Bezukhov Family and Associates
Count Pyotr "Pierre" Kirillovich Bezukhov
The illegitimate son of Count Bezukhov. A freethinking, sometimes reckless, man capable of decisive action and great displays of willpower when circumstances demand it. Unexpectedly inherits his father's title, estate, and fortune, becoming one of the richest men in Russia.
- Author Avatar: Pierre is a lot like Tolstoy himself. He definitely looks like him, with his awkwardness and heavyset frame, but more important, Pierre is a way for the author to ask a lot of deep questions about what it's all about (besides the hokey-pokey of course).
- Awful Wedded Life: His marriage to Helene is a terrible one, since it's based entirely on lust, with no love or any other emotions involved.
- Bastard Angst: Pierre's the bastard of one of the wealthiest, most powerful counts of Russia, who, upon his death, legitimizes him. He was educated in Paris, and came back with very liberal ideas that make him a big outsider in the Russian aristocratic circles, who were already side-eyeing him for being illegitimate in the first place.
- The Brute: Served this role while in Anatole's gang, as his heavyset body type made for good muscle.
- Character Development: Pierre's is a long arc. He becomes more likable and heroic when Tolstoy begins to reshape him mid-novel into a a sort of reluctant hero, who goes off to war and starts to participate despite himself, who saves the lives of a French officer and a little girl even though he actually is trying to assassinate Napoleon, and who finally gets it together enough to start pursuing Natasha.
- Character Shilling: The narration and the characters like to remind us of how good-natured he is.
- Classical Anti-Hero: Pierre has none of the defining characteristics that would endear him to us or impress us with his power and skill — instead, he's a wishy-washy fat man who spends most of his time agonizing about philosophy only to be totally carried away by craziness like the idea that he is somehow destined to be Napoleon's anti-anti-Christ. In addition, he is weak-willed and easily browbeaten by those around him.
- Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Pierre is a perpetual seeker and is constantly trying to make himself a better man. He tries out almost every approach that philosophers have advocated as a way to live life.
- Distracted by the Sexy: His wife Helene is so crazily hot that he can't think straight around her.
- Heroic Bastard: He's progressive, generous, and good-natured.
- The Hedonist: In the beginning, Pierre is totally a slave to physical pleasure, getting wasted with his friends and, it's implied, visiting brothels.
- Misery Builds Character: It's only when Pierre is a lowly prisoner, stripped of all his wealth, his possessions, and even of the basics of human existence, that he finally figures out the meaning of life at least for himself. What does he figure out? That happiness can only come from within, and that it involves a combination of an appreciation for how good it is to be alive and a belief in God.
- Nice Guy: As we are frequently reminded.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Pierre tries out religion and mysticism and becomes a Freemason. He really tries to commit himself to this order, and there are some things the Freemasons advocate that seem to really click for him. But everything he tries to do to follow Masonic rules ends up failing: his attempts to liberate his serfs end up a sad mess, for example.
- The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Pierre goes crazy and thinks it's his destiny to assassinate Napoleon.
- The Philosopher: Likes to wax poetic about the state of society.
- Stout Strength: At one point picks up a table and nearly throws it at his wife.
- Third-Option Love Interest: To Natasha. After her brief tryst with Anatole wrecks her engagement to Andrei, he comforts her and realizes he loves her. They are married by the distant finale.
- This Is My Name on Foreign: He's called "Pierre," the French form of the name Peter/Pyotr.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: He's stout, awkward, fat, and clumsy, but is railroaded into marrying Helene, one of the most beautiful women in Russia.
- Unexpected Inheritance: He was a favorite of his father's, but no one expected him to get legitimized and inherit the title.
Count Kirill BezukhovPierre's father and very wealthy aristocrat who served in Catherine II's court.
- We Hardly Knew Ye: The first we hear of him, he's dying, and his death comes very early in the story, making Pierre one of the most powerful men in Russia.
Bolkonsky Family and Associates
Prince Nikolay Andreevitch Bolkonsky
Patriarch of the Bolkonsky family, a former war veteran turned eccentric recluse.
- Abusive Parents: He's not at all kind to his daughter Marya, frequently making untoward remarks about her appearance and intelligence.
- Pintsized Powerhouse: A renowned war vet, but described as short and rather ugly.
- Twitchy Eye: A habit of his. The other characters aren't sure if it's just him or some sort of mental disease.
Prince Andrei Nikolayevich Bolkonsky
Son of famed general Nikolai Bolkonsky, sister to Marya, and best friend to Pierre. Disillusioned with his marriage and lifestyle, Andrei goes off to war hoping to find glory and purpose.
- Awful Wedded Life: Can't stand his wife, even though he insists she's nothing to complain about. The narration makes it clear that he finds her vapid, shallow, and histrionic, traits he finds very tiresome.
- Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Like Pierre, Andrei is unfulfilled with St. Petersburg society. Unlike Pierre, he signs up for the army to solve this.
- Intelligence = Isolation: On one hand, he finds enough people hating him just because he's competent, diligent, and sharp. On the other hand, his intelligence makes a lot of the socializing he has to do as a noble an authentic pain in the neck, which he doesn't bother to hide very well.
- Not Quite Dead: Everyone thought Andrei died at Austerlitz, but he makes quite the impressive comeback. It doesn't stick the second time.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: Initially believes that joining the army and fighting for the fatherland is seen as one of the best ways to achieve fame and glory. Barely surviving Austerlitz flips this worldview around.
- The Stoic: Andrei is unhappy with his life but doesn't show it, keeps the people he cares about at a distance, and rarely emotes. He admires Pierre for his attempts to find purpose and admires Natasha for her innocent joy.
Princess Elisabeta "Lisa" Karlovna Bolkonskaya
Wife to Andrei and a society favorite. Nicknamed "The Little Princess."
- Awful Wedded Life: She can't figure out why her husband hates her.
- Broken Record: Her husband notes that she uses the same lines over and over with different audiences, to keep them entertained.
- Death by Childbirth: She dies giving birth to Andrei's son, just as he comes back from war.
- Socialite: Thrives in salons and in the company of others.
Princess Marya Nikolaevna Bolkonskaya
Sister to Andrei, and a deeply religious woman who has resigned herself to an unmarried life with her elderly father.
- Adaptational Attractiveness: Marya is described as plain, but with beautiful eyes. Adaptations rarely pay attention to this.
- The Caretaker: To her aging father, in his remote country estate, and also to Andrei's son Nikolai when Andrei dies.
- Extreme Doormat: Marya takes her father's abuse as quietly as she can, and devotes herself to assisting him in his old age.
- Nephewism: Raises Andrei's son Nikolai after Andrei dies and she marries Nikolai Rostov.
- A Saint Named Mary: Marya is a notably religious woman and a devoted daughter and sister.
- What Beautiful Eyes!: She's described to have beautiful eyes, which act as a counterpoint to her ugliness.
- When She Smiles
Rostov Family and Associates
Count Ilya RostovPatriarch of the Rostov family. He's a kind and loving father, and is generous to a fault, frequently living beyond the family's means.
Nikolai Ilyich Rostov
The oldest Rostov son, Nikolai is a hardcore patriot who loves his emperor and embraces his military career without reservations.
- Childhood Marriage Promise: He's got one with Sonya, but he tends to dither about his feelings for her.
- Character Development: Starts the novel as a carefree jock-type, but after his family falls into bankruptcy and he has to financially support his mother and sister he's forced to grow up a bit.
- Horrible Judge of Character: Trusts Dolokhov and considers him a good friend, despite several indications to the contrary.
- Marry for Love: Disagrees with his mother's attempts to get him to marry a rich girl, citing this trope. He eventually marries Marya, who is both loving and very rich.
- Trapped by Gambling Debts: Nikolai loses an obscene amount of moneynote to Dolokhov at cards, which doesn't help the family's suffering finances at all.
Natalya "Natasha" Ilynichna Rostova
Rostov's youngest daughter and a good friend of Pierre. Natasha starts the novel as a teenager who resolves to find happiness and true love.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Natasha is seduced by "Bad Boy" Anatole, causing her to break off her engagement with Andrei and also to very nearly elope with Anatole. Though Anatole's plans are foiled, it does succeed in permanently wrecking Natasha's relationship with Andrei.
- Best Friends-in-Law: With Marya. While Natasha never marries Marya's brother Andrei, they do bond in their grief over his death, and Marya later marries Natasha's brother Nikolai.
- Betty and Veronica: The Archie in this situation. Compare her straightforward courtship with the upstanding Andrei versus her quick seduction by the rakish Anatole. Circumstances prevent her from ending up with either, and she eventually marries Pierre.
- Break the Cutie: Getting involved with the Kuragin siblings turns her from a naive ingenue to a miserable young woman.
- Defiled Forever: When word of her alleged affair with Anatole gets around, her engagement ends and she's considered a ruined woman.
- Driven to Suicide: Attempts to kill herself after her engagement is broken by drinking arsenic, but she gets better.
- Dude Magnet: Pierre, Andrei, Anatole, and even Denisov are attracted to her.
- Fallen Princess: Near the end of the novel, she's lost her engagement to Andrei, her father and brother are dead, and her family's finances and reputation are in shambles. She does eventually marry Pierre, so it's assumed that this is mitigated by the end.
- Formerly Fit: She's gone to seed in the distant finale.
- Genki Girl: Starts out as a young girl whose vivacity and cheer can brighten up any room.
- The Ingenue: Natasha is a naive, romantic young maiden.
- Your Cheating Heart: Has a very brief tryst with Anatole, and suffers remarkably for it.
Sofia "Sonya" Alexandrovna Rostova
An orphaned cousin of the Rostovs, who has been living with them since childhood.
- Childhood Marriage Promise: She and Nikolai promised to marry each other in their youth.
- The Confidant: To Natasha, regarding her romantic affairs. She's been around since childhood, so she's Natasha's sister, cousin, best friend, and companion all at once.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Sonya releases Nikolai from their engagement so he can marry Princess Marya, despite loving him dearly herself.
- Kissing Cousins: She's a cousin to the Rostovs, and falls in love with Nikolai.
- Old Maid: Implied to be her eventual fate, since Nikolai marries Marya and she becomes a caretaker to their family. She is even referred to as a "sterile flower".
- Psychic Dreams for Everyone: Sonya dreams of Prince Andrei lying down in bed in a rickety house, and that's where he dies.
- Spanner in the Works: Deliberately foils Natasha's elopement with Anatole by informing the household staff about it and having them intercept him.
Relative of Count Rostov and matchmaker. Rude but respected and feared.
Kuragin Family and Associates
Prince Vassily Kuragin
A nobleman related to the dying Count Bezukhov through his wife. When Pierre is named his successor, Kuragin seeks to further his family's position by marrying him to his daughter Helene.
- Passed-Over Inheritance: He had hoped to benefit from old Count Bezukhov's death, but since the money, title, and estates all go to Pierre, Kuragin figures he can just become richer by proxy by becoming an in-law.
- Social Climber: Kuragin railroads Pierre into marrying his daughter because of the money this will bring.
Anatole Vasilyevich Kuragin
Son of Prince Vassily, a handsome, hedonistic, charismatic soldier.
- An Arm and a Leg: Loses part of his leg after the Battle of Borodino.
- BrotherSister Incest: Implied to be having an incestuous affair with Helene.
- The Casanova: He's a well-known womanizer whose first interaction with a semi-main character is Mme. Bourienne, a maid at Prince Bolkonsky's house, while Anatole was there to court the prince's daughter Marya. He later marries the daughter of a Polish farmer in exchange for room and board during one military campaign, and then, just for fun, sets out to marry-and-kidnap Natasha Rostov.
- It's All About Me: Anatole never thinks of the effect his actions will have on other people, and refuses to consider the consequences of eloping with Natasha, especially when he's already married.
- Shotgun Wedding: While travelling, he had something going on with a Polish farmer girl, which her father found out about, and there went his freedom. Well, technically anyways.
- Your Cheating Heart: Attempts to elope with Natasha despite having a secret wife of his own.
Yelena "Hélène" Vasilyevna Bezukhova nèe Kuragina
Daughter of Prince Vassily, a beautiful socialite. She marries Pierre for his fortune.
- Awful Wedded Life: She and Pierre dislike each other, and it shows in their interactions.
- BrotherSister Incest: Implied to be having an incestuous affair with Anatole.
- Gold Digger: Pretty much marries Pierre solely for the vast fortune he inherited from his father.
- Hello, Nurse!: Always described as very beautiful, and has a string of affairs as a result.
- Karmic Death: She repeatedly cheats on her husband. The "polite" cause of her death is of a heart condition, but is heavily implied to be a botched abortion.
- This Is My Name on Foreign: She's addressed as "Hélène", when the Russian version of the name is Yelena/Elena.
- Your Cheating Heart: Has an affair with Dolokhov right under Pierre's nose. After they have a falling-out about this, he takes her back and they remain married on paper, but she continues to cheat on him.
Hippolyte Vasilyevich KuraginEldest child of Prince Vassily, described as dumb and odd. Strikingly resembles his younger sister, but is weak, gawky, and has "an ugliness that comes from his expression". Nicknamed "The Charming Ippolit"
Anna Pavlovna SchererA lady-in-waiting to the empress and friend of the Kuragins.
Drubetskoy Family and Associates
Son of Anna Mikhailovna and childhood friend to the Rostovs. At times put off by his mother's blatant social-climbing, but often benefits from it.
- Delusions of Eloquence: Speaks in unintelligibly mangled French to impress a girl.
- Foil: To childhood friend Nikolai. While Nikolai starts the book well-off and impetuous, Boris is poor and methodically fights to establish a career for himself.
- Nobility Marries Money: His family are impoverished patricians, and he himself marries Julie Karagina for her great fortune.
- Social Climber: Rises up the ladder, eventually earning a position on the Tsar's staff. He ends the book having done reasonably well for himself, as he marries a rich heiress.
Princess Anna Mikhailovna Drubetskaya
Boris's mother, a woman from an illustrious family who has nonetheless ended up poor. She's made it her mission to see him in a secure, wealthy position in society.
General Mikhail Ilarionovich Kutuzov
Russian general throughout the book. His diligence and modesty eventually save Russia from the Great Man.
- The Cassandra: Claims that participating in the Battle of Austerlitz is a bad idea. Russia does so anyway, gets its ass handed to it by the French, and Napoleon invades Austria. Oh well!
- Cincinnatus: Invoked. Emperor Alexander did not want Kutuzov to become Field Marshal during Napoleon's invasion, and many aristocrats in his court maneuvered behind Kutuzov's back to have him ousted after the danger was past. Kutuzov just liked to read novels though.
- Four-Star Badass: Played with. He's ranked general, but is old, fat, and blind in one eye — certainly not someone seeing the front lines anytime soon. Nevertheless, he's the wisest of all the Tsar's military advisers, and his perseverance eventually pays off.
- Historical Domain Character: General Kutuzov was a real Russian general during the Napoleonic wars.
- Only Sane Man: During the 1805 campaigns, he's the only one to suggest that retreating from the French might be the best option. He's right, but that's not what happens.
- The Strategist: One of the best at strategy on the Tsar's military staff. While everyone rares to fight the French head-on, Kutuzov consistently insists on strategic retreats.
Feodor Ivanovich "Fedya" Dolokhov
A cold, almost psychopathic man, he is a noted duelist and drinker, but is caring for his disadvantaged family.
- The Barnum: Swindles Nikolai into an excessive gambling debt because Sonya turned down his marriage proposal.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: His combat prowess gets him out of trouble.
- Gentleman Ranker: Has been temporarily demoted to the ranks due to his disgraceful behaviour.
- Karma Houdini: Ends the book none the worse for wear, although he accepts fault for some of his actions and makes amends with Pierre.
- Morality Pet: His mother and sister are this for him, they're two of the very few people he cares about.
- Noodle Incident: At one point has adventures in Persia, though they're never really explained.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: His superior officers cut him a lot of slack because he's got friends in high places.
- Sociopathic Soldier: His psycho behaviour lands him in a lot of trouble.
- Übermensch: Of The Unfettered variety. Is unaffected by social conventions, rank, power, and so on; he's very much his own man, and follows his own rules.
Vasilly "Vaska" DenisovRussian military officer and friend to Nikolai.
- The Alcoholic: He sure drinks a lot.
- The Captain: Starts the book off as one.
- Cultured Badass: Kicks ass in both the dance floor and on the battlefield.
- Funetik Aksent: He has a stghrange tic of pghronunciation, though it may just be an attempt at imitating French pronunciation when speaking Russian (very fashionable at the time).
Platon KarataevA kindly peasant man Pierre meets during the French invasion of Russia.
- Foil: Irrepressibly optimistic and carefree, compared to Pierre, who's been down in the dumps for some time when he meets him. In a more general sense, he's a counterpoint to the stuffy Russian aristocracy that Pierre has long since tired of.
- Heroes Love Dogs: Accompanied by a little dog to emphasize his kindhearted personality.
- Meaningful Name: Lives simply and with a great appreciation for life, and his existence serves as a sort of answer to Pierre's book-long ruminations on life and contentment. Wonder which Greek philosopher his name reflects?