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MonkeyNotes-War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
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Part II

Summary

In this concluding part of the novel, Tolstoy tries to find answers to the questions that had troubled him. The war that took place in the early nineteenth century was a great historical event that had affected many countries and men. In the past, if someone had posed a question about war, he would have got the answer as ‘divine force.’ The ancients always connected events to divinity, and satisfied the curiosity of people. In the present scientific world, such an answer is unacceptable. Historians may differ in their opinion about wars but they all believe that it is created out of the individual aspirations of people. They also attribute motives to people who caused wars. Thus, they try to give reasons for Napoleon’s invasion of Moscow and the subsequent break down of order in the state. Historical accounts trace the cause of the war to events that happened very much before it. They believe that the French people got disillusioned with the functioning of monarchy and thus, encouraged a common man to establish his authority in the country. Slowly and steadily, this man of the masses became an autocrat and influenced people not only in his country but all over the world. He got the support of the people and waged war against countries to stabilize his position in the continent. .Thus, wars were waged and men were killed in millions.

Napoleon kept conquering Kingdoms and in the process captured Moscow. Emperor Aleksandr of Russia not only drove him out of Moscow but also out of Paris to Elba. Louis XVIII ascended the throne in France but failed to govern the country to the satisfaction of the people. Napoleon took advantage of the general unrest among his countrymen and returned back to Paris to ascertain his power. However, Russia along with its allies once again rallied together and drove Napoleon to St. Helena to spend the rest of his life in isolation. Another autocratic ruler ascended the throne of France and continued to overpower the sentiments of the people.

Tolstoy ridicules such accounts of history. He believes that power or the vital force as the ancients called it, does not rest on one man alone but on many people and the situation of the moment. The will of many people transferring their wishes to one man makes that man enjoy power. This man, endowed with a superior intellect, makes the people act on his behalf. This is how Napoleon and Aleksandr wielded power and persuaded their followers to use their strength to wage war against their enemy. Thus, power led to events and events too lead to power.

Historians and governments try to justify the actions of rulers by relating circumstances that lead to events. One event leads to another and the outcome is sometimes more than what is expected. Thus, Napoleon tried to justify his war against nations and Aleksandr did the same. History glorifies these heroes by justifying their actions as the product of Individual will and necessity.


Notes

Leo Tolstoy concludes the novel with a long philosophical treatise on war. He presents the point of view of historians and the attitude of rulers towards war. He analyses the modern concept of war as against the ancient concept. In the olden days, war and other events of significance, were connected to a divine force. Today, in the age of science, divinity has taken a back seat. Human and circumstantial motives are deduced and presented as causes. Tolstoy fails to agree with the historians who hold either one man or one circumstance responsible for war. He attributes war to many causes.

Leo Tolstoy is against war and the killing of people in it. He considers war as evil and hence, does not wish to glorify anyone related to war. He fails to be convinced by the justifications of war as a culmination of Individual will and necessity. Such arguments presented by historians baffle him. To Tolstoy, war and the loss of the lives of many innocent people has no justification. However, for the sake of presenting the different concepts of war to his readers, he tries to probe into the causes of war. The nearest he comes to agree to a view is that war is the cumulative product of power, will, necessity and mass movement. By giving examples from history and science, not only does Tolstoy reveal himself as an analytical man but also as a knowledgeable person. He presents the facts logically but his lengthy analysis tends to get confusing. If Tolstoy had merged the story of the characters of the novel along with his ideas, the novel would have retained its interest till the end.

The last part of the epilogue shows Tolstoy more as a moralist than as an artist. Whatever Tolstoy had believed and felt strongly about, he expresses in this part of the novel. Earlier, he had spoken his mind in the introductory passages of the books of the novel but had always connected them up with the narration of the tale. In this concluding chapter, he voices his ideas in isolation and propounds his philosophy. Tolstoy was so disturbed by the concept of war that he became confused while talking about it. Thus, the novel ends abruptly without arriving at any conclusions.

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