Predictability in Classics

The BBC has recently begun airing a dramatisation of War and Peace, an apparently epic and classic piece of literature, set in Russia during the Napoleonic Wars. I’ve never read the book or watched a film of it, so I decided to check it out.

Big mistake. Complete waste of an evening, in my opinion: A naive young bastard son of a nobleman (who happens to have socialist ideals) inherits his biological father’s vast wealth, while his best friend (who has a death wish) goes off to war. While his friend tries his best to get himself killed heroically, and another friend in the cavalry tries not to get killed, the young nobleman is inveigled into getting engaged to his cousin by the manipulations of his uncle (the cousin’s father) who was mostly written out of his much richer brother’s will in favour of the bastard.

Yawn, boring, predictable.

As I said, I have never read the book, never seen a film of it, never even read the TVTropesWiki page for it, and I did not see more than the first episode of the BBC dramatisation. So I’ve got nothing whatsoever to try and recall when I predict the plot:

Naive young socialist noble doesn’t have the confidence to tell his uncle where to get off, so he ends up marrying his cousin, and loses control of all his wealth to the uncle. Although he and his wife are allowed enough money to live in the aristocratic style, his dreams of wealth redistribution and socialist reform die a swift and painful death. His marriage is unhappy, and he spirals back into drink and debauchery, bringing his family into disrepute, and eventually commits suicide – possibly murdering his wife immediately beforehand. Thus leaving the evil uncle with all the money and land and mansions. The death-seeker, meanwhile, is, despite his best efforts, still alive. His friend in the cavalry, not so much. Anyway, Lt Deathwish returns to St Petersburg a hero (not too far ahead of the advance of Napoleon’s Grand Armée), to be fêted and fawned-over by the stay-at-homes. He finds out that his best friend is dead, finds out the circumstances, and decides to take revenge. He gets the evil uncle to turn over what’s left of the inherited wealth to another set of cousins (who liked and stood up for the proto-socialist) and his own family, then kills the uncle. He’s arrested for murder, and is executed by firing squad – pretty much the most dishonourable death he could have had. Then the French army gets too close to Moscow (where most of the inherited estates are) for comfort, so the city is evacuated and burned, rather than allowing it to fall into enemy hands. The things burned include the inherited estates, so Lt Deathwish’s plans for continue Lord Proto-Socialist’s plans disappear in a puff of smoke. All protagonists being dead, the story ends.

How the fuck Tolstoy got a doorstopper out of it, I don’t know. How did I do?


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