War and Peace Volume 3, Part 2, Chapter 38 Summary
Napoleon is horrified, disgusted, and disturbed by the battlefield. It’s hard to convey what this would have looked like, but imagine a football field strewn with tens of thousands of bodies on top of bodies on top of bodies, each with some gruesome dismemberment of one sort or another, and all reeking of rotting flesh and blood.
A messenger comes to tell him that the two hundred guns firing on the Russians are not having any effect. He orders them to fire more, doing his part to “fulfill that cruel, sad, oppressive, and inhuman role which had been assigned to him” (18.104.22.168). Wait a minute, assigned to him by whom? Isn’t he the one who started this whole thing? Is Tolstoy talking about fate again? Whatever happened to free will?
Later Napoleon would write that the whole point of this war was to end all wars by uniting all of Europe into one giant nation where everything would be shared and hunky-dory. Um, debatable.
All total, something like half a million people died in the French-Russian war.
Napoleon, thinking that all this happened because he wanted it to, isn’t horrified by the events, but instead proud of himself. We’re guessing Tolstoy, not so much.