Sonya is a pathetic figure, always in love but too meek to do anything about it. She is a cousin of and lives with the Rostov family, and early in the book she and Nicholas Rostov pronounce their love for one another. His family, in bad financial shape, object and hope that he will find a woman with a better dowry to offer. Sonya is Natasha’s confidante, and stands by her during her various disastrous love affairs.
B Prince Andrew Bolkonsky
Prince Andrew is a dashing, romantic figure. For much of the book, he and Natasha are in love but are separated by the war. In the beginning he is married to the pregnant Anna Pavlovna, “the little princess,” and is active in the army. At the Battle of Austerlitz he is wounded and listed as dead for a while, but he shows up alive just as his wife dies while giving birth to their son, Nicholas. When he falls in love with Natasha Rostov, he asks her to marry him right away, but his domineering father tells him to wait for a year to see if their love will endure. He is wounded at the Battle of Borodino and again news comes that he is dead, but while Moscow is being evacuated wounded soldiers are brought to the Rostov house and Andrew is one of them. Nastasha stays with him through the evacuation, but he eventually dies. In the end, he reaches a new level of spiritual enlightenment.
C Elizabeth Bolkonskaya
Elizabeth is Prince Andrew’s wife. She dies while giving birth to their son, Nicholas.
D Mary Bolkonskaya
Mary is the sister of Prince Andrew. She is a devoutly religious woman who stays devoted to her father even though her devotion nearly ruins her life. Early in the book she is engaged to Anatole Kuragin, but her father objects, and she finds that she cannot ignore his objection. While Andrew goes off to war, Mary stays on the family estate, watching after her father and Andrew’s son, Nicholas Bolkonsky. Her father, Prince Nicholas Bolkonsky, becomes more and more verbally abusive in his old age, and Mary becomes more involved with the religious pilgrims who stop at their estate. When Nicholas Rostov stops at Bolkonsky, he protects her from the peasants and they fall in love. After her father’s death she is immersed in guilt, feeling that he was not so bad after all and that it was awful of her to not be with him in his last moments. She ends up marrying Nicholas.
E Napoleon Bonaparte
Napoleon is the emperor of France. Napoleon mistakenly thinks that his army’s progress is due to his own skill, not taking into account the role of fate. On the eve of the great Battle of Borodino, for instance, he is more concerned with a painting of his infant son than with devising an effective battle plan for his troops.
F Pierre Buzekhov
Pierre is the central character of this novel and its moral conscience. When he first appears, he is a loud, obnoxious man only interested in himself and the next party. Pierre is forced to change when his father dies: after some uncertainty over the will, it is determined that the old count recognized Pierre as his son. Suddenly rich and titled as Count Buzekhov, Pierre finds himself very popular. He marries Princess Helene Kuragin.
After hearing rumors of an affair between Helene and Dolokhov, Pierre challenges him to a duel. After wounding him, Pierre escapes, and while he is traveling across the country he is invited by an old acquaintance to join the Freemasons, a secret society. As a Mason, Pierre releases his servants and spends millions on charitable endeavors, often without knowing that he is being swindled. He is still married to Helene, but they lead different lives, and he finds himself attracted to Natasha Rostov. As the battle is waged against the French outside of Moscow, Pierre hangs around curiously asking Questions of the officers; after his return to Moscow, he plans to kill Napoleon. He is captured after saving a child from a burning building, and is taken as a prisoner when the French march back to Paris.
After the war, when he is freed, Pierre marries Natasha. They have children, and at the end of the novel he is involved in a secret society that gathers against the government’s knowledge to overthrow the social structure that kept men as serfs. The society described resembles the one that led the Decembrist uprising that was to take place in Russia five years later.
G Vasili Dmitrich Denisov
Denisov is the model of a professional military man. Angered at the inept bureaucracy that is not getting provisions to his troops, Denisov rides off to the division headquarters and threatens a commander, which gets his troops food but makes Denisov subject to court-martial. Returning from the division headquarters, Denisov is shot by a French sharpshooter. When Nicholas Rostov tries to visit him at the hospital the place is quarantined with typhus, with only one doctor for four hundred patients. Eventually, the court-martial is averted, but Denisov retires from the service disillusioned. At the end of the book he is staying with the family of Count Nicholas at their estate.
H Fedya Dolokhov
Dolokhov comes off as a rogue, a man of small means who manages to impress society’s elite and get ahead by using his social position. As a gambler, he wins thousands off of Nicholas Rostov. As a lover, he fights a duel with Pierre Bezukhov over rumors about Dolokhov and Pierre’s wife. He is wounded in the duel, but that makes him even more of a romantic figure. He proposes to Sonya, but she rejects him. While the Russian forces are chasing the French army out of the country, Dolokhov makes the bold move of riding into the enemy camp in disguise on a scouting mission; young Petya Rostov idolizes him for his courage.
I Boris Drubetskoy
Drubetskoy’s rise in the military is due to the social machinations of his mother, who is a wealthy society widow and not afraid to ask, or even beg, highly-placed officers to give her son a good position in the army.
J Platon Karataev
Platon is a Russian soldier who gives spiritual comfort to Nicholas.
K Anatole Kuragin
Anatole is a scoundrel. His role in the book is to break up the engagement of Natasha and Prince Andrew. He starts paying attention to her out of a sense of adventure, considering her as another in his string of conquests. When he proposes to her and arranges to elope with her, even his friend and companion Dolokhov finds the scheme ridiculous. Anatole is already married in Poland, and the priest and witnesses that he arranges for the wedding are gambling friends willing to go along with a hoax. The wedding plans fail to transpire when, approaching the house, Anatole is asked in by a huge doorman, and he runs away instead. Later, at a field hospital with an injury, Prince Andrew is put on a stretcher next to Anatole, the man who ruined his wedding plans, who is having his leg amputated. Anatole later dies of complications from that operation.
L Helene Kuragin
Helen is Anatole’s sister, and she is every bit as devious as he is. When Pierre inherits his father’s fortune, she marries him. After he fights a duel with Dolokhov over her honor, they lead separate lives. Helene is known in Petersburg polite society. She converts to Roman Catholicism, and, under the pretense that to the church her marriage to Pierre is invalid, plans to marry one of her two suitors. When she dies, it is from a botched operation to cure an illness that is not clearly described in the book, indicating that it might be an abortion: “They all knew very well that the enchanting countess’ illness arose from an inconvenience resulting from marrying two husbands at the same time, and that the Italian’s cure consisted in removing such inconvenience.”
The commander of the Russian Army, the novel follows Kutuzov through some of his decision-making process, especially focusing on his wisdom in ignoring the popular decision that he should attack the French army as it was fleeing back home.
N Natasha Rostov
In the course of the story, Natasha (also known as Nataly) grows from a petulant child to a mature woman who knows the sorrows of war. Natasha is pretty and flirtatious, and the young soldiers are smitten with her. When she and Andrew are engaged, she is delighted to feel like a grown-up, but as time goes by she grows impatient. Kuragin, convincing her that she is in love with him, arranges to elope with her, even though he is already secretly married. When Andrew learns about it, he breaks up with her. She tries to poison herself in shame.
Later, when Moscow is being evacuated, Natasha is the one who convinces her parents to leave some of their fine possessions behind so that they can take some wounded soldiers. When she finds out that Prince Andrew is one of the wounded, she writes to his sister Mary and together they nurse her until his death. Natasha marries Pierre after he is the only person who she can talk to about Andrew’s death.
O Nataly Rostov
See Natasha Rostov
P Nicholas Rostov
Presented as a typical example of a nobleman, Rostov lives a wasteful life with little intellectual or spiritual depth. Early on he joins the army because he needs the money. He loses great sums of money gambling. Passing by the town near the Bolkonsky estate, he finds the peasants accusing Mary of trying to steal their land by making them evacuate. His aristocratic sensibilities are offended; unarmed, he makes the mob rulers quiet down and turn away. At the end of the book he is a retired gentleman, arguing with his brother-in-law Pierre that he should leave the government alone to handle the situation of the serfs properly.
Q Peter Rostov
The youngest member of the Rostov family, Peter is mostly forgotten in the background, playing childish games, until, at age sixteen, he enlists in the army. He is killed in the same attack that frees Pierre from the retreating French forces.