Literature Study GuidesWar And PeaceVol 2 Part 3 Chapters 11 19 Summary

War and Peace | Study Guide

Leo Tolstoy

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War and Peace | Vol. 2, Part 3, Chapters 11–19 | Summary

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Summary

After spending two years in the country, the Rostovs come to Petersburg because the family is having financial difficulties, and the elder Count Rostov hopes to get a government position in the capital. Berg proposes to Vera (Chapter 11) and marries her after the count provides part of her dowry. In 1809 Natasha is 16, and Boris begins visiting the Rostovs again (Chapter 12). He has not seen Natasha in close to four years. Despite his desire to put to rest the old romance, he finds himself drawn to Natasha. In Chapter 13 the countess tells Natasha that she must stop encouraging Boris because she cannot marry him and she doesn't love him anyway. The countess speaks to Boris the next day, and he stops visiting.

Chapter 14 opens with the Rostovs preparing for a grand New Year's Eve ball to usher in 1810. The ball will be attended by Tsar Alexander and the diplomatic corps and is the first such event for Natasha and Sonya. Everyone is in attendance, including the Bezhukovs and Prince Andrei (Chapter 15). When Tsar Alexander comes in, everyone makes way (Chapter 16). As the dancing begins, Natasha fears she will be left without a partner because no one knows her in Petersburg. However Pierre suggests to Andrei that he ask Natasha to dance. The two dance well together, and Andrei feels delight in Natasha's freshness and loveliness. After Natasha is seen with Andrei, she has a continuous stream of partners (Chapter 17). When Andrei dances with Natasha again, he reminds her of their first meeting in the country and confesses that he overheard her when she couldn't fall asleep because of her admiration of the night. At the end of the evening, Count Rostov invites Prince Andrei to his house in Petersburg.

In Chapter 18 Andrei has been invited to dinner at Speransky's. When the prince arrives, he is surprised to find that the man he admired so much now seems unattractive. Speransky and his friends are disparaging various people in government service for everyone's amusement. After Andrei gets home, he thinks about the work he has been doing for the past four months and judges it a waste of time. In Chapter 19 Andrei visits the Rostovs, and he finds the family to be "wonderful, simple, and kind people." He continues to be enchanted by Natasha, and he feels like weeping when he hears her sing. When he returns home, he is not yet aware that he is in love, only that he now believes in the possibility of happiness.

Analysis

Count Rostov is a provincial by the measure of Petersburg society and is unlikely to get a government post to relieve the family's cash flow problem. The Rostovs are able to settle their daughter Vera with Berg after the count scrapes together a portion of the dowry and gives a promissory note for the rest. The Rostovs are happy to marry Vera to Berg, even though he is not a great match with regard to rank, because they can't afford to be choosy. Their finances are in an impossible disarray, so Vera has a small dowry. Besides she is getting to the point where she will be beyond a marriageable age (she's 24). And Berg has loved Vera for a long time. Nonetheless the family feels "ashamed that they loved Vera so little and were now so eager to get her off their hands."

Boris has intentions of marrying a rich girl and first comes to the Rostovs to make it clear that he cannot be held to a childhood promise. Instead he finds himself dallying with Natasha, who enchants all the men who cross her path. Both Vera and Natasha are beautiful, but Vera is stiff, bourgeois, and artificial, while Natasha is open, spontaneous, and full of life. For everyone's sake the countess discourages him so they can both get on with their lives. Natasha moves easily past Boris, looking forward to her first ball. When Andrei dances with her, he once again appreciates her liveliness, something he lacks. There is nothing pretentious or calculated about Natasha, and Andrei, who hates the shallow side of society, is particularly drawn to her for that reason.

When Andrei first met the Rostovs in the country, he found them annoying, but now that he is in love with the Rostov daughter, he focuses on their generosity and kindness. Andrei has a passionate heart, but he has put it on ice. The prince's dream of glory was shattered in the face of the realities of war, and fate deprived him of a chance to repair his relationship with "the little princess" who died in childbirth. To a large degree Andrei was simply marking time—putting one foot in front of the other—until he became aware of Natasha. Her fearlessness in embracing life has a profound effect on people around her, and Andrei is swept into the river of passion that defines her. Andrei feels like weeping when he hears Natasha's singing because it brings to the surface of his consciousness "the terrible opposition between something infinitely great and indefinable that was in him, and something narrow and fleshly that he himself, and even she, was." Natasha is the closest thing to the life force itself in a human body, which is why everyone, especially men, are drawn to her. Being with her is like sitting next to a hearth that warms the heart.

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