Then novel War and Peace was written by a famous Russian author Leo Tolstoy in 1865. The novel describes the war with Napoleon in which many countries were involved such as Russia, Austrian, Prussia, Spain, Sweden, and Britain. The novel mainly focuses on Russia. It reflects the different views and participation in the war of Russian aristocracy and peasants and also shows Tolstoys negative viewpoint on the war.
Showing the war, Tolstoy describes Napoleons 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 Napoleons army during a deadly winter. Naopleon had to retrieve from Russia under attacks by Russian peasants and horsemen on those who fell behind. His army also sufferes 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 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 czars 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. This class is shown in Anna Pavlova Sharers 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 doesnt 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 Russias 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.
Andrew was interested in a military career, and wasnt completely satisfied with the czar, while Pierre wasted his life on alcohol his everyday activity. However, they fall into the center of military activities during the war; Andrew was fatally wounded, while Pierre witnesses Moscow burning and innocent people, women, and children dying from hunger. They open up simple, but important truths. They experience the rough times that peasants go through and begin to feel a unity with the nation. They start to appreciate basic things that they never even thought of before, such as food, peace, and love.
Depicting the Rostov family, who were also wealthy nobles, but were not in the czars 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 Tolstoys 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. 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, as captain Dolohov did. According to Tolstoy, these people played a bigger role in war and were more devoted to their nation than the aristocratic class in the czars circle.
According to Tolstoy, the main national characteristics are in Russian peasants. He shows this through these people, who hate war, but are forced to participate 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.
Showing historical figures such as Napoleon and Kutuzov, Tolstoy opposes the views of the aristocratic class in the czars circle. This class didnt like Kutuzov, who became the general of the Russian army. They thought that he was too simple minded and his lifestyle was too close to a lifestyle of a peasant. They did not think he could fight the Great Napoleon. At the same time they were amazed at Napoleons victories in Europe, and were in awe of Napoleon. Despite Tolstoy being a member of this class, his view is totally the opposite, he hated Napoleon and loved Kutuzov. In the novel he reflects the simple life of Kutuzovs 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 Tolstoy felt that it was wrong what Napoleon did 1799 in Turkey; killing 4000 people that surrendered and were promised life to by him. T.olstoy also describes a moment when Napoleon left his army to die and took just a small part of the army to retreat from Moscow. Tolsoy shows this hate of Napoleon through a dialogue between two characters in the novel.
The novel also reflects Tolstoys views on women emancipation. He opposed it, and thought that the role of women was to be a loyal wife and mother, and live in the interest of her husband. He shows this in Pierre and Natashas marriage. He made their marriage ideal from his point of view.
Tolstoy thought of War and Peace as his greatest novel. 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 doesnt hide his negative feelings to the social class that belonged in the czars 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.