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MonkeyNotes-War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
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PLOT (Structure)

To discuss the plot of War and Peace, it has to be done at two levels; on the war front and the home front. The war story starts from Napoleonís fight against the Russians in Austria to Russiaís chasing away Napoleon from the Russian soil. The period of war covered is seven years starting from 1805 to 1812. To trace the plot of the war story, from the beginning till the end, it is better to start from the situation. In Part II of Book I, Tolstoy talks about the Russians soldiers stationed at Braunau waiting to be reviewed by their Commander-in-chief, Kutuzov. Short while later, Kutuzov receives the news of the Austria defeat at Ulm and the capture of the whole army by Napoleonís troops. This defeat leads to other defeats by the Russians. Circumstances are generated in such a way that Napoleon enters Vienna and later, overpowers the Russians and their allies at the battle of Austerlitz. Book I ends with this battle. In !808, emperor Aleksandr holds meetings with Napoleon and the next year, amity is established between the two leaders. Russia joins France to fight against Austria. All seems to be well till Napoleon marches towards Russia and enters it in June 1812. Part I of Book III opens with this event and rises the action in the story. Napoleon enters Russia after crossing Niemen and provokes Aleksandr to attack him. He refuses Aleksandrís request to withdraw his forces from Russia and declares war against it. Part II of Book III shows the French troops inspired by Napoleonís daring giving a thrashing blow to the enemy at Smolensk. The Russians retreat but the French march forward. The Russians attack part of the French troops at Borodino and declare their victory. However the encounter at Borodino facilitates Napoleonís entry into the city of his dreams. The climax of the novel occurs in chapter 19 of Part III of Book III, when Napoleonís troops march into Moscow on September 2, 1812 and shock the sensibilities of Moscovites. The city is almost abandoned. The exhausted French soldiers storm into the empty houses and shops and plunder them. As Napoleon establishes his authority in the city, his troops ravage the city and demoralize the few inhabitants living in it. As the enemy attacks the city, Moscow burns and causes anguish to all those who had seen it in crowning glory. The Tsar is eager to take revenge against his enemy and his troops at Tarutino grow restless. Thus, as Aleksandr gives orders to Kutuzov to charge against the enemy at Tarutino, the battle takes place on October 6, 1812 and shocks the enemy out of their senses. Chapter 8 of Part II of Book IV relates the details of the battle and starts the process of denouement. In chapter 10 of the same part of Book IV, Napoleon orders his troops to retreat and the French soldiers leave Moscow never to enter again. It is the turn of the Russian army to prove their might on the battlefield and they do their best. The frightened and confused French army tries to escape the attack of their raging enemy and run for their lives. As the great Napoleon and the last of his dwindling army leave the Russian soil by the end of 1812, the Denouement is complete.


On the home front, the story of the characters can be traced through the same pattern of plot development as he was done in the case of the war. The situation of the protagonist, Pierre, in Part I of Book I shows him as the illegitimate son of Count Bezukhov, suddenly elevated to the position of the heir to the Bezukhov title and property. This situation generates circumstances that lead to the marriage of Pierre to Ellen, the daughter of Prince Vasily in chapter 2 of Part III, Book I. Pierre settles down to lead a life of peace and contentment, but Ellen has other ideas of happiness. She seeks adventure and experiences an exciting social life by taking advantage of her position as Pierreís wife. She flirts with other men and injures the ego of Pierre. The action rises from chapter 5 of Part I, Book II when Pierre takes revenge on Dolokhov for flirting with his wife. Shortly afterwards, he leaves his wife and goes to Petersburg to enroll himself as a member of the society of Free Masons. He becomes its active member and undertakes reforms not only in it but also in his estates. Free from the burden of matrimony, he enjoys his freedom to serve people. He also declares his intention to maintain ten thousand soldiers. Ellen returns back to him but continues to torture him with her affairs. Pierre leaves for the battlefield and witness action at the Battle of Borodino. He returns home only to face embarrassment. Ellen has decided to divorce him and waits for his consent. Ellenís attitude revolts Pierre and he runs away from home to escape meeting her. This situation ushers in the climax of the novel in chapter 11 of Part III, Book III. Pierre enters Moscow and witnesses the city go up in flames. He tries to save his fellow men from the atrocities of the enemy and earns the wrath of the French soldiers. He is taken a prisoner and made to undergo the hardships of such a life. He experiences pain and anguish but his suffering ennobles him. In Petersburg Ellen dies out of frustration. Pierre is unaware of this fact till he returns back. Pierreís release in chapter 12 of Part IV, Book IV ushers in the course of denouement. Shortly afterwards, he reaches Moscow and rebuilds his house. He also meets Natasha and proposes to her. His decision to settle down with Natasha in the last chapter of Part IV of the last Book and his subsequent marriage to her in Chapter 5 of Part I of the Epilogue completes the denouement. Pierreís search for identity is over.

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