Freedom And Reality In Tolstoy's War And Peace

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War and Peace defies facile categorization. It is a suitable generic combination of the psychological novel, the family novel, and the historical novel, with a liberal admixture of the scope and tone of the epic. Set amidst the historical conflict between the France of Napoleon and the Russia of Alexander I, it deals primarily with the events of the years 1805 to 1812 and ends with an epilogue set in about 1820. Against a backdrop of alternating periods of peace and war Tolstoy unfolds the stories of the Bolkonsky and Rostov families, and of Pierre Bezukhov. The novel 's epic qualities are most prominent in the account of Napoleon 's invasion of Russia in 1812. All the classes of Russian society (with the exception of some…show more content…
The "Second Epilogue" of War and Peace extends the discussion of historical causation into the realm of the more general philosophic question of freedom and necessity, a topic which was to retain a vital interest for Tolstoy throughout the remainder of his career. In reading Tolstoy, "freedom" and "necessity" can be understood as rubrics which summarize nearly all of his central thematic concerns. Under "freedom" come consciousness, life, the individual; under "necessity" fall reason (i.e., logic without intuition), death, the group . War and Peace explores the role of the individual within the group conceived of as the historical mass. Here is another unifying factor in the novel, for Tolstoy presents not only the involvement of the historical characters in the great events of history but that of the fictional characters as well. They all face situations which exemplify the tension between the immediacy of the individual 's sense of freedom as individual and the feelings of powerlessness and constraint within the group. (Ibid: 1985, 479) The intuitive freedom perceived by consciousness does battle with the indubitable necessity proven by reason, and from this war not one of the leading characters is allowed, in fife, an unbroken peace. The same questions cloaked in a different setting and explored in the context of another dimension of the "group," emerge again in Tolstoy 's second great

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