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The major theme of the novel is ‘War and its evil effects.’ In the war between France and Russia, the leaders of both nations gain fame and name, but many innocent people lose their lives and beautiful cities go up in flames. The rulers of the nations may justify their action as necessary but war is cruel and unpardonable, as it kills people mercilessly and destroys their homes. War causes both physical and mental trauma and thus, it is evil.
The two minor Themes of the novel are ‘the ennobling essence of suffering’ and ‘Poetic Justice.’ Most of the major characters in the novel undergo suffering before enjoying the fruits of life. Suffering makes them better human beings and teaches them the value of life.
At the same time, the characters that sin and cause harm to others, die a miserable death. Ellen cheats on Pierre and exploits his goodness. In the end, she dies out of frustration. Anatol plays with the sentiments of young and beautiful girls like Natasha and spoils their lives. Towards the end of his life, he experiences the agony of losing his leg and is tortured with pain before his death.
The mood of the novel is serious, as it deals with war and its effect on people. As France wages war against Russia for seven years, characters in the novel either undergo suffering or lose their lives. Thus, Prince Andrei dies fighting against the enemy at Borodino and leaves Natasha, Marya and Nikolushka desolate. Petya joins Denisov to attack the fleeing French forces out of Russian soil and shatters the life of his parents. Anatol dies after losing his leg in the battle and Pierre experiences days of misery as a prisoner of war. The war takes its toll on all these characters. However, those who survive the hardships of battle rebuild their lives and try to make the lives of others happy. Thus, Tolstoy ends the novel on a note of hope and lifts it from gloom.