Symbols of War and Peace – Literary Analysis Essay Samples
Sample Essay 1. The Old Oak Tree Symbol
Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace has a great deal of symbolism weaved into its intricate pages. Such symbolism comes in the form of the old oak tree, a significant symbol that is meant to be a form of hope, despair, life, and death. Like the seasons of Andrei’s lives, the oak tree experiences transformation and causes Andrei to change a great deal as well.
Andrei is a serious young man, the eldest son of a stern and sometimes callous father. He feels he must prove himself in glory through battle, and initially, he seems to think that love is a waste of time. At the beginning of the book, Andrei is married to Lise and is expecting a child. It seems that this is not enough for him, and indeed he advises Pierre to avoid marriage and even avoid any type of sexual relationship. Love does not seem to enchant Andrei, as he is set on finding an esteemed glory of being a hero. Such glory, however, is a romanticized notion that does not exist in real life. Andrei leaves to serve in the first war against Napoleon, leaving behind Lise with his family. He is wounded in battle and returns to find his wife in labor, who dies from childbirth.
In book six of War and Peace, Andrei comes upon the “aged, stern, and scornful” oak tree (“War and Peace”). He is distraught from his war injuries and from losing his young wife. The oak tree, like Andrei, has been wounded. It has had its bark scarred, in the same way, that Andrei has been injured from battle. Despite this, the tree is resilient and continues to stand. The oak represents a degree of hopelessness, and yet at the same time, is pleasant. At this point Andrei realizes he must continue his journey and his life, not harming anyone or desiring for anything. Like the tree appears to, Andrei has given up on life and still continues to stand. Even as spring is budding and joyous around him, the tree represents a person being scarred and still continuing to live in a new season.
Eventually, Andrei meets and falls in love with Natasha. They quickly become engaged, but his father does not think it is a good match and says they should postpone the marriage for at least a year. When he falls in love, he sees the oak tree in a new light. The tree changes and continues to grow: “Through the hard-century old bark, even where there were no twigs, leaves sprouted such as one could hardly believe the old veteran could have produced” (Tolstoy, p. 371). Like Andrei, the tree, though it has suffered, gains new life and meaning. It continues to grow, despite everything that has happened to it. The true beauty of the oak is the seasons that it goes through; life and death, hope and hopelessness, and the connection that nature has to live. The characters in War and Peace are born, go through trials, have joy, and die. Though Andrei’s ending may not be seen as a happy one, it is authentic and real, much like the old oak tree.
Louise and Aylmer Maude. Ed. George Gibian. New York: Norton.
“War and Peace.” International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. 2008.Encyclopedia.com. 6 Jul. 2016 http://www.encyclopedia.com.
Sample Essay 2. Rebuilding of Bald Hills
War and Peace is a unique work that is one of the best creations of world literature. The novel is probably known, without any exaggeration, to a lot of people from all over the world. Although War and Peace is called a novel, this term is not entirely suitable for this work because it has intertwined a huge number of genres, starting with the original notion of the novel and ending with the Gospel text. Tolstoy also puts forward his own view of religion in War and Peace, passing it all through a filter of his philosophy and synthesizing it from various beliefs. Yet, there are not a lot of hints in this work of him. Tolstoy conveys his ideas through the favorite method of all Russian writers which is symbolism.
Leo Tolstoy constantly emphasizes the role of divine thought, both in human destiny and in history. Bolkonsky survived after a serious injury in a bloody battle thanks to the golden image that Princess Mary put on his chest before that. After the injury, Andrew reinterprets his idea of life; he imagines the quiet happiness of the family life in the Bald Hills. The name “Bald Hills” is very unusual and expressive. According to the opinions of some researchers, the Bald Hills are associated with Mount Calvary on which Christ was (Moser 298) crucified. Bald Hills are endowed with the meaning of sacred space. This name indicates the “Christlike” feature of Prince Andrew Bolkonsky as a (Moser 298) martyr. Prince Andrew, who does not escape the grenade on the Borodino field and sacrifices himself, is like Christ willingly receiving the death on the cross. The sacred aureole of the Bald Hills is also shown in the depiction of the manor as a shelter for the “people of God.” Princess Mary constantly takes in pilgrims and whacky (Moser 298) people.
Despite the deep thoughts and valuable arguments concerning the following symbols, there are a lot of researchers that undermine mentioned above interpreting. First of all, there is nothing exceptional about the wound of Colonel Bolkonsky: the regiment of Prince Andrew is on reserve at the Semenovsky ravine, on the line of Russian positions, which was in fact subjected to the most powerful artillery (Feuer et al. 138) fire. The real event of the Battle of Borodino is reflected in the description of the shelling to which the regiment of Prince Andrew is subjected. This is the shelling of Preobrazhensky and Semenov guards regiments that were in reserve, in the second line of Russian (Feuer et al. 138) defense. “At the Borodino field, Semenovsky and Preobrazhensky regiments were put in reserve behind Rayevsky battery. At first, they stood under the gunfire of the enemy artillery, then under the Infantry for fourteen hours, and they withstood that ordeal steadfastly, with an unflappable equanimity which should have had just the best troops” (Feuer et al. 142). Secondly, the reluctance of Prince Andrew to hide from the grenade is a consequence of pride; the officer’s honor motivates it. The feelings nurtured in Bolkonsky’s soul before the battle are far from all-forgiveness, from Christian equanimity, from detachment from the world and its temptations, from the state of mind that must be inherent in martyrs. He does not believe in the eternal life and on the eve of the battle he notices that Princess Mary said that this is a trial sent from the (Feuer et al. 143) above. Yet, he does not understand for what is this test when it is no longer exists and will never exist; there will be no one (Tolstoy Vol. 3, Part 2, Chapter XXIV, 212) else. The knowledge of the vanity of one’s own life and life in general, revealed to Prince Andrew on the eve of the Battle of Borodino, is a graceless knowledge. From now on, the life for Bolkonsky is poorly painted (Tolstoy Vol. 3, Part 2, Chapter XXIV, 211) images. He is not just disappointed with the public life, the glory, and the love of a woman but he refuses from the life itself, from its eternal source. After the wound, near to die, he will comprehend the higher meaning of being, but this will be another Prince Andrew.
Bald Hills in War and Peace are not a place in which holiness is concentrated. The life in the Bald Hills is far from righteousness; it is full of irritation and hidden unkindness. It appears what the attitude of the old Prince to the household is. Living in the Bald Hills is not only temptation but also a sin (the readers must remember the relations of the old Prince with Mademoiselle Bourienne) (Feuer et al. 163). Certainly, behind the cruel ridicule and annoyance of Prince Nicholas is the love manifested to the daughter before his death. Yet, one way or another, Bald Hills is by no means a sacred place. Tolstoy could also associate Bald Hills with a clear sky (contemplated by Andrew the Austerlitz sky) (Feuer et al. 163). The name of the Bald Hills, like the name of the Rostovs’ estate, is not a coincidence but its meaning is rather ambiguous. The phrase “Bald Hills” is associated with infertility (bald) and with an elevation in pride (high place, mountains) (Feuer et al. 163). The rationality of pride and consciousness can distinguish both the old Prince and Prince Andrew. Furthermore, the Bald Hills, apparently, is a kind of transformation of the name of Tolstoy family’s estate “Yasnaya Polyana” – “Bright Glade”: Bald (open, unshadowed) – Bright (clear); Hills – Glade (contrast – high place and lowland). It is known that the description of life in the Bald Hills is inspired by the impressions of the Bright Glade family (Massie 75) life.
Feuer, Kathryn; Feuer Miller, Robin; Orwin, Donna Tussing. Tolstoy and the Genesis of War and Peace. Cornell University Press. January 2008. Web. 25 Aug. 2017.
Massie, Suzanne. Land of the Firebird, the Beauty of Old Russia. Simon and Schuster, New York 1980. Web. 25 Aug. 2017.
Moser, Charles. 1992. Encyclopedia of Russian Literature. Cambridge University Press, pp.
298–300. Web. 25 Aug. 2017.
Tolstoy, Leo; Pevear, Richard (translator); Volokhonsky, Larissa (translator). War and Peace.
Vintage Classics; Reprint edition. December 2, 2008. Web. 25 Aug. 2017.
The symbol of the oak tree is inseparably connected with Andrei Bolkonsky, one of the protagonists in Tolstoy’s novel. This tree mirrors the fundamental changes in his life, and the transformations in his state and inner condition. Another symbol mentioned by the author is the Bolkonsky family estate Bald Hills. A writer described this place not as a sacred one, but full of family traditions and love, hidden behind irritation and severity.
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