Wednesday, 8 August 2012

War and Peace: Thoughts on the Epilogue

It feels like I've left it too long after finishing War and Peace to write about it, but I'll try my best! I completed it last Thursday, and since then I have read a few other books that have blurred my memory somewhat. It was a relatively quick re-read (by War and Peace standards!), taking me two weeks exactly to finish. My first reading was certainly a lot longer than that.

You may be wondering why I was mad enough to wish to read it again, as my family frequently asked. Well, it's such a "complete" novel that covers so much about life: birth, childhood, learning, love, arguments, death. Tolstoy demonstrates a true passion for life in all it's grandeur and trivialities. I love how the characters are never static but constantly developing, and the way in which they grow and change because of events. In particular, I find Pierre's imprisonment and transformation so inspiring. Tolstoy manages to put everything into the grander scheme of things, and you find yourself appreciating life rather than worrying without reason. As one of my favourite quotes reads,

"Yes! It's all vanity, it's all an illusion, everything except that infinite sky!"

For me, reading that really puts my anxieties into perspective.

I'm so glad that Natasha and Pierre end up together at long last, after so many individual struggles. Their family life illustrated in the epilogue appears so settled and loving, and they must be great parents!  I certainly prefer this match to that of Nikolay and Marya - for some reason they appear quite awkward together to me. Readers may criticise Natasha for "letting herself go", but I think that she's just transitioned into a more mature, settled stage of life after so much difficulty. I prefer her like this, to be honest; as a child she's a bit too bratty.

My favourite character in the epilogue of War and Peace is probably little Nikolay. His admiration of Pierre is so heartwarming, and the closing lines of the epilogue carry so much hope for the future:

"But Uncle Pierre! Oh, what a wonderful man he is! And then there's my father. Father! Father! Yes, I'm going to do something even he would have been pleased with."

We are left with the traditional views of (the older) Nikolay, and the forward-thinking, modern minds of Pierre and little Nikolay. By having Pierre as a mentor, I'm sure that he will make his father proud.

I'm really glad that I've re-read this: it has definitely been worth the effort. I'm sure that I'll return to it many times more in the future. If you haven't read it before, do it!

This is such a lovely, simple picture of Tolstoy.  From www.linguadex.com 

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