Character Analysis Historical Figures


The characters of Napoleon, Murat, Rastoptchin, Speransky, and the other historical persons that appear throughout the novel are remarkable for their static nature. Compared to Tolstoy's fictional heroes, who are always in process of"becoming" and are constantly responsive to personal and environmental challenges, these factually real characters never undergo change. Their purpose in the"moral panorama" of War and Peace (to borrow James T. Farrell's term) is to show the limits of individual freedom and the salience of objective necessity. Napoleon and Alexander and the others express what Tolstoy said of"great men":"that they imagine they know what they are doing, and they are doing it for themselves, but that in reality they are the involuntary tools of history, performing a task which is concealed from them, though comprehensible to us" (quoted in Christian's Study of War and Peace, p. 93). Except for Kutuzov, whose historical reality is exaggerated to point out his mythic importance, the historical characters are flat and static figures devoid of personal life.