Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Pierre Bezuhov (pyehr beh-ZOO-khof), the illegitimate son of wealthy Count Cyril Bezuhov. Clumsy, stout, and uncommonly tall, he is at first spurned by the social set; later, after his father leaves him a fortune, he is much admired. He is beguiled into a marriage with Hélène Kuragina, who in turn is unfaithful to him. For long years, Pierre searches for peace of mind and meaning in life. He seeks it in philanthropy, in the dissipations of society, in wine, and in heroic feats of self-sacrifice during the war with Napoleon. Finally, he gains such an internal harmony through witnessing the horror of death on the battlefield and by learning to share the misery of the human race. Near the conclusion of the novel, he marries Natasha Rostova, whom he has long secretly loved.
Princess Natasha Rostova
Princess Natasha Rostova (nah-TAH-shah rohs-TOHF-uh), the beautiful daughter of Count Ilya Rostov. Regularly in attendance at all social functions, she is admired by a host of suitors. She becomes engaged to the wealthy and handsome Prince Andrey Bolkonsky; however, the marriage is postponed for a year at Andrey’s father’s request. During this engagement period, Natasha ruins the proposed marriage and her reputation by attempting to elope with the rake Anatole Kuragin. When Andrey is mortally wounded, she faithfully...
(The entire section is 1099 words.)
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Prince Andrew Bolkonsky
Prince Andrew is a dashing, romantic figure. For much of the book, he and Natasha are in love but are separated by the war. In the beginning he is married to the pregnant Anna Pavlovna, "the little princess," and is active in the army. At the Battle of Austerlitz, he is wounded and listed as dead for a while, but he shows up alive just as his wife dies while giving birth to their son, Nicholas. When he falls in love with Natasha Rostov, he asks her to marry him right away, but his domineering father tells him to wait for a year to see if their love will endure. He is wounded at the Battle of Borodino and again news comes that he is dead, but while Moscow is being evacuated, wounded soldiers are brought to the Rostov house and Andrew is one of them. Nastasha stays with him through the evacuation, but he eventually dies. In the end, he reaches a new level of spiritual enlightenment.
Elizabeth is Prince Andrew's wife. She dies while giving birth to their son, Nicholas.
Mary is the sister of Prince Andrew. She is a devoutly religious woman who stays devoted to her father even though her devotion nearly ruins her life. Early in the book she is engaged to Anatole Kuragin, but her father objects, and she finds that she cannot ignore his objection. While Andrew goes off to war, Mary stays on the family estate, watching after her father and Andrew's son,...
(The entire section is 345 words.)
Pierre is the central character of this novel and its moral conscience. When he first appears, he is a loud, obnoxious man only interested in himself and the next party. Pierre is forced to change when his father dies: after some uncertainty over the will, it is determined that the old Count did recognize Pierre as his son. Suddenly rich and titled as Count Buzekhov, Pierre finds himself very popular. He marries Princess Helene Kuragin.
After hearing rumors of an affair between Helene and Dolokhov, Pierre challenges him to a duel. After wounding him, Pierre escapes, and while he is traveling across the country, he is invited by an old acquaintance to join the Freemasons, a secret society. As a Mason, Pierre releases his servants and spends millions on charitable endeavors, often without knowing that he is being swindled. He is still married to Helene, but they lead different lives, and he finds himself attracted to Natasha Rostov. As the battle is waged against the French outside of Moscow, Pierre hangs around curiously asking questions of the officers; after his return to Moscow, he plans to kill Napoleon. He is captured after saving a child from a burning building, and is taken as a prisoner when the French march back to Paris.
After the war, when he is freed, Pierre marries Natasha. They have children, and at the end of the novel he is involved in a secret society that gathers against the government's knowledge to overthrow the social...
(The entire section is 276 words.)
Napolean is the Emperor of France. Napoleon mistakenly thinks that his army's progress is due to his own skill, not taking into account the role of fate. On the eve of the great Battle of Borodino, for instance, he is more concerned with a painting of his infant son than with devising an effective battle plan for his troops.
Vasili Dmitrich Denisov
Denisov is the model of a professional military man. Angered at the inept bureaucracy that is not getting provisions to his troops, Denisov rides off to the division headquarters and threatens a commander, which gets his troops food, but makes Denisov subject to court martial. Returning from the division headquarters, Denisov is shot by a French sharpshooter. When Nicholas Rostov tries to visit him at the hospital, the place quarantined with typhus, with only one doctor for four hundred patients. Eventually, the court martial is averted, but Denisov retires from the service disillusioned. At the end of the book he is staying with the family of Count Nicholas at their estate.
Dolokhov comes off as a rogue, a man of small means who manages to impress society's elite and get ahead by using his social position. As a gambler, he wins thousands off of Nicholas Rostov. As a lover, he fights a duel with Pierre Bezukhov over rumors about Dolokhov and Pierre's wife. He is wounded in the duel, but that makes him even more of a romantic...
(The entire section is 1083 words.)