Style and Technique

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The Caucasus frequently served as a backdrop for Russian Romantic writers in the early decades of the nineteenth century. Tolstoy, well aware of this tradition, infused his lyrical passages describing nature with a touch of irony, trying to bring out the paradox of war and killing in a perfectly peaceful and majestic setting. The narrator describes the local color in vivid detail but is somehow unable to reconcile completely the gratuitous killing and carnage of war within such a unique and beautiful setting. The narrator has very keen senses, and he describes the sounds, smells, and sights of harmonious nature around him. At the same time there is no sentimentality about the narrator’s feeling toward nature; he simply is impressed and enjoys the new experience in his life. Finally, the contrast between the tranquillity of nature and the violence of war becomes so strong that Tolstoy as narrator is able to “estrange” the reader’s perception of the paradox.

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