Tolstoy has much to say about war and history throughout War and Peace; it seems as though he views them as characters instead of events. Tolstoy’s frequent returns to war or history suggests that individual’s daily life problems are incredibly insignificant. War and Peace is an interesting novel because it seemingly contradicts the major theme of the insignificance of individual social problems by spending hundreds of pages discussing the often-unimportant decisions of the aristocratic families. Still, in the end, it is clear that Tolstoy had greater perspective on the important events in life.
Tolstoy suggests that the grand themes of both war and peace are greater than any individual conflict. This is most specifically through Anatole’s redemption in the mind of Prince Andrew. Even thought Anatole tried to steal and ruin Prince Andrew’s fiancée, he is forgiven because of the war. Prince Andrew recognizes that a fight over a woman is ultimately insignificant in the face of war and is able to feel sorry for Anatole when he is in pain. Tolstoy reinforces his point that the individual lives are relatively inconsequential through his inclusion of the second epilogue. The first epilogue mostly discusses what becomes of the remaining main characters Princess Mary, Natasha, Nicholas, Pierre, and Prince Andrew’s son. The second epilogue, and the end to the novel, however, goes to great length to detail Tolstoy’s views on war and history. Tolstoy chooses not to end his great novel with his characters, but rather with the larger themes that are important. In increasing desperation throughout the novel, Tolstoy emphasizes that War and Peace is not just about the social lives of the Russian aristocracy. His second epilogue is a final plea to the reader to understand what is and is not significant. Individual social lives are certainly interesting to follow and getting wrapped up in the daily choices of others is often appealing. Still, the world is full of greater forces that are simply more important.