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Comparisons And Contrasts
Leo Tolstoy has woven an inspiring story around Napoleonís invasion of Moscow and merged it with the lives of the characters in War and Peace. In order to make the narrative absorbing and effective, he has presented situations that are sometimes alike but quite different otherwise. The self-centered existence of the people of Moscow is exhibited by projecting their life style in contrast to the war scene. Anna Pavlovna arranges soirees at regular intervals to entertain people, while Prince Vasily visits people and places with a view to enhance his position in society. Ellen attends parties to attract attention and win favors from influential men. All these people are unaware of the harsh realities of war and the effort put up by soldiers to fight against their enemies. Sitting comfortably in their drawing rooms and indulging in the luxuries of a wealthy society, they experience a completely different life from the men who are stationed at the battlefield.
The comparisons and contrasts work at the level of characters too. Some of the characters in the novel show distinct similarities and hence, can be compared, while some others reveal sharp differences and can be contrasted for better understanding of their personalities. The characters who resemble each other to some extent are Princess Marya and Sonya; Prince Vasily and Anna Mikhailovna; Sonya and Nikolushka; Ellen and Anatol. On the other hand, Natasha and Sonya; Princess Marya and Ellen; Denisov and Dolokhov are characters who can be contrasted through the sharp differences in their nature.
Princess Marya and Sonya are characters who are alike, to some extent. Both of them are selfless and uncomplaining. Princess Marya is a loyal daughter to her father and is devoted to him till his death. Suppressing her youthful desires and feminine pleasures, she attends to her father through the years. She considers her duty to obey his orders and act on his wishes. Even when he imposes his authoritarian rules and regimen on her, she fails to protest. She listens to his taunts and tolerates his abuses with fortitude. She also takes the responsibility of bringing up her nephew. In return for her sacrifice, she expects only love. Sonya shares her calm nature and unflinching loyalty to her guardians. An orphan, she considers the Rostovs as her family and remains devoted to them. She is much younger than Marya, has good company and more freedom. However, the Rostovs take her for granted. They provide her the comforts of life but accept her services as duty. Her needs and desires are considered secondary. She is always seen as a companion to Natasha and a support to the elder Rostovs. Like Marya, she expects only love in return for her loyalty. She is extremely fond of Natasha and loves Nikolai. Natasha and Nikolai reciprocate her affection, but ignore her feelings and sentiments. As she waits for Nikolai to propose to her, the latter decides to marry Marya and the Countess is happy for her son. Sonya resigns herself to the situation and remains single but continues to lend support to the Rostovs. Both Marya and Sonya are admirable characters who get less than they deserve.