An unexplored fact about Leo Tolstoy is that he was always fascinated with Indian culture and the Hindu religion. He even wrote “A Letter to A Hindu”, outlining his theological and philosophical perception of the Hindu vedas and responding to Mahatma Gandhi’s pleas for support in the Indian Nationalist Movement. Reading about this introduced me to the idea that Tolstoy had a wealth of knowledge about Hinduism- knowledge that inevitably must have pervaded his writing.
Music and Dance can been seen prevalently throughout Tolstoy’s novel- in the scene with the ballroom dance, in Natasha’s dance at uncle’s, and in Nicholas and Sonya’s dance. In Indian culture, dance or ‘tandav’ is often used to express anger, or war. So could the recurring theme of music and dance be an allegorical reference to the novel’s title, “War and Peace”? Music and dance have a long history in Indian culture in depicting emotions and stories. Classical Indian dances like the Odissi and Bharatnatyam use expressions and body language to highlight peaceful and angry emotions. Is it intentional then that the book’s many emotionally charged scenes unfold at dances and parties? In my opinion, the scene where Natasha decides that she loves Anatole is one of the most emotionally charged, and also takes place at a dance. Perhaps this was a subconscious effort to introduce dramatic flair to her dilemma.
Tolstoy’s own experiences have clearly painted a lot of his writings, and his interest in Hindu culture is not exempt from that. Dance and Music, War and Peace, Lust and Love- all merge into a single metaphor by the end of the novel, and culminate in what is a testament to all of Tolstoy’s life experiences.