In War and Peace, the character Pierre undergoes a profound transformation through suffering. Although not in the military, Pierre is taken as a POW by the French occupying Moscow in the late summer of 1812. Driven from Moscow with the fleeing French troops, Pierre survived (barely) the privation of adequate food and shelter that resulted in the death of most of the POWs and, eventually, almost all of Napoleon’s army. Pierre is finally liberated by a band of renegade Russian soldiers under the command of two sly officers who play their squabbling generals off one another so that in the confusion they can raid and plunder the fleeing French, who are carrying much of Moscow’s wealth.
After Pierre’s convalescence, people began to notice a change in him, a change that wins their favor. Before the war, Pierre was courted solely for his wealth and despised for his absent-minded social and financial cluelessness. After his sufferings, Pierre is no less absent minded or clueless, but now he is at peace, no longer looking for answers in things far away, but in things near by: in God, the God whom his nanny had taught him long ago “is here, right here, everywhere.” Furthermore, Pierre had come to recognize that each person could think, feel and look at things his or her own way, and that it was impossible to change someone’s opinion by mere words.
What a peace-giving discovery: people are different, and that’s okay. May God save us from the tyranny of mere words.