Literature Study GuidesWar And PeaceVol 1 Part 1 Chapters 22 25 Summary

War and Peace | Study Guide

Leo Tolstoy

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War and Peace | Vol. 1, Part 1, Chapters 22–25 | Summary

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Summary

In Chapter 22 the action moves to Bald Hills, the estate of Prince Nikolai Bolkonsky, Prince Andrei's father, who lives with his devoted daughter Marya and her French companion Mlle (Mademoiselle) Bourienne. The family is expecting Prince Andrei and his wife; she will live with them while he is at war. The elder Bolkonsky is an eccentric taskmaster who conducts all his activities according to a strict schedule. He is retired from government and military service. Though he loves and depends on his daughter Marya and has taught her since childhood, he verbally abuses and intimidates her. She patiently and lovingly puts up with him, finding consolation in devout religious practice. Marya also corresponds regularly with her best friend in Moscow, Julie Karagin. Julie keeps her up to date on the latest doings among the aristocracy.

Prince Andrei arrives in Chapter 23 and tells his father about the coming war, in which the Russians and Austrians plan to fight Napoleon all the way to Italy. Father and son continue this discussion over dinner in Chapter 24, and Prince Andrei takes leave of his family in Chapter 25. When the siblings are alone, Andrei says Prince Nikolai is too hard on Marya, but she admonishes, "Is it possible to judge one's father?" When Andrei is alone with his father, the old man commends his decision to serve and gives him a letter of introduction to Mikhail Ilarionovich Kutuzov, his friend and head of the army. The elder Bolkonsky is grieved to part from his son but covers it up. When Andrei says goodbye to his wife, she faints and he leaves before she recovers.

Analysis

The Bolkonsky clan is a mixture of honor, integrity, intellectuality, and dysfunction. Both the prince and his two children have high moral standards and moral courage. Prince Nikolai has served faithfully in the army and civil service and is highly respected, which is why he can send his son to General Kutuzov with a letter of introduction. He has brought up his children without superstition (he is not devout) and has educated them. Although old and retired, he still works hard. Prince Andrei is following his father into service. Like his father, he rejects the frivolous life of the aristocratic class and is disgusted with Petersburg.

Marya is a devoted daughter with strong religious beliefs, and she is kind and self-sacrificing. While both Marya and Natasha are the two exemplars of Russian women, they are very different. Marya is ruled by her father and religious belief, while Natasha is a free spirit. Like Pierre and Andrei, these two major female characters are on a journey toward self-knowledge. As the novel progresses, Marya learns to balance her tendency to put others' needs ahead of her own and reach out for what she needs for her own happiness. Natasha also changes and learns to rein in the impetuous and mercurial aspect of her nature as she grows into a responsible woman.

Prince Nikolai is one of those people who cannot contain his emotion and, therefore, vents his rage on those who are closest to him. He cannot show his affection to Marya or Andrei, and when his son is ready to leave, he practically throws him out of the house. Andrei also has trouble expressing his feelings and like his father can be cold and judgmental. He has decided his wife is shallow and worthless and so does not treat her kindly. When she faints, he turns to leave and doesn't look back. Mayra's dysfunction manifests in a masochistic acceptance of her father's abuse and will remain imprisoned by her relationship with her father until he dies.

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