Charlotte Reads Classics

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Tag: War and Peace Commentary

War and Peace: Volume II, Part III

Prince Andrey falls in love with Natasha, in what must be the weirdest and unlikely pairing ever, but they are forced to wait a year before they marry because his father disapproves. Pierre is back with his wife and becoming heavily involved in the ideology of the freemasons.

War and Peace: Volume II, Part IV

At the Rostov’s over christmas:

  • Nikolay returns on leave due to family’s slow deterioration of funds
  • After a hunting party he sees the happiness of the lower classes who choose Russian values over western ones, are self sufficient and find simple pleasures, compared to the aristocracy who are all about money and extravagance.
  • Natasha is depressed waiting for Prince Andrey to come back from being abroad- they have no contact over the time they must wait before marrying.
  • The Countess tries to set up a marriage between Nikolay and Julie Kuragin (wealthy heiress) to ensure a financial future for the family.
  • Nikolay comes to realise his love for Sonya (again?!) and vows to be with her once he has finished in the army, despite the family’s lack of permission.
  • The Rostov’s move to moscow because of money… generally everyone is unhappy in this section.

War and Peace: Volume II, Part V

The Bolkonsky’s follow suit and move to Moscow. The old price is becoming senile and argues with Marya about her staying with him. 

Julie Kuragin ends up marrying Boris; a loveless match made for prospects (him) and because of fear of age (her).

Natasha and Andrey: She meets his family which goes badly. Whilst attending an opera she meets Anatole Kuragin – total playboy, generally quite horrible. After meeting three times he convinces her to run away and elope despite the fact that he is secretly already married. Pierre has to sort it all out, as discreetly as possible, whilst the shame and scandal means Natasha loses both her fiance and the man she was going to elope with. Basically it was all set up in a way that nothing good could ever come of it, also Natasha is an idiot.

War and Peace: Volume II, Part I

Nothing more, nothing less, love is the best? This is turning out to be a little bit like a soap.

Nikoláy and Sonya: He loves her, he loves her not. No wait, he does love her, especially now she’s essentially said that she wants him to have his freedom and that she’ll wait forever.

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Pierre and Hélene: She’s cheating on him, he finds out, challenges the lover to a duel, shoots him, assumes he’s dead… although he actually recovers.

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Natásha and Denisov: He proposes, she says no. I’m not too sure about her character, she seems very childish for a sixteen year old. And pretty irritating.

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Andréy and Lize: Hooray! Andréy turns out to be alive! Unfortunately, he returns home just in time for his wife to die in childbirth.

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

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.

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.