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Tolstoy On WarNarrative Art and Historical Truth in “War and Peace”$
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Rick McPeak and Donna Tussing Orwin

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780801448980

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801448980.001.0001

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The Disobediences of War and Peace

The Disobediences of War and Peace

Chapter:
(p.160) 11 The Disobediences of War and Peace
Source:
Tolstoy On War
Author(s):

Elizabeth D. Samet

Publisher:
Cornell University Press
DOI:10.7591/cornell/9780801448980.003.0012

This chapter argues that Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace is a “disobedient” book. It compares the novel to The Four Feathers (1939), a film which offers a version of cause and effect that is similar to that presented in Tolstoy's novel: one in which accident often triumphs over human design, in which invisible patterns of action and consequence refute a heroic narrative dramatizing events as authored by great men, and in which the only obedience can be the perforce surrendered to chance. In his chief example of the illusory agency of individuals, Tolstoy calls it a mistake to imagine that Napoleon actually superintended the retreat from Moscow. Examining Tolstoy's novel by considering obedience—understood as compliance with, or submission to, customs, norms, rules, laws, or another's will—exposes not only the degree of the novel's nonconformity but also Tolstoy's expression of what could be called a doctrine of disobedience.

Keywords:   Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace, disobedience, The Four Feathers, Napoleon's retreat from Moscow

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