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Leo Tolstoy’s novel, War and Peace, covers the lives of the characters within it with an unmatched depth that makes this one of the most complete novels ever written, if it is not indeed a perfect novel. This novel’s shear size allows for stylistics to be used on a grander scale than in many lesser novellas.

Perhaps the greatest irony in War and Peace is that the personal intrigues of the novels main characters are the most turbulent when the relations between the Emperors are at their calmest. When the French attack, the ladies of the court are inclined to chat about politics and whose husband is assigned where, while the men are happy if they have not been shot. Between the wars though nobody is happy with where they are and domestic disputes reach climaxes that sometimes went as far as a man brandishing a marble tabletop against his wife (391).

When Tolstoy develops characters in the novel he takes his time and focus us a lot on using the characters’ actions to show who they are rather than having lengthy expositions that interrupt the flow of the story. The one character that Tolstoy really makes an exception for is Pierre Bezukhov, a count’s illegitimate son who has the rare privilege of being able to inherit his father’s nobility. Pierre is introduced as a rowdy young adult who once tied a police officer to a bear (84), and his plight continues to expand. After a cataclysmic encounter with many of the other major characters that culminates in a de facto separation from his wife the fact that Tolstoy follows Pierre before he brings the other main characters back into the novel is as close as Tolstoy comes to actually revealing anyone as the novel’s main character. This lack of focus on any one character makes it easier for Tolstoy to show the entirety of what is going on.

Tolstoy also makes excellent use of an omniscient point of view, which is a necessity in a novel of such vast scope. The omniscient point of view allows him to seamlessly shift from Saint Petersburg dining rooms to the Western frontier’s fortifications while keeping the story realistic, and that has been accomplished with great skill. After encounters between major characters the reader can see the effects of the encounter on both sides at times that in other novels the reader would have a lot of room to interpret the events for themselves.


Book Review


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