War and Peace tells the story of the Rostovs, an upper-class family in Russia, and several people associated with them. It follows the characters through fifteen years during the Napoleonic Wars, from 1805 to 1820. It gives a fictional description of the events in the life of the Rostov family as well as some of the historical events of the time.
Tolstoy is regarded by some as the greatest writer about war (Bayley 16). He includes details in the military scenes of War and Peace. Many battles and army movements are described, but the details included are not militaristic. Instead, Tolstoy depicts individual soldiers and their actions in an effective attempt to give the reader a glimpse into the internal workings of war (Dragomirov 155). Tolstoy also includes not only battle scenes, but also scenes depiciting "the homeliness of military life, and the way in which soldiers pass their time, even in situations of danger...." (Bayley 16). However, despite the war scenes included in War and Peace, it is not really a book about war.
When answering the question "What is War and Peace?" Tolstoy writes, " It is not a novel, nor is it a poem, still less an historical chronicle" (Tolstoy, Defends 125). War and Peace is obviously not a poem and it can be argued that it is not a novel, but many people seem to disagree with Tolstoy's own description when it comes to a historical chronicle. One critic asks, "What is War and Peace if not a panorama of life and thoughts of the upper classes at the beginning of the nineteenth century?" (Slonim 311). Aylmer Maude, a friend of Tolstoy's and translator of his work had this to say about War and Peace:
War and Peace presents ...
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...the 559 characters in War and Peace are described in such detail as to make them individualized. Even the most trivial character can be seen as an individual (317).
Bayley, John.Leo Tolstoy. Plymouth: Northcote House Publishers Ltd. , 1997. 1-27.
Dragomirov, M.I. "Dragomirov on Prince Andrey and the Art of War". Tolstoy: The Critical Heritage. Ed. A.V. Knowles. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978. 153-158.
Silbajoris, Rymvydas. War and Peace: Tolstoy's Mirror of the World. London: Twayne Publishers, 1995.
Slonim, Marc. The Epic of Russian Literature. New York: Oxford University Press, 1950. 309-346.
Tolstoy, Leo. "Tolstoy Defends War and Peace". Tolstoy: The Critical Heritage. Ed. A.V. Knowles. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978. 124-133.
Tolstoy, Leo. War and Peace. New York: Norton & Company, 1996.
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