Literature Study GuidesWar And PeaceVol 2 Part 2 Chapters 8 14 Summary

War and Peace | Study Guide

Leo Tolstoy

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War and Peace | Vol. 2, Part 2, Chapters 8–14 | Summary

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Summary

After Prince Andrei returns home, his father gives him his share of the inheritance—Bogucharovo—a large estate about 30 miles from Bald Hills, where Andrei now spends most of his time (Chapter 8). At Bald Hills Prince Nikolai is carrying out his duties as one of the newly appointed commanders of the provincial militias, and Marya is occupied with raising baby Nikolai. To avoid going back to the front, Prince Andrei takes a post recruiting for the militia under his father's command. In February 1807 Andrei is at Bald Hills with his sister, keeping watch with baby Nikolai, who is very ill. While he is there, Andrei gets an amusing letter from his friend Bilibin, now in a diplomatic post at the front (Chapter 9). Bilibin writes in French but describes "the whole campaign with an exclusively Russian fearlessness of self-condemnation and self-derision." He complains about the Russians defending the Prussians, who have three times betrayed them, and that the war is not going well. He makes fun of two generals who are so busy fighting each other for a predominant position that they neglect fighting Napoleon. The troops lack supplies and have been plundering the countryside as a result. Andrei is angry with himself that, upon reading this letter, he feels excited to hear about the war. After baby Nikolai's fever breaks and he is out of danger, Andrei thinks, "this is the one thing left to me now."

In the same time period, Pierre is visiting Kiev. He calls his stewards together because he wants to free the serfs and build schools and hospitals in each village (Chapter 10). But Pierre has neither the expertise nor the will to understand how his land is managed. Thus the chief steward successfully pretends to do what Pierre asks and continues to rob him while exploiting the peasants. After he leaves Kiev in the spring, Pierre stops to visit his best friend, Andrei (Chapter 11). Pierre shares his new idealism and desire to live for others. Andrei, on the other hand, says that he tried to live for others in his quest for glory, but now he is at peace, living only for himself. The friends continue their conversation (Chapter 12), and Pierre tells Andrei, "we must believe ... that we do not live only today on this scrap of earth, but have lived and will live eternally there, in the all," as he points toward the sky. Something awakens again in Andrei, the narrator says, as a result of Pierre's words, and he feels the same joy he felt on the battlefield when he looked at the "high, eternal sky."

In Chapters 13–14 Prince Andrei and Pierre visit Bald Hills and find Princess Marya with her "people of God," wandering Russian mendicants who practice an austere version of orthodox Christianity. When Pierre departs Bald Hills, he feels appreciation for "the strength and charm of his friendship with Prince Andrei," which also includes the Prince's family circle.

Analysis

Andrei chooses to move to Bogucharovo to separate himself from the painful memories of his wife's death and also to put some distance between himself and his overbearing father. Russia is still at war with France and is now fighting in Prussia, which is why it is necessary to organize countryside militias and conscript (draft) a certain number of serfs. The tsar has called Prince Nikolai out of retirement to help with this task, and Andrei, who is expected to serve in some capacity, helps his father with recruitment. Andrei is deeply disillusioned by his experiences of war because he has witnessed how it is chaotic, random, mostly mismanaged, and riddled with corruption.

The letter Andrei receives from Bilibin describes the ugly face of war: the pettiness of the commanders who put men's lives at risk for their own self-aggrandizement; the ways in which the troops are neglected; the pillaging that soldiers inflict on civilian populations. During wartime it was customary for troops to be billeted by the local population, and civilians were expected to partially support them, especially when fighting men were away from supply lines. But the mayhem that Bilibin describes far exceeds the norm. Andrei also is affected by the spiritual realization on the battlefield that penetrated him to the core—an apprehension of the futility of man's ambition against the background of the immensity of life. But this new knowledge is incomplete because it has left him brokenhearted. Nevertheless when he gets the letter from Bilibin, against his will he feels the old excitement for the war returning, even as he reads about mismanagement, chaos, and abuse. But his path lies in another direction. Sorry to have treated his wife badly, Andrei recommits to his family and believes that the care of his son is the most important thing he can do.

Pierre has also undergone a transformation, albeit a superficial one. He feels newly baptized in his embrace of the Masons. He takes very much to heart the admonishments of Bazdeev to practice an active form of Christianity. This is why he wishes to free the serfs, the peasant slaves attached to the land of aristocrats. Pierre knows that serfs are worked too hard and are not provided with education or medical care. He wants to help mankind, but he also wants to live an easy life. His commitment to change the status quo is not strong enough for him to discipline himself so that he can manage his own estates, which are currently in the hands of corrupt overseers. So Pierre settles for the appearance of reform. Tolstoy seems to be suggesting that even moments of great spiritual enlightenment require commitment and follow-through: Andrei has learned to value family above glory but still must fight his inherent attraction to the excitement of battle, and Pierre wishes to do good but is not responsible enough to make sure it is being done. Nonetheless he brings his gospel of service to Andrei, and although his friend argues with him, he is actually moved by Pierre's words, which partially nudge him out of his cynicism, and, Tolstoy implies, will mark a new beginning for him: "something long asleep, something that was best in him, suddenly awakened joyful and young in his soul."

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