War and Peace, Part 3

New Warhorn Media post by Nathan Alberson:

Friendly reminder that this is in fact the greatest book ever written. Or at least in the top 5.

Just got it from the library.

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I have two discounted thoughts:

  1. I had a professor of Russian history that argued that it was Nikolai Rostov and Denisov, not Pierre and Nikolenka, that Tolstoy had in mind as his proto-Decembrists. The professor reasoned that (a) the Decembrists were retired military, (b) they were reading stuff like Rousseau (which Nikolai is reading at the end), (c ) they were men of actual action (Denisov claims he is ready for violent rebellion at the end, whereas Pierre seems to end the book still as an idealist with deceptive dreams of self-importance), and (d) they were romantics–people that felt instead of thought and planned things out. Though Nikolai is against the idea of rebellion in 1820, he is a man that follows his emotions and could quickly change sides and take a “noble” stand if he felt otherwise. (For what it is worth, I think Nikolenka’s dreams cuts hard against this reading.)

  2. I think that Tolstoy is very purposeful in the way he creates Elena and Dolokhov–both are means to critique things he hates: society and war.

Elena is a one dimensional, depraved fool–yet everyone thinks she is a darling and wise. This tells us everything we need to know about Petersburg society.

Dolokhov is vicious and cruel, and yet he moves up the ranks during the war and is important in the guerilla warfare that liberated Russia. I think that Tolstoy wants to show that this is one of the horrors of war–it elevates men like Dolokhov.

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I have a hard time seeing that reading of your professor, but interesting stuff just the same.