Sunday, March 9, 2014

"There it is!... It again!..."

In Book 13, as the French are moving out and taking the prisoners with them, Pierre notices the "it" come back. The narrator explains "it" as "that mysterious callous force which compelled people against their will to kill their fellow men" (897). I was very intrigued by the way Pierre sees this in the previously friendly French faces and understands that they are no longer the same men that can be reasoned with. Also of note is the role of drums in the scene. The drums act as a cue to Pierre that the "it" is there again. (It would be interesting to follow up and see where else drums come up.) To me, a pacifist, this scene gives me the room to believe Tolstoy had criticisms of waging war. War, besides the destruction it has caused Russia and the lives that have been sacrificed, changes individuals in way I do not think we've really seen. After World War I, the U.S. really saw what war did to humanity and those that witnessed it through the "Lost Generation." Yet, in War and Peace, I don't feel like we've really seen anyone in shell-shock other than when experiencing moments of cowardice. We've also seen another small hint that Tolstoy may have been against war (or at least understood its effects on an individual level) when he has Rostov recognize a Frenchman as homely. I think that as a class, we have discussed and understood Tolstoy's belief that war is not scientific nor affected by individuals. However, I'd love for us to discuss how Tolstoy feels about war given what it does to the individual. For example, this "it" will be seen again by the world in World War II. Tolstoy very accurately describes humanity's tendency to obedience and conformity as psychologists have seen through various experiments after WWII. These men are being driven by a will to commit atrocities that they would find impossible to commit outside of war. Thus, my question posed to the class, how does Tolstoy feel about war?


  1. From what I've seen, Tolstoy is not for war. The way he prays war is as a part of history , but also as a foolish pursuit. I'm not sure how much of that is how he views the War of 1812 specifically but he didn't show war in a flattering light. What struck me was the line a few books back where he says the best generals and commanders are foolish men and succeed in the military because of that stupidity. That to me was a clear sign that Tolstoy did not view war, or at least the military, well at all.

  2. I definitely agree with Alex. However, how does he view war then? I don't think we can say he has a complete distaste for it (I don't think he would identify as a pacifist). I see this mostly in that Tolstoy does use the war to transform and mature his characters. So in that sense alone, the war can produce improvements. I also remember that Tolstoy had Andrew feel a great unease when he left the war efforts. I think Tolstoy does feel there is some utility to war.