After reading Karnika's "At War With Shakespeare", I became interested in Tolstoy's thoughts on the art of writing. Beginning on page 1083 of our text are a few of Tolstoy's letter and diary extracts. On March 19th, 1865 Tolstoy wrote:
I became absorbed in reading the history of Napoleon and Alexander. In a cloud of joy and awareness of the possibility of doing great work, the idea caught up to me of writing a psychological history of Alexander and Napoleon. All the meanness, all the phrases, all the madness, all the contradictions of the people around them and in themselves...I must write my novel and work for this (Tolstoy, 1083).
This passage caught my eye because in Book Two of War and Peace, Tolstoy uses clouds and smoke as dark symbols, to cover the free and happy open sky. Yet Tolstoy describes his "joy and awareness" as a cloud. How did the cloud imagery in War and Peace come to represent the opposite of what it means to Tolstoy in 1865? Maybe Tolstoy understands clouds as urgent and excited clusters of mental activity, and in the war scenes of War and Peace, all mental activity is directed towards the dark activities of war, thus the clouds are dark symbols. Is this a stretch? Also,how did Alexander and Napoleon get marginalized (as far as we've read) ? Could there be a link between his hopes for writing a "great work" and including the theme of "great men" in war?