Tolstoy likens the events of war to the precisely tuned workings of a mechanical clock. For example, in the days preceding the battle of Austerlitz, battle preparations tick down as inevitably as the motions of a clock, as if they’ve been set in motion long before. This image symbolizes Tolstoy’s belief that history unfolds according to the law of predetermination. Because events are the result of countless circumstances coming together over time, historians can’t isolate singular causes and must resort to predetermination, or the law of necessity, to explain events.
Clock Quotes in War and Peace
As in a clock the result of the complex movement of numberless wheels and pulleys is merely the slow and measured movement of the hands pointing to the time, so also the result of all the complex human movements of these hundred and sixty thousand Russians and French—all the passions, desires, regrets, humiliations, sufferings, bursts of pride, fear, rapture—was merely the loss of the battle of Austerlitz, the so-called battle of the three emperors, that is, a slow movement of the world-historical hand on the clockface of human history.