Literature Study GuidesWar And PeaceVol 2 Part 4 Chapters 8 13 Summary

War and Peace | Study Guide

Leo Tolstoy

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War and Peace | Vol. 2, Part 4, Chapters 8–13 | Summary

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Summary

Count Rostov resigns his position as marshal of the nobility, which saves him a little money, but otherwise the Rostovs do not change their lavish lifestyle (Chapter 8). Countess Rostov decides that the solution to the family's financial woes is for Nikolai to marry a rich woman, and she has in mind Marya's friend Julie Karagin, an heiress now that her last brother has died. Nikolai asks his mother if he is permitted to love a dowerless girl, and she answers that she wants his happiness. News comes from Andrei, who has been delayed in Rome because his wound has opened; he will return after the New Year. Christmas finds Natasha depressed, and she tells her mother she wants Andrei "now, this minute" (Chapter 9). Natasha shares her dissatisfaction with Nikolai, and they begin philosophizing about the power of memory (Chapter 10). Natasha then sings for her mother with great power and emotion but is interrupted by Petya announcing that the mummers have arrived.

The mummers are servants in costume who treat the Rostovs to holiday songs, dances, and games. Soon all the young people dress up and join the mummers, and Nikolai suggests that they take the troikas (sleighs) with some of the servants and go out. The party visits a widow and her children, and when they arrive, Natasha helps the young people dress up (Chapter 11) and join the merriment. Sonya and Nikolai contrive a moment alone outdoors. Nikolai suddenly notices how pretty Sonya is in her cork mustache and dress-up. The two of them kiss, and Natasha arranges for Sonya and Nikolai to ride back together in the same sleigh (Chapter 12). Nikolai tells Natasha he has made up his mind about Sonya, and she is glad to finally hear it.

When the girls go to their room that evening, the servants have prepared mirrors and a candle for a last holiday game of fortune telling. Natasha wants to see Andrei but cannot bring herself to try. Sonya pretends to see him lying down in a happy mood, and then to see something blue and red. After Christmas Nikolai tells his mother that he has decided to marry Sonya (Chapter 13). His mother tells him she will never accept Sonya as her daughter-in-law and calls her an "intriguer." When Nikolai and the countess begin arguing, Natasha intervenes. Nikolai leaves for his regiment in January of 1811 with the intention of resigning and coming home to marry.

Analysis

Things are going from bad to worse for the Rostovs, and although the countess does not want her son to sacrifice himself for the family, she also wants to save her family from financial ruin. Her answer to Nikolai is, therefore, somewhat disingenuous, since his happiness may not be her primary concern. Natasha continues to pine for Andrei, and when her mother presses her to sing, the narrator says that "for a long time before and a long time after she did not sing as she sang that evening." The family is spellbound, and the old countess wells up in tears, saying, "I'm so afraid for her, so afraid!" Natasha's voice has the power to call forth a wide range of emotions and intuitions in the listener, and thus her mother knows her daughter will experience some heartache. Perhaps Natasha herself knows it as well—that her period of carefree happiness is coming to an end. That melancholy knowledge gives her singing particular power.

The sadness is lifted when the mummers arrive. It was customary for people to dress up during the holiday season and participate in games and pranks, and the young people get a reprieve from their cares when they join some of the servants on a yuletide call to a neighbor's house. The girls are dressed up like men, and both are sporting mustaches. There are two ways to interpret Nikolai's behavior. Perhaps his buried feelings for Sonya are awakened because she suddenly looks different, and he sees the beautiful girl that he fell in love with in younger days. As a dependent relative, Sonya has a subordinate place in the family, and everyone takes her for granted. Because she is so good natured and compliant, people hardly see her. But the dress-up has the effect of bringing her into focus. Or it could be that Nikolai unconsciously considers Sonya to be another sister, and it is only when she dresses up and seems unfamiliar that he is attracted to her.

When the girls get home, they play another game that was customary during the holiday season. A woman who wanted to see her future spouse would set up three mirrors with a candle in front of the main mirror to create a tunnel of successive images. The woman would then stare into the mirror until she saw something; if she saw a coffin, that was a bad omen. Sonya sees neither a man nor a coffin, neither Andrei nor Nikolai, but to appease her cousin she pretends to see Andrei. The author provides additional foreshadowing here, when Sonya sees Andrei lying down and then something blue and red (because Natasha has associated Pierre with blue and red when free-associating to her mother some chapters earlier (in Vol. 2, Part 3, Chapter 13).

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