Charlotte Reads Classics

Slowly, slowly, she sipped a sentence.

Tag: Leo Tolstoy

War and Peace: Volume I, Part III

At Home

Pierre is married to Helene Kurágin, after awkwardly becoming infatuated with her. Probably won’t end well because although she is beautiful Pierre is aware that she’s also stupid.

Márya Bolkónsky decides not to marry Anatole, and chooses to stay with her father instead.

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At War

Nikoláy Rostóv is promoted to Officer, and becomes extremely patriotic after seeing the Tsar. He prefers acts of heroism rather than getting references from/for his superiors. Prince Andréy on the other hand likes to use his status as a means to help other younger men, like Nikoláy’s friend Boris.

There is one major battle in this volume, which is a defeat for the Russians due to a lack of decent planning and generally not being as good as Napoleon. During this battle Prince Andréy is bludgeoned in the head by the French. Whilst lying on the battlefield drifting in and out of consciousness, he is taken to a French nursing station, but is left behind as a lost cause. Nikoláy is sent with a message for the general or the Tsar himself. As he rides through the increasingly apparently defeated soldiers, he sees horrific amounts of dead and wounded comrades. Eventually finding the Tsar on his own, he can’t believe how human he is. 

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Themes

  1. Destruction of idealism and hero worship- at war and in love
  2. The fragility of human life
  3. The insignificance of war in the scope of the universe

Above him was nothing, nothing but the sky – the lofty sky, not a clear sky, but still infinitely lofty, with grey clouds creeping gently across. ‘It’s so quiet, peaceful and solemn, not like me rushing about,’ thought Prince Andrey, ‘not like us, all that yelling and scrapping, not like that Frenchman and our gunner pulling on that cleaning-rod, with their scared and bitter faces, those clouds are different, creeping across that lofty, infinite sky. How can it be that I’ve never seen that lofty sky before? Oh how happy I am to have found it at last!’
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

His version of the battle at Schöngrabern was the usual version of a man who has been in a battle: he tells it as he would have liked it to have been, or as described by someone else, or in a version that just sounds good, anything but the way it really happened.
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

War and Peace: Volume I, Part II

Plot

The first war bit. The battles are proving a lot more difficult for me to get the facts straight as I am reading, but I’ll try:

  1. October 1805
  2. Russian army lead by General Kutuzov
  3. Stationed near Braunau, Austria

Prince Andréy Bolkónsky experiences a mixture of diplomatic missions and battles, mixing with various ranks of the Russian army. 

Nicholáy Rostóv is fighting with the Hussars (cavalry) but becomes confused during his first battle and loses touch with the rest of his unit.

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Themes

Tolstoy seems to set up part ii as the destruction of idealism. The Russian army is often seen to be at war with itself, as generals can’t agree with each other, there is a lack of clear communication, the soldiers steal from one another… All of which serve to contradict the idea of a singular, united army the people at home believe are fighting Napoleon. Both Andréy and Nicholáy are disillusioned by their wartime experiences; there is less heroism than they had thought.

If we could know what’s going to happen after we’re dead not one of us would be scared of dying.
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

We are asleep until we fall in love.
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

War and Peace: Volume I, Part I

Plot

The beginning of this book is like arriving at a party late when you don’t know anybody. Interesting to note that Russian names have a lot of variations, as well as a patronym which I don’t think is used in any western cultures. 

The Bolkónskys: Prince Andréy is married to Líza, who is pregnant. He is unhappily married and doesn’t enjoy the social aspects of high society. He has decided to go to war, and visits his father who lives in relative seclusion along with his sister Márya before he leaves.

The Drubetskóys: Mother and son, in financial desperation, despite being seemingly high up in society. The mother is very meddling and uses her connections to get her son Boris a better status in the army.

The Bezúkhovs: Pierre is an illegitimate son of the aging Count, who dies after a series of strokes. To his family’s surprise and displeasure, Pierre is left the Count’s estate and title following his death. Although Pierre was of low social standing (being illegitimate) he was accepted in society. I think he will be used to bridge the gap between classes. He is highly suggestible, and is trying to work out what his occupation will be.

The Rostóvs: Youngest daughter half promised to Boris (i.e. they have promised each other). There is a gap between the older and younger siblings, highlihgting family dynamics.

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Themes

In a book with such a grand scale, I imagine a continuous theme will be the attempt to understand other people’s motivations, for example the death of Count Bezúkhov brings a focus on death and legacies and how different assumptions of motives can be from reality. This is also shown in part one through the various characters setting off for war, and their reasons for doing so. Which in turn is I guess a broader comment on man’s tendency to go to war and how this gives (or removes) life’s purpose and meaning. The war itself provides a kind of commentary for what was a key issue in Russia during the Napoleonic Wars (I assume!); stick with traditional Russian values, or Westernise.