Literature Study GuidesWar And PeaceVol 1 Part 1 Chapters 7 17 Summary

War and Peace | Study Guide

Leo Tolstoy

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War and Peace | Vol. 1, Part 1, Chapters 7–17 | Summary



Anna Mikhailovna returns to her rich relations in Moscow in Chapter 7, where she and her son have lived for years. The Rostovs are celebrating the name day of the Natalyas in honor of both Countess Rostov and her youngest daughter, Natasha. Numerous guests have been coming and going all day, and gossip centers on the dying Count Bezukhov and his illegitimate son Pierre, who has been banned from Petersburg because of his rowdy behavior when carousing with Dolokhov and his friends. Although Prince Vassily is a direct heir to Bezukhov's enormous fortune, Pierre is the count's favorite and might inherit, according to Anna Mikhailovna.

The young people of the Rostov household are introduced in Chapters 8 and 9. Thirteen-year-old Natasha is a lively and daring child and a favorite with everyone. She and Boris, now an officer in the Semyonovksy regiment, have a mutual crush. Nikolai, the eldest child, has dropped out of school and joined the army as a noncommissioned officer. Sonya, an orphaned 15-year-old cousin who lives with the Rostovs, is in love with Nikolai. The youngest boy, Petya, is about seven, and the eldest girl, Vera, is 17. In Chapter 10 Nikolai reassures Sonya of his affection and kisses her, and Natasha kisses Boris, who says he will ask for her hand in four years.

In Chapter 11 Anna Mikhailovna confesses to the countess that she needs 500 rubles to equip her son for the guard; she decides to ask Bezukhov for help since he is Boris's godfather. In Chapter 12 mother and son reach Count Bezukhov's home and find the count's three nieces (princesses who live with him), Prince Vassily, and Pierre. Since leaving Petersburg, Pierre has been staying in his father's house. In Chapter 13 the reader learns that he helped tie a bear to a policeman and threw it in the river when he was carousing with Anatole and Dolokhov. The eldest princess does not allow Pierre to see his father and is not happy to see Anna Mikhailovna. Boris visits with Pierre and extends the Rostovs' invitation to the name-day dinner. When the Drubetskoys return home (Chapter 14), the countess, after asking her husband for money, gives Anna Mikhailovna the 500 rubles she needs for her son.

In Chapters 15–17 the guests assemble for dinner. Marya Dmitrievna, a frank and simple aristocrat who always speaks in Russian rather than French, is introduced, along with Berg, a Russian officer and love interest of Vera's. Sonya tells Natasha privately that Vera has warned her about encouraging Nikolai, and Natasha reassures her about Nikolai's loyalty. Natasha has an exceptional voice and sings with the other young people, and Count Rostov and Marya Dmitrievna impress everyone with a lively dance.


The Rostovs are the fifth of Tolstoy's families and, though far from perfect, are emblematic of the Russian soul as Tolstoy imagines it. The Russian soul is associated both with the values of the peasants, as idealized by writers like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, and is also tied to the archetype of Russian character unspoiled by westernization. Thus love of family, generosity, communal spirit, spontaneity, and strongly expressed emotion are all characteristics demonstrated by those with the Russian soul. The Rostovs are currently living in their usual extravagant style, hosting large, sumptuous dinners and supporting poor relations, although they are already in financial difficulty. Sonya is second cousin to the Rostov children but has been embraced by the Rostovs as another sibling. The Drubetskoys are friends and distant relations who have been living on the Rostovs' largesse for years.

The young Natasha Rostov, the primary heroine of the novel, is portrayed as a quintessential Russian woman—a vibrant and spontaneous child who will eventually metamorphose into a maternal archetype of beauty and strength. She is playful and funny, and she gets away with violating social rules because she is so charming. She has a large heart like her mother and comforts her cousin as she frets over Nikolai. Despite the Rostovs' generosity, a liaison between Nikolai and Sonya is bound to be problematic, since Sonya is penniless and Nikolai must marry a woman with money. This is why Vera scolds Sonya.

The Rostov commitment to community manifests in Nikolai as a passionate and patriotic desire to serve in the military. He joins as a junker, the lowest level of military officer for a nobleman. Nikolai is also someone who cannot hide his feelings. While Nikolai's face expresses "impetuousness and rapturousness" in a drawing room, Boris quickly gets "his bearings" and calmly tells a story.

The scene at the end of Chapter 17, in which the old count dances with an old family friend, is also emblematic of the largeness of the Russian soul. No one can take their eyes off the dancers, and the count says, "That's how people danced in our time," meaning in the time before westernization, before the aristocracy had taken on the polished and affected ways of the French.

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