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MonkeyNotes-War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
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Moralism

Leo Tolstoy reveals himself as a moralist from time to time in all his works. In War and Peace, he does the same. Either before or after the narration of the story, Tolstoy transforms himself from a story teller to a reformer and speaks at length on a relevant subject. He begins Part Four of Book II, with his musings on Idleness. He says: "The Bible legend tells us that the absence of toil - idleness - was a common condition of the first man’s state of bliss before the Fall. This love of idleness has remained the same in fallen man, but the curse still lies heavy on the human race, not only because we have to earn our bread in the sweat of our brow, but because our moral nature is such that we are unable to be idle and at peace. --- It is just this obligatory and irreproachable idleness that has always constituted the chief attraction of military service." Such an introduction, Tolstoy gives before talking about Nikolai Rostov, serving in the Pavlograd regiment in the year 1807.

Tolstoy’s views on leaders and wars is echoed in some other pages of the novel. He rejected war and authority and believed in non-violence as the solution to a peaceful existence on earth. Renowned leaders of the world like Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela followed the concept of Tolstoy and achieved remarkable results in their countries. Chapter 1 of Part three of Book III closes with the view that men of authority wage war to find place in the books of history. Thus avers Tolstoy: "To study the laws of history, we must entirely change the subject of our observation, must leave aside Kings, ministers, and generals, and study the common, infinitesimally small elements that influence the masses."


Tolstoy muses on the power of nations and leaders through wars in the first few paragraphs of Part Three of Book IV. "Strange as may be the historical accounts of how some King or emperor, having quarreled with some other King or emperor, raises an army, joins battle with the enemy, wins a victory by killing three, five, or ten thousand men, and subjugates a Kingdom and an entire nation consisting of several millions; and incomprehensible as it may be that the defeat of an army should force that people to submit, yet all the facts of history confirm the truth of the statement that the greater or lesser success of one army against another is the fundamental cause, or at least a material indication, of an increase or decrease of the power of that nation." The leaders of a nation fulfill their ego by waging a war against their enemy, irrespective of how many lives are lost in the process. Tolstoy detested such selfish rulers and wars that brought them glory.

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