The Importance of Sonya in War and Peace
Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace speculates deeply about history, religious life and human brotherhood. Most readers focus on the characters of Natasha, Prince Andrew, and Pierre. Another character named Sonya, who is an orphaned cousin, is staying with the Rostov family. Sonya is overshadowed by the other characters, however, she is vital to the rounding out of the other characters in the novel.
The people she loves most take her life of commitment and sacrifice for granted. The reader is thus also inclined to give little emphasis to her role in their lives and in the novel as a whole. As someone who has essentially nothing, Sonya is willing to give everything she has to those she loves. She gives of herself willingly and thanklessly. This life of sacrifice truly embodies Sonya's generous character. This genuine nature of her character allows her to reveal so much about those with whom she interacts throughout the novel. With Sonya's seeming "simplicity" in the background, Tolstoy fully develops the characters of Natasha and Nicholas. He uses Sonya as a contrast for his heroine, Natasha, and also as a chart of growth for Natasha's brother, Nicholas. Tolstoy even uses Sonya as a contrast to Princess Mary. Here, if one looks deeper, one will find that there is very little contrast at all between the two women. Most importantly, Sonya is an illustration of society's effects on a poor selfless young girl who puts her needs below those of all others. Tolstoy employs Sonya's character in a variety of situations. Without Sonya, a great deal of his novel's depth and richness would be lost.
Sonya is first introduced as Count Rostov's fifteen-year-old niece who ...
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Just as the characters in the novel never really appreciate all that Sonya does for them, the reader puts very little emphasis on all that Sonya does to enhance the entire novel. Sonya serves as a truly reflective mirror to Natasha who "never needed to sacrifice herself, but made others sacrifice themselves for her and yet was beloved by everybody"(903). Sonya's presence also helps the growth of Nicholas and reveals a great deal about the society in which she lives. The importance of Sonya's character to War and Peace is immense, yet overshadowed by characters deemed more "important" than she. Sonya tends to be put in the background of this novel as she is put in the background of the lives of those whom she loves. Without her Leo Tolstoy's novel would greatly diminished.
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace, Book of the Month Club, Inc., New York.
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