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Context: The novel “War and Peace,” initiated by Lev Tolstoy in 1863, is an epic novel published by Russki Vestnik from 1865 to 1869. It is a work that vividly portrays a magnificent period of Russian society. The plot is based on two major historical events of the early 19th century: the wars of 1805 and 1812, while also reflecting the peaceful life of the people and the Russian aristocracy during the periods of 1805-1812 and 1812-1820. “War and Peace” is considered Lev Tolstoy’s masterpiece and is hailed as one of the greatest novels in world literature.
Significance: Firstly, it addresses a historical period in Russia before and after Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion. Secondly, the literary giant Lev Tolstoy analyzed and demonstrated his beliefs about why history unfolded as it did. The author believed that it was not the “heroes” who shaped the times and controlled human destiny, but rather the “influence” of the masses, the aspirations of the nation. With a sense of national pride, the author called for the unity of the Russian people, recognizing what was considered the character and values of the Russian nation. Lev Tolstoy wanted readers to see the birth of Russia, a multi-ethnic country with many customs and languages, come together to resist invaders.
Scope: The epic novel “War and Peace” is a heroic epic, similar to Homer’s epic, the Odyssey, with hundreds of characters and thousands of episodes, serving as an encyclopedia, addressing various aspects of human life. “War and Peace” also provides readers with personal experiences by focusing on three families: the Rostovs, Bolkonskys, and Bezukhovs. This epic work was translated into English in 1886, comprising 4 volumes, totaling over 1,600 pages, divided into 15 parts, each with numerous chapters. It is the longest novel in 19th-century Russia and the world. To create 500 characters in the story with 100 main characters, Lev Tolstoy researched almost every book in the library.
Significance: “War and Peace” is a grand work that depicts human life with various emotions: hope, ambition, satisfaction, pain, conflict, etc. The great writer Lev Tolstoy explored the meaning of human life, revealing the negative aspects such as selfishness, materialism, and the obstacles hindering human development, which rob individuals of happiness. Through this epic work, the contrasts are evident through the characters: Andrey finds happiness while Pierre faces difficulties and suffering; Helene pursues material wealth and lives selfishly and recklessly, in contrast to the pure and mysteriously rich spirit of Natasha, who embodies the kindness and generosity of the Russian people.