticipate that the war would destroy homes, agriculture, and take many Russian lives.
There are the good people, and of course, the bad. The good people being Natasha Rostov, a teenage girl who grows and matures throughout the book and Pierre Bezuhov, the son of Kirill Vladmirovitch Bezuhov, who speaks much of the novel expressing his purpose on earth. Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, the leader of the Bolkonsky family and a great war hero.
The “bad” people are the protagonists themselves, as they torment themselves and Napoleon Bonaparte, (who, by some, is believed to be an impostor) the emperor and military leader of France, whom is bent on world domination. The Secondary characters are the families of Bolkonsky and Kuragin, Anna Pavolvna, a famous St. Petersburg socialite and Kutuzof, the military leader of the Russian forces.
This class is shown in Anna Pavlova Sharer’s salon, with its upper class aristocracy, who talk only in French, viewing the Russian language as uncivilized and useful only for peasants. They adopted French culture and wear French style clothing, and at the same time they want to fight Napoleon. However, the majority of this class doesn’t want to participate themselves in the war, but want to win the war with the hands of the peasants. These aristocrats, despite their high education and power, will do nothing to help win the war. They live like parasites on the body of Russia’s society. This is how Tolstoy describes this class in general, but he also depicts two representatives of this upper class, Andrew Bolkonsky and Pierre Bisuhov, who were the more intellectual ones, and whose lives and views of war and life changed as the result of the war.
Depicting the Rostov family, who were also wealthy nobles, but were not in the czar’s circle and lived in rural parts of Russia, Tolstoy showed a typical Russian family who were devoted to their country and Russian traditions. All of Tolstoy’s sympathy is on their side and he presents them in a positive way. They sing Russian folklore, which the higher aristocrats would not dream of doing. Depicting this class, Tolstoy describes simple and eternal problems such as birth, love, forgiveness, and death.
The main national characteristics are in the Russian peasants. Through these people, who hate war, we are shown that they are forced to participate in the war because the have no other choice. They show real heroism during war. Captain Tushin and a soldier, Timohin, give their lives to save their army. Historical figures such as Napoleon and Kutuzov oppose the views of the aristocratic class in the czar’s circle. This class of people didn’t like Kutuzov, who became the general of the Russian army. They thought he was too simple minded and his lifestyle was too close to that of a peasant.
War hurt these people the most. They lost everything: hoses, livestock, and serfs. The loss of their serfs was very hard to come by, since they became very close to them. The women from this class served in hospitals and became nurses, like Natasha Rostova did, or hid wounded soldiers in their house from the French army. Men from this class organized their own little armies of peasants and fought with guerilla warfare when the French army was retreating. These people played a bigger role in war and were more devoted to their nation than the aristocrats in the czar’s circle.
Despite Tolstoy being a member of this class, his view is totally the opposite; he hated Napoleon and admired Kutuzov. He reflects the simple life of Kutuzov’s soldiers, who trusted their lives to him. The Russian people believed in Kutuzov, and because of his strategic tactics such as giving up Moscow in order to save the Russian army, helped Russia become victorious in the war and leave Napoleon empty handed.
Tolstoy hated Napoleon because he felt that it was wrong what Napoleon did 1799 in Turkey; killing 4000 people that surrendered and were promised life by him. Tolstoy also describes a moment when Napoleon left his army to die and took just a small part of the army to retreat from Moscow.
One important event occurs when Prince Andrei is wounded during the battle of Austerlitz, and he is given a chance to recollect on his wartime experiences. Another important event occurs when Pierre is taken prisoner by the French, (this is where he has the chance to look into his feelings and come to a peace with himself.) The climax of Pierre’s story occurs when the French holds him before a firing squad. This is his climax because he is convinced that he is going to die, and after he is spared he becomes more caring and it is obvious that he will continue on this course until the end.
The climax of Natasha’s life occurs when Andrei dies. It makes her reconsider the way she has lived her life, maturing her further from her seventeen year-old state of mind. The climax for Andrei occurs when he is mortally wounded while attempting to protect Moscow from Napoleon’s forces. This is his climax because his outlook on life becomes so negative and morbid that he can only wait to die. It is obvious that he won’t have it any other way. The story ends with the defeat and exile of Napoleon and the emergence of Russia as a world power: and the meeting of Natasha and Pierre after years of absence.
The historical events of the novel were real, and the characters reflected the people of that time. Tolstoy brought forward the main social ideals of his time: the 3 major classes of society, and their references to the war with Napoleon, women emancipation, and view of society to historical figures such as Napoleon and Kutuzov. Tolstoy doesn’t hide his negative feelings to the social class that belonged in the czar’s circle, and likes the lower classes. He is fascinated by the courage and deep patriotism of the Russian peasants. He also hates war, because it destroys and changes lives.