Student Notes: War and Peace – Book by Leo Tolstoy

War and Peace student notes

Student Notes – War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy


Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace is an epic novel that offers a panoramic view of Russian society during the Napoleonic era. Published in 1869, it explores themes of war, love, destiny, and the complexities of human nature. This set of student notes provides a comprehensive overview of the key elements, themes, and characters in the novel, along with analysis and discussion points for further exploration and understanding.


  • Russia: The main setting of the novel, providing a backdrop for the historical events and societal dynamics.
  • Moscow and St. Petersburg: The two major cities where much of the story unfolds, representing different aspects of Russian society.
  • Battlefields: The novel depicts several significant battles, including the Battle of Borodino and the French invasion of Russia.


  • Pierre Bezukhov: A complex and introspective character who undergoes spiritual transformation throughout the novel.
  • Natasha Rostova: A vibrant and passionate young woman who experiences personal growth and romantic entanglements.
  • Andrei Bolkonsky: A nobleman and military officer who reflects on the futility of war and searches for meaning in life.
  • Prince Nikolai Bolkonsky: Andrei’s father, a stern and traditionalist figure whose values clash with those of his son.
  • Countess Anna Pavlovna Scherer: A society hostess who provides insight into the upper-class circles and political intrigues.

Plot Summary:

  • Introduction to the characters and their interconnected lives against the backdrop of war and societal changes.
  • The French invasion of Russia and the devastating impact of war on individuals and society.
  • The personal relationships and romantic entanglements of the characters amidst the turmoil of war.
  • Themes: War and its Consequences, Love and Relationships, Fate and Free Will, Morality and Ethics, Social Class and Society.

Key Themes and Symbols:

  • War and its Consequences: The novel explores the brutality, chaos, and human cost of war, challenging glorified notions of conflict.
  • Love and Relationships: Tolstoy examines various forms of love, including romantic love, familial love, and platonic love, exploring their transformative power.
  • Fate and Free Will: The characters grapple with questions of destiny and personal agency, considering the role of individual choices in the grand tapestry of life.
  • Morality and Ethics: Tolstoy raises philosophical questions about the nature of morality, exploring the complexities of human behavior and moral dilemmas.
  • Social Class and Society: The novel portrays the social hierarchy and its impact on the characters’ lives and opportunities.

Analysis and Discussion Points:

  • Analyze the character development of Pierre Bezukhov and his spiritual journey, exploring the themes of identity and personal transformation.
  • Discuss the role of women in the novel, examining the portrayal of female characters and their agency within a patriarchal society.
  • Explore the significance of the Battle of Borodino and the French invasion of Russia, considering their impact on the characters and the broader historical context.
  • Examine Tolstoy’s narrative style and his use of different perspectives and storytelling techniques.
  • Discuss the themes of fate and free will, analyzing how the characters navigate their own choices and the forces that shape their lives.
  • Consider the moral and ethical dilemmas faced by the characters, and the different approaches they take in resolving them.


War and Peace is a monumental work that delves into the depths of human experience, exploring themes of war, love, and the intricacies of human nature. Leo Tolstoy’s richly textured narrative invites readers to contemplate the complexities of life, history, and personal relationships. By engaging with the student notes provided, readers can gain a deeper understanding of the novel’s themes, characters, and societal context, fostering critical thinking and stimulating insightful discussions about the human condition and the choices that shape our lives.

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War and Peace book summary