War and Peace

by: Leo Tolstoy

Platon Karataev

Characters Platon Karataev

Though Platon Karataev makes only a brief appearance in a few chapters of this immense novel, he has won an admiration from readers and critics that has endured from the publication of War and Peace through the Soviet period and up to the present day. One of the few peasants in the novel to whom Tolstoy gives deep, individualized characterization, Platon represents the author’s ideal of the simple, life-affirming philosophy of the Russian peasantry (Platon is the Russian name for Plato, the Greek philosopher). Platon lives in the moment, forgetful of the past and oblivious of the future, to the extent that he cannot even remember what he said a few minutes earlier. His affinity with animals, like the little dog accompanying the Russian political prisoners, suggests that he too lives by instinct rather than by reason. He spouts Russian proverbs that resound with wisdom. Overall, this characterization of an extraordinarily happy human being contrasts sharply with Pierre, who has been depressed and confused for dozens of chapters when he meets Platon. Platon thus appears as a kind of answer to Pierre’s long spiritual questionings, living proof that the human search for contentment can be a successful one.