Regardless of where and under what circumstances the people who populate War and Peace find themselves, they are always only one step away from creating a circle of domesticity. Even soldiers in-between battles cannot help but revert from the insanity of warfare to the normal human behavior of setting up a home of sorts, breaking bread together, and offering hospitality to strangers and even enemies. The quest for home is a subtle and ever-present desire in the book, and a way for Tolstoy to underscore the basic humanity underlying the individuals who make up a terrifying war machine.
Questions About Home
- Compare the homes we see in the book. How detailed are Tolstoy's descriptions? Are there elements (furniture, décor, layout) that are always included? Is it possible to compare houses to see which is more opulent, for example, or which is more comfortable? Why or why not?
- Is there a difference between places where characters happen to live and places they consider home? What makes a house into a home?
- Are certain characters better at being domestic than others? Imagine some of them transported to a totally unfamiliar location. Who would create a homey-feeling environment first? Who wouldn't come close? Who would need help, and who could do it alone?
Chew on This
In the novel, people are portrayed as desperately needing home. This is why domestic spaces tend to break out in even the most unlikely places, such as an army camp in the middle of the battlefield. For Tolstoy, the desire for a home is the defining feature of what makes humans human.
In the novel, the disruption and destruction of one's home is just as traumatic as the loss of a loved one.