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 cares for him and receives his forgiveness. Later, she becomes the wife of Pierre Bezuhov.
Princess Hélène Kuragina
Princess Hélène Kuragina (EHL-ehn KOO-ruh-gihn-uh), “the most fascinating woman in Petersburg,” who becomes Pierre Bezuhov’s wife. Although she has no love for Pierre, she marries him for the advantage of wealth and social position. Marriage in no way hampers her amours, and she constantly entertains and encourages prosperous admirers. Essentially, she is a superficial and shallow individual, seemingly unperturbed by the misery and suffering of the war around her.
Count Nikolay Rostov
Count Nikolay Rostov (nih-koh-LAY rohs-TOHF), Natasha’s handsome older brother, who distinguishes himself as a cavalry officer in the Russian army. It is long supposed that he will wed Sonya, his cousin, who lives with the Rostov family; however, the financial ruination of his family makes necessary a more profitable match with Princess Marya Bolkonskaya. When the Russian army is in retreat, he saves Marya from the rebellious peasants on her estate.
Princess Marya Bolkonskaya
Princess Marya Bolkonskaya (MAH-ryah voh-KOHN-ski-yah), Prince Andrey Bolkonsky’s sister, who endures the eccentricities of a tyrannical father. The old prince, desirous of Marya as a nurse and companion, methodically destroys her chances of marriage by refusing to entertain would-be suitors. Resigned to her fate, she takes refuge in an intense religious conviction, entertaining and sponsoring “God’s Folk,” peasants who have had various mystical experiences. After the deaths of her father and brother, she desires the life of a recluse, but her admiration and love for Nikolay Rostov, whom she later marries, restore her to a normal life.
Sonya (SOH-nyah), Nikolay Rostov’s poor cousin, the affectionate companion of Natasha in the Rostov family. For the sake of allowing Nikolay to make a more advantageous marriage, she releases him from a childhood pledge.
Prince Andrey Bolkonsky
Prince Andrey Bolkonsky (ahn-DRAY vohl-KOHN -skihy), a wealthy nobleman, the son of an eccentric father and the brother of Marya. At the battle of Austerlitz, he fights valiantly, rallying the Russian troops by charging directly into the front line while waving the Russian flag. Missing in action, he is assumed dead, but he later returns after having been nursed to health by peasants of the countryside. He becomes engaged to Natasha Rostova, but the marriage is canceled as a result of Natasha’s indiscretions. Although he swears never to fight again, his sense of duty compels him to enlist when France invades Russian soil. Again wounded, he dies in...
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