Literature Study GuidesWar And PeaceVol 3 Part 1 Chapters 8 15 Summary

War and Peace | Study Guide

Leo Tolstoy

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War and Peace | Vol. 3, Part 1, Chapters 8–15 | Summary



In Chapter 8 Prince Andrei leaves Moscow for Petersburg. He is looking for Anatole and plans to provoke a quarrel with him and kill him in a duel. Although Andrei misses Kuragin, he runs into General Kutuzov, who wants him to join him in Turkey. Kutuzov has been appointed commander-in-chief of the army in Moldavia. Andrei immediately agrees, since Anatole has gone to Turkey, but he misses him again. Natasha's betrayal takes a toll on Andrei, and life feels like a burden to him. When war breaks out, he asks Kutuzov for a transfer to the Western Army. Andrei first stops at Bald Hills and sees that Mlle Bourienne is coming between father and daughter, and when Andrei speaks to Prince Nikolai about it, he gets angry and they part on bad terms.

Andrei arrives at general headquarters in June (Chapter 9). The army has been divided into three parts, with three commanders. The narrator describes several "parties" of people who have conflicting ideas about how to fight the French and disparate agendas regarding the upcoming war.

In Chapters 10–11 Alexander asks to see Andrei and then invites him to sit in on an advisory council meeting. Numerous generals are arguing heatedly about strategy, and the debate deteriorates into shouting and name-calling. Andrei begins having his old thoughts—that there can be no such thing as military science when there are so many unknown variables and conditions are constantly changing. The next day Alexander asks him where he wants to serve, and Andrei requests a return to the army, closing the door to a career at court.

In another part of the front, Nikolai Rostov receives a letter from his parents about Natasha's broken engagement and another plea that he resign from service (Chapter 12). Nikolai has no intention of coming home now that war has broken out. He has been promoted to captain and his regiment moved to Poland. The troops, including Nikolai's hussar regiment, retreated from Vilno and have not yet seen action (Chapters 12–13). Nikolai and his squadron are camped in a rye field, awaiting orders.

In Chapter 14 the men march, and the battle-hardened Nikolai no longer feels fear because "he had learned to control his soul in the face of danger." The uhlans (cavalry with lances) are ordered to attack the French, and the hussars to cover the battery (Chapter 15). Soon the French dragoons (armed cavalry) are chasing the uhlans, and Nikolai sees an opportunity to charge, doing so almost instinctively, with his men following him. The French begin running away, and he runs down a French officer. When he cuts his arm and falls off his horse, he sees an enemy soldier at close range, seeing his fear and "simple, homelike face." The man surrenders, and the hussars take him and others prisoners. Suddenly Nikolai feels confused and thinks, "So that's all there is to so-called heroism? ... And what harm had he done, with his dimple and his light blue eyes?" After this action, Nikolai is promoted again and given his own battalion.


Andrei attempts to hide how deeply he has been affected by Natasha's betrayal, but it is evident in the way he attempts to hunt down Anatole. His strong sense of honor, however, requires that he provoke him first, so that his punishment cannot be tied to the Rostovs. Although he is sidetracked by the war, Andrei has every intention of eventually evening the score with Kuragin.

Andrei once again feels dead inside but, driven by duty and a need to occupy his mind, he rejoins the military. Mentally and spiritually he is very far away from his earlier apprehensions about the infinite sky, which has metaphorically turned into "a low, definite, oppressive vault, in which everything was clear and nothing was eternal or mysterious." When he gets an opportunity to hear the leaders of Russia's military arguing about strategy, he is struck by their naïveté in thinking there is such a thing as military genius that can determine the best course of action. Andrei's feelings about military science mirror the book's larger philosophical argument about how there are too many complicated variables and individual actions in any situation to accurately determine what has happened.

Despite his understanding that it is not possible to organize the chaos of war, he is ready to participate at the front and does not mind losing favor at court. Andrei has nothing left to lose except his life, which he is more than willing to put at risk in fighting against the invaders of his country. Thus he is assigned to lead his own fighting regiment. For Andrei joining the military again is a symptom of moral defeat: while his love for Natasha awakened the desire to offer his ideas to help the world, her loss triggers his disillusionment with political action. As a result he has no desire to participate in courtly or political life, but his lifelong sense of duty spurs him to offer his services to his country in its time of greatest need.

As he has done before, Tolstoy juxtaposes Andrei's experiences and realizations with Nikolai Rostov's. Nikolai had intended to leave the military and marry, but now it is not possible for him to abandon his military brothers. Moreover as a dedicated soldier he must defend "the fatherland." Chapter 15 describes Nikolai leading a brave charge against the French that earns him another promotion. But just as he was forced to face some uncomfortable questions earlier when he could not help his friend Denisov with a petition to Alexander, he is again thrown off balance when he sees his enemy up close and personal. The Frenchman he captures is only a frightened young man, with his own hopes and dreams and backstory. Nikolai cannot help thinking that, from one perspective, no good reason exists to harm him. In this scene Tolstoy reminds the reader that, in the final analysis, real flesh-and-blood men are the instruments of war, which is why war is immoral—it kills people.

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