Although there is not much open conflict between members of the different classes of this novel, there is an underlying tension between them. Members of the older generation, such as Countess Rostova and Prince Nicholas Bolkonsky, verbally abuse the peasants who are under their command. In a patronizing manner, they openly discuss how lost the peasants would be without their guidance. At the same time, there are characters like Platon Karataev, a poor man who leads a simple and happy life.
The closest the novel comes to an open-class conflict is when Mary is confronted by peasants at Bogucharovo, near her family's estate, as she is planning to evacuate before the French arrive. Tolstoy is clear about the fact that they act, not out of resentment for the social privilege Mary has enjoyed at their expense, but because of their fear that they have no leader. They are starving but will not accept the grain that Mary offers them because they fear angering the French. The greatest danger that they pose to her is blocking her horse when she plans to leave. When Nicholas arrives, they automatically fall under his spell and comply with his demands without hesitation, apparently in recognition of his superior breeding and intelligence. He orders the leaders of the insurrection bound, and several men in the crowd offer their belts for that purpose. "How can one talk to the masters like that?" says a drunken peasant to his former leader as...
(The entire section is 1340 words.)
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