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EPILOGUE -1-

Summary:

In the seven years that have passed, Alexander passes from the liberalism of his early
reign to a period of reaction, characterized by the Holy Alliance, the restoration of
Poland, and the balance-of-power politics beginning in 1820. These, then, are the
events, and the judgments we make about them are relative, according to what
contemporary historians consider to be the good of humanity and what later historians
consider good. Standards of good and bad are always changing in light of different
viewpoints, says Tolstoy, and if we had an invariable standard of good and bad by
which we could assess events as they take place, then the"bad" events could be
prevented. If this were the case, no dynamics of human activity would exist."Once
admit that human life can be guided by reason," asserts Tolstoy,"and all possibility of
life is annihilated."

If we make limited assumptions about historical phenomena, as we do when we assert,


for example, that great men lead humanity to certain ends like the aggrandizement of
France or Russia, then we can only explain specific happenings as occurring by chance
or through the acts of a genius. But if we admit that events occur for reasons beyond our
ken, we will be presented with a unity and coherence among the facts of history. When
we recognize that the events which convulsed Europe constitute the essence and end of
a series of happenings, then we sense an integrity of individual occurrences, just as we
can accept the integrity of the separate parts that contribute to the whole flower without
having to explain the cause of each part.

Tolstoy sweepingly describes the career of Napoleon as built upon a series of millions
of chances: his spectacular rise to power, his invasion of Africa, his invasion and retreat
from Russia, his subsequent ruin and comeback ten years later. Because of the way
events unfold among all these chance happenings, Napoleon considers himself great and
confers the title of greatness to whatever he does or fails to do. Yet the final aims of
historical persons or nations remain unfathomable, says Tolstoy, regardless of what may
be described as their aims.

The marriage of Natasha and Pierre in 1813 provides the last happy event in Count
Rostov's life and he dies an old, ineffectual man. Nikolay is forced to shoulder the
burden of his father's debts and valiantly maintains the household on slender means. He
feels guilty before the patient and self-sacrificing Sonya and does not love her.

Later in 1813 Nikolay marries Princess Marya and, with Sonya and the old countess,
they move to Bleak Hills. Within a few years Nikolay repays all his debts, enlarges his
estate, and has the means to repurchase his ancestral holdings. His excellent
understanding of the peasants causes them to respect and revere him, and his lands
bring in abundant harvests. Although Marya does not share his passion for the land, she
sustains him in everything he does. They are very happy together and Nikolay thinks it
his greatest fortune to marry a woman of such deep-souled nobility. Sonya lives with
them like a cat attached to the household itself rather than to the people in it. She
accepts her barren position and does small thankless favors for everyone in the family.

By 1820 Natasha has three daughters and an infant son she insists on nursing herself. In
the robust-looking young mother one is hard put to discover the slim, mobile girl of
former days. Natasha is positively devoted to Pierre and understands everything about
him, and everything about him is lovely to her. She is boundlessly possessive toward
her children and her husband and has no other interests. Pierre allows himself to be
henpecked by her because he believes this is the way families operate. Denisov, who
spends a week visiting the Bezuhovs, sees only a bad likeness of the Natasha who had
once submitted to him, and her constant talk of the nursery bores him.

Nikolinka, Andrey's child, lives with the Rostovs but has no strong affection for
Nikolay. He considers Pierre his hero and is delighted to stay up one night while the
men talk politics. Pierre and Nikolay have a long argument about the duties of a citizen.
Pierre says people should voice disagreement when their government is wrong and
Rostov says he believes in loyalty to the state under any conditions."Would my father
agree with you?" Nikolinka shyly asks Pierre, and he is answered, yes. The child gazes
with luminous eyes at his idol.

Marya and Nikolay talk over the day's event as they usually do at bedtime. She shows
him a diary in which she chronicles the day-to-day moral development of her children.
Nikolay is filled with wonder at his wife, whose untiring, perpetual spiritual efforts
enhance his life immeasurably. Marya assures her husband that his views on duty to the
state are in exact agreement with her own.

Meantime the Bezuhovs talk in their rooms. Pierre remarks how little significance
Nikolay finds in ideas, whereas he himself finds nothing serious except ideas. Natasha
asks whether Platon Karataev would agree with his view, and Pierre says no. But he
would approve of my home life, he tells her,"for he did so like to see seemliness,
happiness, peace in everything."

Nikolinka lies dreaming of Pierre, whose image suddenly becomes that of his father,
and the boy is dissolved in the weakness of love."I shall study hard," he tells himself,
and become someone great and glorious so that even my father would be proud.

ANALYSIS:

The life cycle of the personal novel within War and Peace is completed; the new
generation awakens from a dream of the past and is eager to begin the future. To
underscore the movements of the ebb and flow of generations that has occupied a great
part of the novel, Tolstoy provides Nikolinka with a dream that seems an echo of Prince
Andrey's youthful aspirations to glory and knowledge. Unlike his father, whose hero
was Napoleon, however, Nikolinka admires Pierre, whose soul has a spiritual affinity
with those of Kutuzov and Karataev. Tolstoy's conclusion sounds a note of youthful
striving and optimism: It affirms the best parts of Pierre and Andrey as these qualities
distill in the soul of the rising generation.
The staid, middle-aged domesticity of the Rostovs and the Bezuhovs reflects the peace
and harmony of people who have matured through their experiences of life. They have
passed through the trials of youth — the"war" as the title suggests — and have thus
earned the spiritual and emotional peace of their adult lives.

These romantic youthful figures of War and Peace have become dull and complacent;
after the hazards they have run, after the pain and anguish they have suffered, their
quiescent emotions and uninteresting happiness is a disappointment to readers who have
been caught up in the sweep and drama of their earlier lives. But Tolstoy's sense of
realism forces us to face the dreary truth of adulthood: Youthful possibilities of an
individual become narrowed by experiences that convey him to his appointed condition
in life. The First Epilogue is not merely a brief statement of a lazy author's"and they
lived happily ever after"; rather, it is a significant section of the work, which examines
how the heroes live out their day-to-day lives once they have solved the burning
problems of youth and once their time of adventure has passed.

We see how each character realizes his predestined aim. While Pierre is still fat and
good-natured, still dabbles in"causes" and ideas, he has retained, at the same time, the
inexpressible sense of God's love and universality. Nikolay has become a conservative
but successful country gentleman, unintellectual as ever, but with the best parts of his
nature enriched and deepened by his marriage to Princess Marya. Where she was
unhappy before, Marya is now content and satisfied, with the same devotion and piety
once directed toward her domineering father now directed toward her family. Natasha
provides us with a disappointment in her development, for we are modern readers who
prefer the bubbling, ever-seductive young girl to the henpecking, fussbudget housewife
she has become. Yet Natasha's present nature is of one piece with her previous one, for
Tolstoy, guilt-ridden by his own sensuality and sexually threatened by women, can only
create heroines whose seductiveness and loving nature expresses itself in child-rearing
and in sustaining their husbands. As a creature of nature, Natasha's final flowering is to
follow her natural destiny of bearing children and providing happiness for her spouse.

Not content with merely summing up the personal histories of his characters, Tolstoy
supplies the discussion between Pierre and Nikolay to suggest national events. Nikolay's
conservatism reflects the attitudes of the landowning class in Russia, and Pierre's
liberalism speaks for the dissenting intelligentsia. Each man represents the political
thinking that contributes toward the dynamics of this new historical era.

SECOND EPILOGUE

The life of peoples and humanity is the subject of history, writes Tolstoy, and the
writing of history is an attempt to make intelligible the course of human events. But, he
asks rhetorically, what is the cause of these events, and what is the force that moves
nations? Historians construct answers based on their special viewpoints; some discuss
history in terms of the"great men" theory, some in terms of cultural issues, some
according to the interplay between nations. Examining each school of historiography,
Tolstoy shows how inadequate these separate theories are to explain complex events.

How can the cultural historian explain, for instance, the murder of millions of
Frenchmen during the French revolution in terms of what men thought about the
equality of man, Tolstoy asks? To do this, the historian must show a propelling force
equal to the resultant force, just as the physical scientist explains the thrust of a steam
engine in terms of input. Tolstoy argues that a mere"idea" cannot generate such a
power.

The biographical historian is equally at fault. To assume that"great men" move nations
is as arbitrary as assuming, as did the ancients, that the will of God ordains history.
Tolstoy analyzes how these historians explain the decisions of the"great men" who
move nations. They cite, for example, Talleyrand's influence upon Alexander, or
describe the part Mme. de Stael played in changing the course of government. Naturally
it is ridiculous to assume that millions of people submit to whatever Talleyrand or de
Stael convinced Alexander.

Tolstoy goes on to discredit the historical construct of"power" as the motive force of
events. If the concept of power is valid, he argues, then we must be able to explain its
nature and define how it works. If people submit to the power of their government, and
if the mass allows its will to be reflected and represented by its leaders, then we can
examine what does constitute the will of the masses and how the lives of the people can
be represented, or symbolized, by the lives of their monarchs. Tolstoy concludes that we
cannot ascribe the activities of millions of men moving from place to place, butchering
one another, burning housing and harvests, as a reflection of the actions of some dozen
persons who do not kill men or burn property.

On the other hand, events are clearly connected with the will of the leaders. We see that
when Napoleon commands, thousands of men march into Russia. To show how"power"
is expressed in the relationship between leaders and followers and the conditions under
which the leader's will operates — or fails to operate — Tolstoy uses the structure of the
military as a working model. His examination concludes that the men issuing the most
orders are the farthest removed from the action they are ordering, while those directly
involved in the action are the least responsible for directing it. He has already illustrated
this principle during the war scenes in the body of his novel.

Tolstoy also examines the kind of power a commander has over the men he commands;
it is either moral power or physical power, he says. The physical strength of a leader can
only be effective on a small number of men, whereas moral power extends the leader's
control to a larger group. Yet history offers many examples of weak and ineffectual
leaders who still control the destinies of the men they lead.

Having failed to reveal how the power of a commander is transmitted to his followers,
and having failed to describe the nature of this power, Tolstoy adds another argument to
discredit the concept of power — the factor of time. Since human beings, he begins,
operate within time, and events change according to time; a command can only cover a
specific time sequence. Moreover, the commander himself is always in the middle of an
event as it unfolds and he can never control all aspects of the event. Tolstoy shows how,
out of all the commands given to cover the various conditions of any event, only those
that are possible to be carried out will be carried out. No command can produce an
event that is not ready to be enacted.

Historians who say that this or that decision caused this or that event to occur are
mistaking cause and effect. Tolstoy uses an analogy to illustrate his statement. Consider
some men who are about to drag off a log, he says, and each man offers an opinion as to
where the log should go. They drag it away, and it turns out to end up where one of
them had advised. This is the man, historians would say, who gave the command. All
the other commands and commanders are thus forgotten after the event has been
enacted. With these analyses, Tolstoy concludes that"power" vested by the mass in one
or a few persons, expressed through the followers of a commander, and operating
within the constraints of time, can never serve to explain historical causality.

Having thus discredited the various schools of historiography and pointing out the
fallacy of general concepts like"power," Tolstoy examines human existence in relation
to the forces of destiny. His previous arguments have considered external phenomena
only and have overlooked the intrinsic quality of man's freedom of will. Tolstoy now
comes to the crux of his argument, which remains an unresolved paradox: Freedom of
will is as mythic a quality as that of power, but without this concept all human activities
become meaningless.

If men have free wills, history would be a series of unconnected incidents, says Tolstoy,
who believes nevertheless in historical determinacy. But if we admit that even one man
has the power to act freely, he argues, then we cannot formulate any law to explain the
actions of men. By the same token, if one law controls the actions of men, then no one
is free, all wills being subject to that law.
Tolstoy attacks this problem by hypothesizing two views of man, an"inner" view and
an"outer" view:"Looking at man as a subject of observation from any point of view —
theological, ethical, philosophical — we find a general law of necessity to which he is
subject like everything else existing. Looking at him from within ourselves, as what we
are conscious of, we feel ourselves free." This"inner" quality is our consciousness or
free will, and the"outer" quality is reason, or necessity."Through reason, man observes
himself," writes Tolstoy,"but he knows himself through consciousness."

Despite our"reason," which accepts the scientific proofs that we are subject to
naturalistic constraints as other creatures are, our"consciousness" senses freedom.
Without this"meaningless feeling of freedom" life would be insupportable. All the
concepts of our existence express this instinct for freedom, Tolstoy says: the notions of
wealth and poverty, hunger and repletion, health and disease, are only terms for greater
or lesser degrees of freedom. Our sense of free will can never be reconciled with the
immutable laws of necessity; at best, we conclude that men and animals share nervous
and muscular activity, but man has, in addition, consciousness.

History does not differentiate between free will and necessity. Rather, it relates how
free will has manifested itself in the past and under what conditions it has operated.
History is"our representation" of the action of free will, and we regard every event as a
proportionate combination of free will with necessity. The more we know of the
circumstances under which an act was performed, the less free the act seems. When a
period of time has elapsed, allowing us to see more consequences of a particular act and
its relation to previous acts, we see more and more necessities that determine the nature
of the act. Free will, therefore, is an illusion we maintain because we cannot know all
the factors contributing to the accomplished act.

With our limited knowledge, we can only conclude that human existence is made up of
the"incomprehensible essence of life" and the"laws that give form to that essence." Our
consciousness expresses the reality of free will, according to this scheme, while our
reason expresses the laws of necessity. When we describe historical events, we express
all the known factors as the laws of necessity, while those unknown we term free will.
For historians to state, however, that free will (like Napoleon's genius) causes historical
phenomena is analogous to astronomers recognizing freedom in the movement of
heavenly bodies. As in science, we must seek to describe in history what can be
observed, and then state what we know and admit what we do not know.

We cannot describe the essence of the force that moves heavenly bodies, but we can
describe how this"vital force" operates. In history, this"vital force" is our concept of
free will, and to show how it operates, we cite the observable laws of necessity. To
approach history as a science, therefore, we must begin with the necessities: that is, the
study of movements of people and of nations, and not episodes from the lives of great
men. In order to discover historical laws, we must seek the properties common to all the
equal and inseparably interconnected, infinitesimal elements by which free will is
constrained. To be intelligible, history must admit that personality is subject to the laws
of time, space, and motion, just as physics admits the relative movement of the earth as
the basis of its investigations. We do not feel the earth's movements with our senses,
neither do we feel our consciousness dependent on external phenomena. Yet our reason
has descried the planet's motion, and our reason must detect the limits of our free will.
Only with this kind of scientific approach can historiography become a credible
discipline, and ultimately, reveal the nature of human life.

ANALYSIS:

Most critics regard Tolstoy's philosophical exegesis in the Second Epilogue as


unliterary, boring, and outside the intentions of the novel. They regard the didactic
passages liberally sprinkled throughout the book as redundant. Yet Tolstoy's interest in
history is the most serious and intense aspect of War and Peace and provides the novel
with its underlying unity. The Second Epilogue, therefore, deserves our attention
because it reveals Tolstoy's obsessive and passionate search for truth; this quest not only
gave force to his major novels, but provided him with the philosophic focus of his life.
Isaiah Berlin has discussed Tolstoy's theory of history in a brilliant essay, and the
Analysis in these Notes is based on his work with the quoted statements taken from his
book The Hedgehog and the Fox: An Essay on Tolstoy's View of History (New York:
Simon & Schuster, 1953).

Tolstoy's interest in history derives from his desire to penetrate first causes, to answer
for himself the burning question of the meaning of human life and death."History, only
history, only the sum of the concrete events in time and space — and sum of the actual
experience of actual men and women in their relation to one another and to an actual
three-dimension, empirically experienced, physical environment — this alone contains
the truth, the material out of which genuine answers — answers needing for their
apprehension no special senses or faculties which normal human beings did not possess
— might be constructed" (p. 11). Life consists of innumerable events and history
chooses only an insignificant arbitrarily patterned part of these events with which to
document a special theory as the primary cause of social or political change. What then
is the"real" history of human beings?

Tolstoy says that the"inner" events of human beings are the most real and immediate
experiences;"they, and only they, are what life, in the last analysis, is made of"; hence
the routine political historians who write history as a series of public events"are talking
shallow nonsense" (p. 15).

Tolstoy illustrates this difference between written history and actual — or"private" —
history throughout War and Peace when he shows how the statesmen and commanders
highest in the pyramid of authority are far removed from the ordinary men and women
whose lives are the"actual stuff of history." In various battle scenes, Tolstoy shows how
little control the commanders have over the destiny of the event they believe they
command, while the soldiers who do the fighting are the most responsible for its
outcome. Andrey discovers this truth when he meets the"important" people who guide
their nations' destinies at Brunn, or when he talks with the reformer Speransky; all these
men delude themselves into believing that their memoranda, resolutions, and councils
are the motive factors that determine historical change, whereas they are, in fact,
nothing but"self-important milling in the void" (p. 17). Men of destiny like Napoleon
equally with men of science like the German militarists must be impostors, since no
single will or theory can fit the immense variety of"possible human behavior, the vast
multiplicity of minute, undiscoverable causes and effect which form that interplay of
men and nature which history purports to record."

This, then, is the ultimate illusion that Tolstoy attempts to destroy in the course of his
novel:"that individuals can, by use of their own resources, understand and control the
course of events"; and the men of history who believe this turn out to be hugely
mistaken. The real world, on the other hand, does not consist of men who exert their
alleged"free will" or who theorize motives for what they do, but it consists of the day-
to-day stream of life of men in their everyday existence. Social, political, and economic
phenomena are not the ultimate realities at all; rather, these are"outer accidents" of the
ultimate reality, which consists of the"ordinary, day to day succession of private data"
(p. 20).

Tolstoy's mastery of describing the moments of individual subjective experience — the


details that compound"real life" — is unsurpassed. Yet he realized that history's task is
not merely to describe transitory minutiae but to explain the totality of events without
using those"thin disguises for ignorance" like"chance,""genius," or"cause."

Tolstoy believes that the lives of human beings are subject to the control of natural law,
along with the entire universe. Men, however, are unable to accept this"inexorable
process," and elect to view their existence as regulated by the operation of free choice
on the part of individuals of extraordinary capacity for good or ill. These
supposed"great men" are in fact quite ordinary persons whose ignorance and vanity
induces them to accept responsibility for all of the evils attributed to them. They prefer
this role to recognition of their own helpless insignificance in the"cosmic flow" of
events which is indifferent to them. Tolstoy excels in presenting this focal idea by
means of descriptions of events placed in apposition to the ridiculous interpretation of
those events entertained by men carried away by their own egoism. Similarly, Tolstoy's
thesis is given forceful expression by those instances of revelation when the reality of
human existence is comprehended by"those who have the humility to recognize their
own unimportance and irrelevance" (p. 27).

War and Peace contrasts the"universal and all-important but delusive experience of free
will, the feeling of responsibility, the values of private life generally, on one hand; and
on the other, the reality of inexorable historical determinism, not indeed, experienced
directly, but known to be true on irrefutable theoretical grounds" (p. 29). Tolstoy is
unable, in the last analysis, to entirely discredit the historiography we know. Although
the"important" people in history are less important than they believe themselves to be,
neither are they shadows; individuals do have social purposes and they can transform
the lives of communities.

Tolstoy's concern with history is not merely to point out the faulty reasoning of
historians; his interest stems from a deeper, personal quest, a"bitter inner conflict
between his actual experience and his beliefs, between his vision of life, and his theory
of what it, and he himself, ought to be, if the vision was to be bearable at all" (p. 35). He
desired to discover a single doctrine or law to which the multiple and seemingly
unrelated daily events that make up reality belong, and his obsessive interest to discover
this unifying truth drove him to this ruthless criticism of all theorists and historians who
provide a shoddy, illogical law as the common denominator of multiple experience.
This desire generates the philosophical examination of history in War and Peace and
not a spirit of academic rumination.

The very idea of a unifying moral law to cover all the realities of experience presented
Tolstoy with a lifelong paradox: Moral life with its sense of"responsibility, joys,
sorrows, sense of guilt, achievement," is illusory, since"free will" does not exist if we
know — and theoretically we can know — the laws of necessity that govern every
phenomenon and human activity. Faced with this paradox of believing in and yet
denying free will, Tolstoy, like Prince Andrey, chooses nihilism and regarded the"first
causes of events as mysterious, involving the reduction of human wills to nullity" (p.
55).