Literature Study GuidesWar And PeaceVol 2 Part 3 Chapters 7 10 Summary

War and Peace | Study Guide

Leo Tolstoy

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War and Peace | Vol. 2, Part 3, Chapters 7–10 | Summary



Chapter 7 begins with a flashback to 1808, when Pierre inadvertently becomes the leading Mason in Petersburg. This happens because he begins organizing member events, setting up charities, and donating a lot of money to the group. Nonetheless he is still overeating, drinking, and carousing. He grows disillusioned by his own behavior as well as that of fellow Masons—rich men who default on their pledges for charity and new members who join only to connect with the rich and powerful. What he had hoped would be an uncorrupted, spiritually rewarding path turns out to be as filled with ambition and greed. Pierre decides to go abroad to receive a deeper initiation. When he returns to Petersburg in the summer of 1809, he gives a speech to his brother Masons that has political overtones but is poorly received. Reprimanded by the grandmaster, Pierre is disheartened.

In Chapter 8 Pierre receives a letter from his wife saying she would like to reconcile. Pierre gets additional pressure from the Masons as well as his in-laws to soften his stance toward Hélène, and he moves back in with his wife. Wishing to live by the precepts of his philosophy, he resolves to put the past behind him.

When Hélène was abroad, she made a wide acquaintance among the aristocracy, especially the French (Chapter 9). Upon her return to Petersburg, she begins her own salon and receives men from the French embassy as well as other intellectuals. To protect himself Pierre does not resume sexual relations with his wife and chooses not to suspect her of misconduct. He still thinks she is stupid and is surprised when people at her soirées and dinners refer to her as charming and witty as well as beautiful. Meanwhile most people think Pierre is the "ridiculous husband of a famous wife."

On the advice of his spiritual teacher, Bazdeev, whom he visits in Moscow, Pierre begins writing in a diary as part of his work to perfect his character. Chapter 10 includes several of his entries, which reveal how he tries to overcome his vices. For example, he has helped Boris gain admittance into the Masons, but he fights against his feelings of hatred toward Drubetskoy. Pierre prays for help to "tear off the dogs—my passions."


Pierre expects the Masons to be his spiritual and moral anchor in the world, but membership in the brotherhood cannot curb his prodigious appetites. He is disgusted by his own behaviors as well as the hypocrisy of the Masons. He is critical of members like Boris Drubetskoy, who join simply as a way of getting ahead in society or the government. Pierre doesn't question the tenets of Masonry; rather, he thinks that perhaps the Russians have taken a wrong path, which is why he goes abroad for further initiation. His message to the brothers when he returns is that the goals of Christianity as interpreted by the Masons must be accomplished as part of a political process, and of course, the last thing the Russian Masons want is a change in the status quo.

Despite his dissatisfaction with the Masons, Pierre continues with them and works harder to change, first by agreeing to a reconciliation with his wife as an act of Christian forgiveness, and second by recording his actions and his feelings so that he can "keep watch" over himself. Pierre records his hatred of Boris, based on Drubetskoy's close friendship with his wife and insincerity in becoming a Mason. Pierre uses the journal to see his character flaws more clearly and to pray for self-perfection. But Pierre still follows the directions and dictates of others, rather than creating his own path. He allows himself to be quashed when his criticisms of the Masons are badly received, and he moves back in with his wife even though he does not love her.

His mentor Bazdeev is a rarity among the Masons, and most of them have simply brought their aristocratic hunger for power and influence into what is supposed to be a spiritual enterprise. Pierre, on the other hand, is genuinely wrestling with his demons of lust, anger, hatred, and pride. But the community of Masons is merely a pretense of a community and cannot support anyone who genuinely wants to do spiritual work. Thus Pierre will eventually learn that they cannot help him and that he has to follow his own path. Only through suffering is transformation possible: this theme is demonstrated in the difficulties and hardships the characters go through, which allow them to learn, grow, and change. For Pierre the Masons are a stretch of highway on his road, and he will eventually move beyond them.

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