War and Peace Summary – Leo Tolstoy

War And Peace Summary - Leo Tolstoy
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War and Peace is a literature novel written by the Russian author Leo Tolstoy and published in the year 1869. War and Peace is considered one of the significant works of world literature. War and Peace follows the events of the Napoleonic era in Russia, providing a detailed account of the French invasion of Russia and its consequences.

Summary of War and Peace Book

July 1805, Anna Pavlovna Scherer organizes an evening in Petersburg, where various noble family members – including the Kuragin family, Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, and the awkward newcomer Pierre Bezukhov – discuss the impending war between Napoleonic France and Russia. Prince Andrei, dissatisfied with married life, has joined the army. Meanwhile, Pierre cannot decide what to do with his life. Despite inheriting a vast fortune from his wealthy father, Count Bezukhov, Pierre remains indifferent and uninterested in the sudden change in his social status. In Moscow, young Nikolai Rostov prepares to join the military service as a hussar cadet.

Before heading to war, Prince Andrei visits Prince Nikolai Bolkonsky’s Bald Hills estate, leaving behind his pregnant wife, Princess Liza. Princess Marya, Andrei’s dear sister, advises him to show compassion to his lonely wife and trust in God, but Andrei warns her of their father’s harsh treatment. In October, Prince Andrei is with General Kutuzov’s army in Austria, while Nikolai Rostov serves as a hussar in his regiment, experiencing the chaos and disillusionment of war at the Battle of Schöngraben. Despite initial disappointment, the battle of Austerlitz unfolds, and Prince Andrei is wounded, contemplating life’s meaning while lying on the battlefield.

In Russia, Prince Vassily tries to convince the newly rich Pierre to marry his beautiful but wayward daughter, Hélène Kuragin. In 1805-1806, during a pause in the war, Pierre engages in a duel with the cold-blooded soldier Dolokhov over gossip about Hélène. Though Pierre unexpectedly wins the duel, he ends his relationship with Hélène. In the meantime, Princess Liza returns to Bald Hills, believing Prince Andrei died at Austerlitz. Nikolai, despite accumulating significant gambling debts, returns to his regiment in 1806.

Pierre, after leaving Moscow due to his fractured relationship with Hélène, encounters an elderly man named Bazdeev, who convinces him to believe in God and develop himself through Masonic mystic practices. After initiation, Pierre attempts to live by his newfound beliefs but lacks practical knowledge. In contrast, Prince Andrei, disillusioned with life after the war and his wife’s death, emerges as a man determined to live for himself.

Napoleon invades Prussia in 1809, and Russian forces face the French in Poland. Nikolai Rostov, disillusioned by the stark contrast between the suffering of soldiers and the pomp of imperial display, is disheartened. In 1809, Prince Andrei, after visiting Rostov’s Otradnoe estate, moves to Petersburg, reviewing Russia’s civil laws and taking a government position. Rostovs move to Petersburg, and after dancing with Natasha at a ball, Prince Andrei proposes to her. Despite her initial feelings for Andrei, Natasha agrees to the engagement under the condition that Andrei understands if her feelings change. Meanwhile, Pierre, despite his disillusionment with Masonry, is determined to reconcile with his estranged wife.

In 1810, Nikolai Rostov, reluctantly leaving the army, returns to Otradnoe to settle his father’s complicated financial affairs. Amid the romantic atmosphere between Nikolai and his cousin Sonya, Nikolai remains faithful to his promise to marry her. At the same time, Sonya, in a letter, releases Nikolai from his promise, allowing him to pursue his feelings for Princess Marya. In 1812, as Napoleon’s army marches towards Moscow, Prince Andrei and Nikolai experience the chaos of the Battle of Borodino. Andrei is severely wounded, witnessing the futility of war as he contemplates life while lying on the battlefield.

Moscow becomes a chaotic mess as rumors of the French invasion spread. Petya Rostov, eager to join the army, acts recklessly and is fatally wounded. Meanwhile, Pierre, believing it is his destiny to kill Napoleon, is arrested during the French occupation of Moscow. In the same period, Natasha, learning that Prince Andrei is among the wounded soldiers, experiences an emotional reunion with him at his bedside.

After the Battle of Borodino, Nikolai Rostov, buying horses for his regiment in Voronezh, is paired with Princess Marya, who resides with a distant relative. Although a natural understanding is felt between them, Nikolai wavers due to his commitment to Sonya. Sonya, releasing Nikolai from his promise, writes a letter stating her freedom. In captivity, Pierre meets a kind peasant named Platon Karataev, whose wisdom and cheerfulness restore Pierre’s desire for life.

Princess Marya, learning of Prince Andrei’s presence, rushes to join the Rostovs, where Natasha, who has been vigilantly watching over Andrei, experiences a revival while caring for her grieving mother. Andrei, now unafraid of death, spends his last days contemplating infinite love.

After the Battle of Tarutino, as the French army retreats, Pierre finds solace and contentment in prison and during the march. Platon, whom Pierre befriended, is shot the day before being freed by Denisov’s partisans. In the same battle where Pierre is released, Petya Rostov acts thoughtlessly and is fatally wounded. Andrei, meanwhile, witnesses Anatole Kuragin’s leg being amputated and feels only pity for his enemy. After the battle, Natasha, unaware of Andrei’s presence, trusts Pierre as she mourns.

In January 1813, Pierre returns to Moscow and confides his experiences to the now-mature Natasha, who reacts with sensitivity and compassion. Their love becomes mutual, and they marry. After Count Rostov’s death, Nikolai returns to Moscow to settle his father’s considerable debts. In 1814, Nikolai and Princess Marya marry and become successful farmers dedicated to peasant reforms. In 1820, Pierre, Natasha, and their four children visit Bald Hills. Both families are happy, with Pierre discussing politics with Nikolai, who encourages his nephew Nikolenka Bolkonsky to follow in Prince Andrei’s footsteps, hoping to please the late prince.

Tolstoy, in “War and Peace,” suggests that although individuals feel they act freely, history cannot analyze this freedom. History’s task is to examine laws like the unseen movements of land. In “War and Peace,” Tolstoy aims to focus on the law of predetermination while emphasizing the psychological law convincing unfree individuals that they are free. In reality, freedom is the unknown “remainder” of our knowledge about the laws of human life.

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