A.P. English 2B
Pre-Twentieth Century Reading Report
April 28, 2013
War and Peace is one of the most famous novels ever written. Based during the Napoleonic wars in the early 1800s, War and Peace was written by Leo Tolstoy, a profound Russian author who lived during the time period. With the numerous diverse characters and marvelous ability to write with imagery while still gripping his readers makes War and Peace one of the greatest novels ever written.
What struck me the most when I finished with the first 500 pages of the novel was the amount of characters Tolstoy was able to elaborate on. Along with the shear amount of characters, Tolstoy also makes each character significant by creating a distinct elaborate personality for each. For the purpose of this report I will only describe a few of these equally amazing characters. Pierre Bezukhov has been a primary character of the book from the beginning. Pierre was originally simply a normal aristocrat in St. Petersburg, Russia. Later in the story, after a long-fought battle with illness, Pierre’s father dies, leaving Pierre (his father’s favorite child) with the vast family fortune. Pierre has very distinct views on the approaching war, which both demands respect and contempt from his peers. Andre Bolkonski is the image of an ideal soldier and leader. Andre is much like the fictitious Achilles in his passionate desire for glory, which shows in war after he leads his final charge in battle. Andre is both intelligent and brave in the story, but the most distinct characteristic seems to be his ability to be a natural leader. Before leaving for war, Andre leaves his wife, Lise, to live with his father and sister. Andre’s father, prince Bolkonski, is a very interesting character. Prince Bolkonski seems very eccentric in his ways, partially considered to be his old age, except the prince is also very harsh to his children and acquaintances. This trait seems to reflect on his son, as the prince also demands the respect and following most leaders often hold. Nikolai Rostov, my personal favorite character this far in the story, also displays the traits for the ideal soldier. He has a passionate patriotic attitude in battle, and is motivated most by his love for the “king and country” being the Tsar Alexander and Russia. Rostov’s personal ethics and values make him a likable character to most, except to those who contradict his family, friends, or country. Napoleon is not often characterized in the story, except his constant presence in the commentary and decisions of the characters creates an elaborate, yet almost forged, character. Napoleon is one of the greatest military generals to ever live. His relentless pursuit of victory, and overall compassion, makes him an almost villainous character in the story. These are only five of the various characters in the book, each with their own story as elaborate as these last five.
The plot of War and Peace is also very complicated. The plot has often weaved in sections between the Napoleonic wars and the sophisticated society of 1800s Russia. In war, the story follows actual events of the war, such as the attack of the Sixth Chasseurs or the battle of Borodino. Tolstoy plays his military characters such as Andre Bolkonski or Nikolai Rostov perfectly into the events of the actual war with distinct accuracy as to the tactics, positions, weapons, and actions of the men in the war. During the war sections of his novel, Tolstoy has a focus on the interactions between soldiers, and the bond that the pressures of war create. This, to me, creates a paradox by showing how in war there can be peace, and in peace there can be war. War can exist in peace in the sense that Tolstoy elaborates on by the gossip and political struggles exemplified in the story. In the story, before Pierre inherits his father’s fortune, there were multiple plots attempting to cheat Pierre out of his inheritance. Along with these issues of greed, multiple issues of romance and lust also emerge in the seemingly peaceful Russian homeland. In the time period, it was very common to have arranged marriages. In the process of these arranged marriages Tolstoy mentions in the novel, love struggles plays an important role in the storyline of War and Peace.
Tolstoy amazed me with the rhetorical strategies that he utilizes in the story. The most prominent was obviously imagery with the elaborate description throughout the story. In almost any pre-twentieth century novel, readers are guaranteed to experience esoteric diction. Tolstoy’s choice of diction provides a wonderful addition to the imagery by providing very specific images and descriptions to the audience. Discursiveness is also seen in War and Peace. A varied range of topics is addressed in a seemingly short amount of time in the writing style of Tolstoy.
Tolstoy is now, after reading this book, one of my favorite authors. I thoroughly enjoyed the novel for the various reasons such as the wide base of characters, the complicated plot, and the excitable rhetorical strategies in use for the completion of one of the greatest novels ever written: War and Peace.