Literature Study GuidesWar And PeaceVol 1 Part 3 Chapters 6 12 Summary

War and Peace | Study Guide

Leo Tolstoy

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War and Peace | Vol. 1, Part 3, Chapters 6–12 | Summary



In Chapter 6 the Rostovs receive news of Nikolai, rejoicing to find out that, although he has been wounded, he is doing well and is now a commissioned officer. The family responds with personal letters, a letter of recommendation to Prince Bagration, and 6,000 rubles for his expenses. The letter, obtained with help from Anna Mikhailovna, will get him on staff, but Nikolai throws it away.

Chapter 7 returns to the battlefront. Nikolai is camped with the rest of the army near Olmütz when he gets a note from Boris to visit him where the guards are camped so he can get his money. Nikolai reunites with Boris and Berg, who have been traveling with the grand duke, and when they ask him about his battle experience, he tells them a heroic war story instead of the truth: that he fell off a horse, dislocated his shoulder, and ran from a Frenchman. In the middle of his account, Prince Andrei walks in, looking for Boris. Andrei shows his disdain for Nikolai's arrogant behavior, and after they have a minor spat, Andrei leaves.

In Chapter 8 the Russian and Austrian emperors review the troops, and Nikolai is overwhelmed with feelings of hero worship for Tsar Alexander, feeling that he would be happy to sacrifice his life at the tsar's request. Boris, like Berg, is cultivating his friendship with Andrei (Chapter 9), who is more than happy to mentor him. When Boris finds Andrei later, the prince makes a general wait while he talks to Boris. Suddenly Boris realizes there is a visible and invisible hierarchy of subordination—military rank and actual importance are not the same thing—and this insight will serve him well. Andrei takes Boris to see an influential friend, and they learn that against the advice of Kutuzov the war council has decided to "go on the offensive immediately and give general battle to Bonaparte."

In Chapter 10 the Russians capture a French squadron and think the French are retreating. The next day (Chapter 11) Napoleon tries to arrange a meeting with Alexander, who sends an emissary, Prince Dolgorukov. The prince has the impression that Napoleon is afraid to fight a general battle. At a second war council (Chapter 12), General Weyrother lays out his plan of attack. Prince Andrei has an alternative plan, but Kutuzov, who is apparently sleeping in his chair, suddenly wakes and cuts him off, saying everything has been decided, so it's best to simply get a good night's sleep. On the eve of the battle, Andrei wonders why Kutuzov was not able to speak directly to Alexander and whether, because of "court and personal considerations, tens of thousands of lives must be risked." Then he fantasizes that he leads a great victory, finally admitting to himself, "if I want this, want glory, want to be known to people, want to be loved by them, it's not my fault that I want it, that it's the only thing I want, the only thing I live for."


The three young men from Moscow are taking alternative paths. Nikolai chooses the path of the warrior and deliberately refuses help from family or friends, since he wants to get ahead on his own merit and stay close to the fighting. He has fallen in love with his sovereign, Tsar Alexander, who symbolizes for him all honor and manly beauty and everything worth fighting and dying for. Berg and Boris, on the other hand, want to make a brilliant career in the military, stay out of the fighting as much as possible, and become adjutants to prominent leaders. Both young men hope Andrei can help them advance.

When Nikolai's friends ask him about his first battle experience, although he is a truthful person, he necessarily lies because if he were honest, they would not have believed him or would have thought he was at fault. The narrator further explains that all the stories these young men have heard so far were also distorted or exaggerated, and a real account would pale by comparison or seem to be distorted. In other words, young men who first experience battle don't want to admit that they were frightened and ran away, for example, or acted stupidly in the first flush of battle, forgetting all their training. They don't want to admit that the actual killing of the enemy is a chaotic and unorganized affair, in which it is hard to know who is in charge or what is to be done. And since there is an unspoken rule about telling the truth about war, men lie about their exploits, and Nikolai is following suit. Andrei, who has been in battle, knows Nikolai is lying, which is why he mocks him silently. In response Nikolai makes a snide remark about people on staff who never actively participate in battle, but the quarrel fizzles out.

General Kutuzov is a seasoned soldier who knows the wisdom of patience and the folly of excessive zeal. He wants to wait out the French, but the young men around the tsar are eager for battle. "[I]n war the energy of young men often points to a surer way than all the experience of old cunctators [delayers]," Dolgorukov tells Prince Andrei. Kutuzov also knows it is useless to argue, since Weyrother's plan has already been decided on. Andrei isn't sure whether Kutuzov or Weyrother is right. He is shocked by his own state of mind when he realizes how greedy he is for glory. Nonetheless he accepts this aspect of his character, which shows that he is capable of self-examination and self-acceptance. He is not ashamed of his feelings because his impulse for glory will, in his mind, provide something positive for the greater good—meaning that he believes his sacrifices will not be wasted.

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