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MonkeyNotes-War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
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In this part of Book II, Tolstoy presents characters and situations to highlight the irony of life. Many things happen to alter the life of some characters, but others continue to lead their normal existence. Situations in world alter and political diplomacy gets shaped but life goes on. In the beginning of the first chapter, Tolstoy talks about how "life-everyday life, with its essential concerns of health and sickness, toil and rest, and its intellectual preoccupations with thought, science, poetry, music, love, friendship, hatred, passions - went on as usual, independent of and apart from all potential reforms."

Tolstoy opens this part of Book II with a mention of the renewed friendship between former enemies, Aleksandr and Napoleon. Tolstoy mocks at political diplomacy that makes enemies turn to friends and friends turn to enemies. Austrians who were the allies of Russia in the past, now are their foes. Aleksandr sends his troops to Napoleon to fight against the Austrians. It is rumored that the Tsar is trying to strengthen the bonds of friendship with Napoleon by arranging a marriage alliance for the latter. Tolstoy sneers at politicians who play games to remain in power and get recognition.

After his harrowing experience in war and the tragedy at home, Andrei turns philosophical and settles down to a life of peace and contentment. He spends his time in solitary thought, undertaking reforms in his estate and caring for his family. He helps his father in his work in the army council and guides his sister in the upbringing of his son. He brings sunshine into the life of the peasants working in his estates by removing serfdom and employing the serfs as farm-laborers. He eases the life of the peasant women by appointing midwives to attend to pregnant women in labor. He creates hopes in the lives of poor children by appointing priests as teachers to educate them. He also suggests reforms in army rules and regulations to make it more effective. Thus, Andrei rebuilds his life by contributing his might to society.


Andreiís visit to the Ryazan estate changes his outlook on life. On his way to the estate, he spots an old oak tree in the midst of fresh plants and flowers and identifies himself with the tree. He imagines himself as the oak expressing his feelings to the young plants thus: "There is no spring, no sunshine, no happiness. Look there at those stifled, lifeless fir trees, everlastingly the same, and at me, bristling with fractured, excoriated claws growing wantonly out of my back and sides: as they have grown, so I stand, and I put no faith in your hopes and illusions." These thoughts express Andreiís state of mind as finds his way to the Rostov home in Otradnoe.

He enters the home of the Rostovs with his mind clouded by pessimism but when he hears the mindless chatter and giggles of Natasha and Sonya a ray of light flashes through his mind. The innocence of Natasha and her youthful exuberance awaken his lethargic spirits and he experiences emotional turmoil. When it is time for him to take his leave from the Rostovs, he leaves them with a heavy heart. Tolstoy beautifully reveals the change in Andreiís attitude to life by projecting his reaction towards the same oak tree that he had passed by earlier. Now, he looks at the tree differently. He notices that "young leaves had burgeoned such as one could hardly believe this aged creature could put forth" and his heart leaps up. He is no more content spending his life in solitude. He believes that "everyone must know me so that my life may not be lived for myself alone, while others, like that girl, lives so apart from it; it must be lived so that it may be reflected in all of them, so that they may share my life with me." Love transforms Andrei from a recluse to a social being. Now, he is determined to renew his life at thirty one.

Prince Andrei starts taking interest in life, while Pierre begins losing interest in life by the end of Part III of this Book. In Part II, Pierre is hopeful of renewing his life through the cult of Free Masons and social work. He enjoys the freedom after separation from Ellen and does his best to rebuild his life by improving the organization and undertaking reforms on his estates. However, the other members and managers of his estate who are selfish, do not share his views and appreciate his movement for reforms. The initial disillusionment with his work begins. Later, after he calls back Ellen at the behest of his mentor, he experiences more mental turmoil. By entering his life again, Ellen isolates him instead of providing him company. She tramples his ego, by neglecting him and insulting his prestige. She carries on entertaining people and encouraging them to pay attention to her. In the process, she makes Pierreís life miserable.

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