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The real effects of war as described in leo tolstoys war and peace

Every culture thinks its literature will stand the test of time. What is it about the Russian novelists that makes us come back to their work again and again?

What is the meaning of life, the existence of God, the mystery the real effects of war as described in leo tolstoys war and peace death, the big metaphysical spiritual questions? Those questions were central to Russian literature in the 19th and 20th centuries in a way that they had all but ceased to be in Western European literature. The Russians were engaged in portraying a fully human destiny rather than one dictated by class, social position, personal ambition and so on—which is a vision similar to what we find first of all in Homer, as well as Dante and Shakespeare.

We thirst for that vision and are grateful to find it in the great Russians. The guide is designed so that your group can divide your reading and discussion into four sessions, based on the four volumes of the novel. Each volume is roughly three hundred pages. The translators have provided the following useful resources in this volume: A chapter-by-chapter summary, which is helpful if anyone needs to skip sections, or has forgotten what happened earlier [pp.

A historical index, which provides information about historical people and places mentioned in the text [pp. Numbered end notes, which provide explanations for historical events, phrases, people in the book, keyed to numbers in the text [pp.

A list of major characters and family relations [pp. Three unforgettable characters are followed through the novel: Pierre Bezukhov, the illegitimate son of a dissolute but wealthy count, who yearns for spiritual fulfillment in his life; Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, a serious and highly intelligent aristocrat who leaves his wife and family to fight Napoleon; and Countess Natasha Rostov, the lively, musical daughter of a noble Moscow family who becomes attached to both Andrei and Pierre.

The main movements of the plot concern these three characters and those close to them, while at the same time countless others—massive armies of Prussians, Austrians, French, and Russians—are caught up in the wave of destruction and change brought to Russia by Napoleon. Volume IThe year is 1805. The social gatherings at the opening of the novel serve in part to introduce the major characters, Pierre Bezukhov, Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, Natasha Rostov, and their extended families, and to set the scene for the impending war in which Russia will join forces with Austria against Napoleon.

War begins in Austria. Nikolai Rostov is wounded and made an officer; Prince Andrei is badly wounded at Austerlitz and assumed dead. Questions and Topics for Discussion 1. What is the experience of reading the first few chapters? What seems clear, and what is confusing? What do you think Tolstoy wants you to experience as the novel begins?

Tolstoy distinguishes between characters who have integrity and those who operate more superficially and with greater self-interest in the social worlds of Petersburg and Moscow. What do the conversations at these two parties tell us about the main concerns of the Russian aristocracy?

  • A historical index, which provides information about historical people and places mentioned in the text [pp;
  • How does Napoleon come across as he surveys the battlefield and comes across Andrei lying on the field, and what does Andrei think of Napoleon now [pp;
  • What is the experience of reading the first few chapters?

What are the Rostovs like as a family? Pierre was brought up abroad and has recently returned from Europe [pp. How does Pierre behave during these crucial scenes [pp. Why is he an easy target for those who seek to manipulate him for their own gains? What does the scene between Andrei and his wife Lise reveal about him [pp. What does he demand of life?

Why does he later ask Kutuzov to put him in a detachment of which only a tenth may return alive [p. What is Tolstoy like as a psychologist of men at war? Is it purely sexual attraction that decides the question for him? Tolstoy portrays the disastrous battle of Austerlitz on two levels: Looking for his moment of heroism, Andrei finds it at Austerlitz, where he is gravely wounded [p.

Discuss how Tolstoy handles the description of these scenes in order to produce a sense of estrangement. What does Andrei realize as he looks up at the sky [p. How does Napoleon come across as he surveys the battlefield and comes across Andrei lying on the field, and what does Andrei think of Napoleon now [pp. Pierre, seeking spiritual direction, joins the Masons. The plan is discovered. What is Pierre now seeking to do with his life? How successful is he in finding a sense of direction?

War and Peace Reader’s Guide

Prince Andrei, assumed dead by his family, arrives home only hours before his wife dies in childbirth. This is one of the most emotionally charged episodes in the novel.

What are the memorable images, actions, or words spoken during these events [pp. With which details does Tolstoy most forcefully convey tenderness, grief, or remorse? Does Natasha also have this effect on Pierre and Andrei?

  • How does Napoleon come across as he surveys the battlefield and comes across Andrei lying on the field, and what does Andrei think of Napoleon now [pp;
  • What is the significance of his dream of the door [pp;
  • He even renounced the copyright to his works.

Pierre visits Andrei at his Bogucharovo estate, where they have an extensive conversation about God, life, and death. How do their positions differ? What is it about his character that makes him so contented as a military officer? What effect do these events have upon him, and why [pp. How is the bare oak that Andrei notices in the woods relevant to the scene in which he overhears Natasha as she leans from the window under the moonlight [pp.

What qualities make Natasha an extraordinary character? What is her effect upon Andrei, and how does she make him think differently about his life [p.

What do these scenes suggest about the essence of being Russian, for Tolstoy?

Why is it important that the Rostovs, particularly Natasha and Nikolai, express this essential Russianness? The engagement of Prince Andrei and Natasha goes on for a year during his absence: Why does Tolstoy make the marriage of Natasha and Andrei seem ill-fated? Are they not suited to each other? Only not to see it, that dreadful it! Natasha is first confused, then thinks herself in love, then is humiliated, then dangerously ill.

Pierre comes to her defense [p. It has been said that this episode of the novel is one of the most purely conventional: Why might Tolstoy have included this twist in the story?

What do you think of these events, and what do they contribute to your sense of the story and the characters involved? What is the effect of the exchange between Natasha and Pierre that closes this volume [pp.

Volume IIIThe year is 1812. War resumes as Napoleon advances to the Russian border. Prince Andrei returns to service, refusing a position with the Czar in order to serve in the army, leading a regiment of chasseurs. After massive losses at Borodino, the Russian army retreats, leaving the French to take Moscow.

Having decided to observe the battle, Pierre carries ammunition for an artillery battalion and sees masses of men slaughtered around him. He makes a vague plan to assassinate Napoleon and is taken prisoner. The Rostovs leave their home, emptying carts of their furniture to take wounded Russian soldiers to safety. Tolstoy presents Napoleon in a series of small scenes: How does Napoleon come across in these scenes? Why does the perspective on Napoleon become more negative as the novel proceeds?

Why are these events ironic, for Tolstoy? Is there a quality of absurdity in history, as Tolstoy sees it? What does he see as the truth about the battle of Borodino, as opposed to the way historians have recounted it [pp. How does Andrei now think about his love for Natasha [pp. Do such descriptions provoke your sympathy for Andrei as a romantic or doomed figure? Is Princess Marya a model character? What qualities does she represent? What effect does she have on Nikolai Rostov, who arrives in time to help her leave Bald Hills safely?

Kutuzov, the commander of the Russian forces, is the opposite of Napoleon in terms of his character as well as his strategic thinking. What are his personal qualities? Does sexuality seem to be connected, for Tolstoy, with moral corruption? The reconciliation of Natasha and Andrei [pp. How does their time together change Natasha? But on the way to carry out this task, he rescues a little girl from the flames of the burning city, saves an Armenian woman from looting soldiers, and is captured by the French [pp.

  1. What qualities does she represent?
  2. Once married, Natasha focuses her energies solely on her husband and children.
  3. Storm in a teacup Judged against a culture in which works of literature were heavily censored, parts of War and Peace were pretty risque. But on the way to carry out this task, he rescues a little girl from the flames of the burning city, saves an Armenian woman from looting soldiers, and is captured by the French [pp.
  4. A historical index, which provides information about historical people and places mentioned in the text [pp. Only not to see it, that dreadful it!

The Rostovs return to Moscow where Count Rostov dies. Pierre and Natasha marry, as do Nikolai and Princess Marya; the two families live happily with their children in the countryside.

The story of these characters ends with Epilogue I. Nikolai, after helping Princess Marya to leave her home safely in the midst of invading French forces, finds that he is in love with her: Seeing Marya at prayer, Nikolai prays for release from Sonya. What do you think of Sonya, and of her sacrifice of her own wishes, as she releases Nikolai from their long-standing engagement at the request of Countess Rostov?

Are Marya and Nikolai better suited to each other?