“War and Peace”: meaning and analysis of the book by Leo Tolstoy

“War and Peace”: meaning and analysis of the book by Leo Tolstoy Literature

The epic novel “War and Peace” by L.N. Tolstoy describes Russian society in a difficult period. The action of the work takes place in 1805 – 1812 during the wars against Napoleon. The epilogue of the creative work covers the events of 1820. The book of Lev Nikolaevich became one of the most published novels of fiction in the USSR in the period from 1918 to 1986. Let’s analyze what main idea the author put into his great creation.

What is the book “War and Peace” by L.N. Tolstoy

The work “War and Peace” consists of many chapters and parts. Lev Nikolaevich managed to fit hundreds of episodes in one work. The abundance of small chapters helped the writer to move the narrative not only in space but also in time.

In the first volume, the author described the actions that took place during the war against Napoleon in alliance with Austria. Events unfolded in the period from 1805 to 1807. “War and Peace” is an epic novel that tells about actions of various scales. This work belongs to the literary direction of realism. L.N. Tolstoy mentioned in his book several significant historical events for the country. The main conflict in the novel is the confrontation between the main character and society.

There are several storylines in the story. The writer focused on the moments of crisis in the fate of the characters. The main character of the epic novel is Andrei Bolkonsky. The prince is married. However, he never managed to understand the true meaning of his life. He is in constant search of himself. Andrei Bolkonsky took part in the Battle of Austerlitz. The hero died after being wounded in the Battle of Borodino. Before the eyes of readers, another heroine is growing up – Natasha Rostova. In the initial episodes of the work, the Countess is only 12 years old. The girl at the end of the story became the wife of Pierre Bezukhov. The first marriage for Pierre was unsuccessful. The character became interested in Freemasonry, he became a member of a secret society.

Lev Nikolaevich portrayed the Russian people not in social strata, but as a whole. People were united by common goals, ideas, views. They have the same aspirations and values. The work “War and Peace” consists of four volumes and an epilogue, connected by “folk thought”. According to the writer, it was this idea, the understanding by society of an important mission, that became the main reason for the victory of the Russian people in the war.

The meaning of the book “War and Peace”

The writer himself speaks about the true meaning of the epic novel in lines about greatness. Tolstoy believes that there is no greatness where there is no simplicity of soul, good intentions and a sense of justice.

L.N. Tolstoy expressed greatness through the people. In the images of battle paintings, an ordinary soldier shows unprecedented courage, which causes pride. Even the most timid awakened in themselves a sense of patriotism, which, like an unknown and violent force, brought victory to the Russian army. The writer declares a protest against false greatness. When the images of Kutuzov and Napoleon are put on the scales (here you can find a comparative description of them), the latter remains flying up: its fame is lightweight, as it has very flimsy foundations. The image of Kutuzov is “folk”, none of the commanders has been so close to the common people. Napoleon only reaps the fruits of fame, not without reason, when Bolkonsky wounded lies on the field of Austerlitz, the author shows Bonaparte through his eyes, like a fly in this vast world. Lev Nikolaevich sets a new trend of heroic character. They become “the people’s choice.”

An open soul, patriotism and a sense of justice won not only in the war of 1812, but also in life: the heroes who were guided by moral postulates and the voice of their hearts became happy.

Analysis of the book “War and Peace”

The novel “War and Peace” is truly a unique work. The author simply and clearly tells about the life of the Russian people, about the difficult trials that people had to face. The central theme of the story is the historical fate of the common people in the difficult war years. The writer did not deprive the attention of the theme of love. Also L.N. Tolstoy considered the problems of the family, debt.

Lev Nikolaevich was sure that the war was the product of new social problems. Ordinary people were torn away from their usual activities and sent to the places of hostilities. On the battlefields, terrible pictures opened up before the characters. Their outlook has undergone a significant change. People began to think, think, analyze in a different way. The life of the characters could be clearly divided into before and after. The military events caused great moral damage to the whole people, which was irreparable.

Against the backdrop of hostilities, L.N. Tolstoy develops an important theme – true patriotism. The Russian people had a big task ahead of them. People needed to expel the enemy from their territory. Many people supported it. And not only ordinary people, but also nobles. The characters of the work underwent a kind of test of the war. The actions and deeds of the heroes of the novel received their moral assessment. It is the people who are the driving force of the nation and its greatness.

"War and Peace": the meaning, analysis and problems of the epic novel by L.N.  Tolstoy

The history of the creation of the book “War and Peace”

Initially, the main character of the work should be a Decembrist, returning in 1856 from exile. Further, Tolstoy moved the beginning of the novel to the day of the uprising in 1825, but then the literary time moved to 1812. Apparently, the count was afraid that the novel would not be allowed through for political reasons, because even Nicholas the First tightened censorship, fearing a repetition of the rebellion. Since the Patriotic War directly depends on the events of 1805, it was this period that in the final version became the foundation for the beginning of the book.

“Three pores” – this is how Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy called his work. It was planned that in the first part or time will be told about the young Decembrists, participants in the war; in the second – a direct description of the Decembrist uprising; in the third – the second half of the 19th century, the sudden death of Nicholas 1, the defeat of the Russian army in the Crimean War, the amnesty of members of the opposition movement, who, returning from exile, expect changes.

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It should be noted that the writer rejected all the works of historians, basing many episodes of “War and Peace” on the memoirs of participants and witnesses of the war. Materials from newspapers and magazines also served as excellent informants. In the Rumyantsev Museum, the author read unpublished documents, letters from ladies-in-waiting and generals. Tolstoy spent several days in Borodino, and in letters to his wife he enthusiastically wrote that if God grants health, he will describe the battle of Borodino in a way that no one has described before him.

The author put 7 years of his life on the creation of “War and Peace”. There are 15 variations of the beginning of the novel, the writer repeatedly abandoned and restarted his book. Tolstoy foresaw the global scope of his descriptions, wanted to create something innovative and created an epic novel worthy of representing the literature of our country on the world stage.

The meaning of the title of the book “War and Peace”

The whole narrative in the epic novel “War and Peace” is built on the confrontation of opposites. The title of the work has a deep philosophical meaning. Peace is not only an antonym to the word “war”, but also the entire globe and the people who live on the planet. War is not only fighting between opponents, but also the moral hostility of people living in society even in peacetime. The characters are separated by social boundaries. Everyone has their own moral framework and values. People are separated from each other by moral barriers.

Themes “War and Peace”

  1. Family theme. It is the family that determines the upbringing, psychology, views and moral principles of a person, therefore it naturally occupies one of the central places in the novel. The forge of morals shapes the characters of the characters, influences the dialectic of their soul throughout the entire story. The description of the family of the Bolkonskys, Bezukhovs, Rostovs and Kuragins reveals the author’s thoughts about house building and the importance he attaches to family values.
  2. The theme of the people. Glory for a won war always belongs to the commander or emperor, and the people, without whom this glory would not have appeared, remains in the shadows. It is this problem that the author raises, showing the vanity of the vanity of military officials and elevating ordinary soldiers. The thought of the people in the novel “War and Peace” became the theme of one of our works.
  3. The theme of war. Descriptions of hostilities exist relatively separately from the novel, on their own. It is here that the phenomenal Russian patriotism is revealed, which became the key to victory, the boundless courage and fortitude of a soldier who goes to any lengths to save his homeland. The author introduces us to the military scenes through the eyes of one or another hero, plunging the reader into the depths of the ongoing bloodshed. Large-scale battles echo the mental anguish of the heroes. Being at the crossroads of life and death reveals the truth to them.
  4. The theme of life and death. Tolstoy’s characters are divided into “living” and “dead”. The former include Pierre, Andrei, Natasha, Marya, Nikolai, and the latter include old Bezukhov, Helen, Prince Vasily Kuragin and his son Anatole. The “living” are constantly in motion, and not so much physical as internal, dialectical (their souls come to harmony through a series of trials), and the “dead” hide behind masks and come to tragedy and internal split. Death in “War and Peace” is presented in 3 hypostases: bodily or physical death, moral and awakening through death. Life is comparable to the burning of a candle, someone’s little flame, with flashes of bright light (Pierre), for someone it burns tirelessly (Natasha Rostova), Masha’s wavering light. There are also 2 hypostases: physical life, like that of “dead” characters, whose immorality deprives the world inside the necessary harmony, and the life of the “soul”,

Main characters“War and Peace”: meaning and analysis of the book by Leo Tolstoy

  • Andrey Bolkonsky – a nobleman, disappointed in the world and seeking glory. The hero is handsome, has dry features, short stature, but athletic build. Andrei dreams of being famous like Napoleon, for which he goes to war. He is bored with high society, even a pregnant wife does not give consolation. Bolkonsky changes his outlook when, wounded at the battle of Austerlitz, he ran into Napoleon, who seemed to him like a fly, along with all his glory. Further, the love that flared up for Natasha Rostova also changes the views of Andrei, who finds the strength to live a full and happy life again after the death of his wife. He meets death on the Borodino field, because he does not find in his heart the strength to forgive people and not to fight with them. The author shows the struggle in his soul, hinting that the prince is a man of war, he cannot get along in an atmosphere of peace. So, he forgives Natasha for betrayal only on his deathbed, and dies in harmony with himself. But finding this harmony was possible only in this way – for the last time. We wrote more about his character in the essay “The image of Andrei Bolkonsky .
  • Natasha Rostova  is a cheerful, sincere, eccentric girl. Knows how to love. He has a wonderful voice that will captivate the most captious music critics. In the work, we first see her as a 12-year-old girl, on her name day. Throughout the work, we observe the growing up of a young girl: first love, first ball, Anatole’s betrayal, guilt before Prince Andrei, the search for one’s “I”, including in religion, the death of a lover (Andrey Bolkonsky). We analyzed her character in the essay ” The Image of Natasha Rostova “. In the epilogue, Pierre Bezukhov’s wife, his shadow, appears before us from a cocky lover of “Russian dances”.
  • Pierre Bezukhov  is a plump young man who was unexpectedly bequeathed a title and a large fortune. Pierre reveals himself through what is happening around, from each event he draws morality and a life lesson. A wedding with Helen gives him confidence, after being disappointed in her, he finds an interest in Freemasonry, and in the final he gains warm feelings for Natasha Rostova. The battle of Borodino and captivity by the French taught him not to philosophize onionly and find happiness in helping others. These conclusions were determined by the acquaintance with Platon Karataev, a poor man who, in anticipation of death in a cell without normal food and clothes, took care of the “barchonka” Bezukhov and found the strength to support him. We have also already considered the image of Pierre Bezukhov .
  • Count  Ilya Andreevich Rostov is a loving family man, luxury was his weakness, which led to financial problems in the family. Softness and weakness of character, inability to live make him helpless and miserable.
  • Countess Natalya Rostova – the wife of the Count, has an oriental flavor, knows how to properly present herself in society, loves her own children excessively. Calculating woman: strive to upset the wedding of Nikolai and Sonya, since she was not rich. It was cohabitation with a weak husband that made her so strong and firm.
  • Nick Olai Rostov  – the eldest son – kind, open, with curly hair. Wasteful and weak in spirit, like a father. Scrolls the state of the family into cards. He longed for glory, but after participating in a number of battles, he realizes how useless and cruel war is. Family well-being and spiritual harmony finds in marriage with Marya Bolkonskaya.
  • Sonya Rostova – the count’s niece – is small, thin, with a black braid. She was thoughtful and kind-hearted. She has been devoted to one man all her life, but releases her beloved Nikolai, having learned about his love for Marya. Tolstoy exalts and appreciates her humility.
  • Nikolai Andreevich Bolkonsky  – the prince, has an analytical mindset, but a heavy, categorical and unfriendly character. Too strict, so he does not know how to show love, although he has warm feelings for children. Dies from the second blow in Bogucharovo.
  • Marya Bolkonskaya  is modest, loving relatives, ready to sacrifice herself for the sake of her loved ones. L.N. Tolstoy especially emphasizes the beauty of her eyes and the ugliness of her face. In her image, the author shows that the charm of forms cannot replace spiritual wealth. The female characters in the novel “War and Peace” are described in detail in the essay.
  • Helen Kuragina  – Pierre’s ex-wife – a beautiful woman, a socialite. She loves male society and knows how to get what she wants, although she is vicious and stupid.
  • Anatole Kuragin  – Helen’s brother – is good-looking and well-behaved in high society. Immoral, lacking moral principles, he wanted to secretly marry Natasha Rostova, although he already had a wife. Life punishes him with martyrdom on the battlefield.
  • Fedor Dolokhov  – an officer and leader of the partisans, not tall, has bright eyes. Successfully combines selfishness and concern for loved ones. Vicious, passionate, but attached to the family.
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Favorite character of Tolstoy

The author clearly feels the author’s sympathy and antipathy for the characters in the novel. As for female images, the writer gives his love to Natasha Rostova and Marya Bolkonskaya. Tolstoy valued the real femininity in girls – devotion to her beloved, the ability to always remain blooming in the eyes of her husband, the knowledge of happy motherhood and caring. His heroines are ready for self-denial for the benefit of others.

The writer is fascinated by Natasha, the heroine finds the strength to live even after Andrei’s death, she directs her love to her mother after the death of her brother Petya, seeing how hard it is for her. The heroine is reborn, realizing that life is not over, as long as she has a bright feeling for her neighbor. Rostova shows patriotism, no doubt helping the wounded.

Marya also finds happiness in helping others, in feeling needed by someone. Bolkonskaya becomes a mother for her nephew Nikolushka, taking him under her “wing”. She worries about ordinary men who have nothing to eat, passing the problem through themselves, does not understand how the rich can not help the poor. In the final chapters of the book, Tolstoy is fascinated by his heroines, who have matured and found female happiness.

The favorite male images of the writer were Pierre and Andrei Bolkonsky. For the first time, Bezukhov appears before the reader as a clumsy, full, short young man who appears in the living room of Anna Scherer. Despite his ridiculously ridiculous appearance, Pierre is smart, but the only person who accepts him for who he is is Bolkonsky. The prince is bold and stern, his courage and honor come in handy on the battlefield. Both men risk their lives to save their homeland. Both rush about in search of themselves.

Of course, L.N. Tolstoy brings together his favorite heroes, only in the case of Andrei and Natasha, happiness is short-lived, Bolkonsky dies young, and Natasha and Pierre find family happiness. Marya and Nikolai also found harmony in each other’s society.

Genre of the work

“War and Peace” opens the genre of the epic novel in Russia. It successfully combines the features of any novels: from family-household to memoirs. The prefix “epopee” means that the events described in the novel cover a significant historical phenomenon and reveal its essence in all its diversity. Usually in a work of this genre there are a lot of storylines and heroes, since the scale of the work is very large.

The epic nature of Tolstoy’s work is that he not only invented a story about a well-known historical accomplishment, but also enriched it with details gleaned from the memories of eyewitnesses. The author did a lot to ensure that the book was based on documentary sources.

The relationship between the Bolkonskys and the Rostovs was also not invented by the author: he painted the history of his family, the merger of the Volkonsky and Tolstoy families.

Main problems

  1. The problem of finding real life . Let’s take Andrei Bolkonsky as an example. He dreamed of recognition and glory, and the surest way to earn prestige and adoration is military exploits. Andrei made plans to save the army with his own hands. Pictures of battles and victories were constantly seen by Bolkonsky, but he gets injured and goes home. Here, before the eyes of Andrei, his wife dies, completely shaking the inner world of the prince, then he realizes that there is no joy in the killings and sufferings of the people. Not worth this career. The search for oneself continues, because the original meaning of life has been lost. The problem is that it’s hard to get it.
  2. The problem of happiness. Take Pierre, who is torn away from the empty society of Helen and the war. In a vicious woman, he is soon disappointed, illusory happiness deceived him. Bezukhov, like his friend Bolkonsky, is trying to find a calling in the struggle and, like Andrei, leaves this search. Pierre was not born for the battlefield. As you can see, any attempts to find bliss and harmony turn into a collapse of hopes. As a result, the hero returns to his former life and finds himself in a quiet family haven, but, only making his way through the thorns, he found his star.
  3. The problem of the people and the great man . The epic novel clearly expresses the idea of ​​commanders-in-chief, inseparable from the people. A great man must share the opinion of his soldiers, live by the same principles and ideals. Not a single general or king would have received his glory if this glory had not been presented to him on a silver platter by soldiers, in whom lies the main strength. But many rulers do not cherish it, but despise it, and this should not be, because injustice hurts people painfully, even more painfully than bullets. The people’s war in the events of 1812 is shown on the side of the Russians. Kutuzov protects the soldiers, sacrifices Moscow for them. They feel this, mobilize the peasants and launch a guerrilla struggle that ends the enemy and finally drives him out.
  4. The problem of true and false patriotism. Of course, patriotism is revealed through the images of Russian soldiers, the description of the heroism of the people in the main battles. False patriotism in the novel is represented by Count Rostopchin. He distributes ridiculous papers around Moscow, and then saves himself from the wrath of people by sending his son Vereshchagin to certain death. We have written an article on this topic called ” True and False in the Novel War and Peace “.
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What does the book “War and Peace” teach?

The author was convinced that there is not only true patriotism, but also false. An important theme of the work is the heroic struggle of the Russian people against the French invaders. The epic novel “War and Peace” teaches readers to love their homeland, to treat people with respect. During a fierce confrontation, the Russian spirit manifests itself, the will to win.

After reading the work, the reader will understand that every person should have a goal in life. Otherwise, its existence can hardly be called happy and meaningful. People should strive for spiritual enrichment, and not for material wealth. It is important to find harmony in your soul and fill your every day with meaning.

Explanation of the ending of the book “War and Peace”

People who think are always harder in life. They are trying to find the meaning of their existence. Characters doubt, are lost in conjectures, but do not stop halfway. The ending of the epic novel “War and Peace” tells about the further fate of the main characters. Pierre Bezukhov managed to go through all the horrors of hostilities. The hero of the work escaped execution and found his happiness. He married the charming Natasha Rostova, who gave him four children. Pierre managed to find the meaning of existence. The war has an irreversible impact on the fate of the characters.

At the end of the book L.N. Tolstoy sums up the military operations of 1812. He expresses his attitude towards Napoleon. The country faced difficult trials, which the Russian people withstood with honor. Russia is gradually returning to normal life, although it is extremely difficult.

Thought Family

L.N. Tolstoy was very sensitive to the theme of the family. So, in his novel “War and Peace”, the writer shows that the state, as a clan, passes on values ​​and traditions from generation to generation, and good human qualities are also sprouts from the roots that go back to the forefathers.

Brief description of families in the novel “War and Peace”:

  1. Of course, the beloved family of L.N. Tolstoy were the Rostovs. Their family was famous for cordiality and hospitality. It is in this family that the author’s values ​​of real home comfort and happiness are reflected. The writer considered the mission of a woman – motherhood, maintaining comfort in the house, devotion and the ability to sacrifice. This is how all the women of the Rostov family are depicted. There are 6 people in the family: Natasha, Sonya, Vera, Nikolai and parents.
  2. Another family is the Bolkonskys. Restraint of feelings, the severity of Father Nikolai Andreevich, canonicity reign here. Women here are more like “shadows” of husbands. Andrei Bolkonsky will inherit the best qualities, becoming a worthy son of his father, and Marya will learn patience and humility.
  3. The Kuragin family is the best personification of the proverb “oranges will not be born from aspen”. Helene, Anatole, Hippolyte are cynical, looking for profit in people, stupid and not a bit sincere in what they do and say. “Mask show” is their lifestyle, and with this they completely went to their father – Prince Vasily. The family does not have friendly and warm relations, which is reflected in all its members. L.N. Tolstoy especially dislikes Helen, who was incredibly beautiful on the outside, but completely empty inside.

Folk thought

She is the central line of the novel. As we remember from the above, L.N. Tolstoy abandoned generally accepted historical sources, basing War and Peace on memoirs, notes, and letters from ladies-in-waiting and generals. The writer was not interested in the course of the war as a whole. Separate personalities, fragments – that’s what the author needed. Each person had his own place and significance in this book, like the pieces of a puzzle, which, when assembled correctly, will reveal a beautiful picture – the power of national unity.

There is a saying “one in the field is not a warrior” – the writer also thinks so, since the will to win of one person is incomparable with the will to win of an entire nation. It is the hands of ordinary people, with a pure heart and unshakable will, that great things are done. Not the ruler and not the emperor, but the people build history. We proved this thesis in an essay on the topic: People’s Thought in the novel “War and Peace” .

The Patriotic War changed something inside each of the characters in the novel, each made his own small contribution to the victory. Prince Andrei believes in the Russian army and fights with dignity, Pierre wants to destroy the French ranks from their very heart – by killing Napoleon, Natasha Rostova immediately gives carts to crippled soldiers, Petya bravely fights in partisan detachments.

The people’s will to win is clearly felt in the scenes of the battle of Borodino, the battle for Smolensk, the partisan battle with the French. The latter is especially memorable for the novel, because volunteers fought in partisan movements, people from the ordinary peasant class – the detachments of Denisov and Dolokhov personify the movement of the whole nation, when “both old and young” stood up to defend their homeland. Later they will be called the “club of the people’s war.”

War of 1812 in Tolstoy’s novel

About the war of 1812, as a turning point in the lives of all the heroes of the novel “War and Peace”, has been said repeatedly above. It was also said that it was won by the people. Let’s look at the issue from a historical point of view. L.N. Tolstoy draws 2 images: Kutuzov and Napoleon. Of course, both images are drawn through the eyes of a native of the people. It is known that the character of Bonaparte was thoroughly described in the novel only after the writer was convinced of the fair victory of the Russian army. The author did not understand the beauty of war, he was its opponent, and through the lips of his heroes Andrei Bolkonsky and Pierre Bezukhov, he speaks of the senselessness of its very idea.

The Patriotic War was a national liberation war. She occupied a special place on pages 3 and 4 of volumes.

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