Literature Study GuidesWar And PeaceVol 3 Part 2 Chapters 15 18 Summary

War and Peace | Study Guide

Leo Tolstoy

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War and Peace | Vol. 3, Part 2, Chapters 15–18 | Summary



General Kutuzov has ordered Prince Andrei to report to headquarters (Chapter 15). Kutuzov and Andrei talk about Prince Nikolai's passing, and the general says he'd like Andrei to serve again as his adjutant (Chapter 16). Andrei respectfully declines, saying he would rather stay in the field with his men. When the two men discuss the retreat, Andrei asks the general if the troops won't have to accept battle. Kutuzov responds, "We'll have to if everybody wants it ... And yet ... there's nothing stronger than those two warriors, patience and time."

As the French get closer to Moscow, the military governor of the city, Rastopchin, issues briefs to the populace in the form of posters, which actually contain no reliable information (Chapter 17). People are beginning to leave the city. At a farewell dinner party at Julie Drubetskoy's, the hostess asks Pierre why the Rostovs haven't left for the country. She makes a snide remark about how easily some people "get over things," and Pierre quickly shuts down this conversation thread alluding to Natasha. He says the Rostovs are waiting to see Petya, who has been transferred to Pierre's regiment. Julie tells Pierre she's seen Marya and speaks with jocularity about the encounter between Marya and Nikolai Rostov, calling it a "romance." When Pierre gets home, he looks at Rastopchin's propaganda posters, trying to discern the truth underneath the lies so he can figure out what to do (Chapter 18). He gives the order for the members of his household to leave for Petersburg, gives his steward permission to sell one of the estates to finance his regiment, and decides to join the troops stationed in Mozhaisk, not far from Moscow. He feels the great happiness that at times accompanies self–sacrifice.


Kutuzov has fond feelings for Andrei that began with his friendship with Andrei's father and grew as he witnessed the young man's intelligence and bravery in the Russians' last encounter with the French. However he respects his decision to stay with his regiment, since he needs good men in the field. Kutuzov is being urged on all sides to prepare for an engagement with the French, but his strategy is to conserve his troops and use time and circumstance to his advantage.

In Moscow things are becoming chaotic, and since the governor wants people to stay in the city, he tells them that Napoleon will never reach Moscow, which is clearly untrue. Julie Drubetskoy, the former Julie Karagin and Marya's so-called best friend, is revealed to be a shallow and catty woman. First she brings up the Rostovs, alluding to Natasha's aborted elopement and her break with Prince Andrei, implying that Natasha is shallow and frivolous. Pierre shuts her down for that reason, but mostly because he continues to use "plausible deniability" to protect Natasha's reputation. Julie also makes a snide remark about Marya. No doubt Marya confided in her friend about what happened at Bogucharovo and perhaps told Julie she had an attraction to Nikolai; now Julie is turning that information into a conversation tidbit at her farewell party.

The reader must now realize that Julie was never a true friend to Marya and, like Mlle Bourienne, had little respect for her. Marya has alienated Natasha, the one person in the novel with whom she might have had a genuine friendship. Just as Anna Mikhailovna (the mother of Boris) distanced herself from the Rostovs once her son began to rise in the social world and advance in his career, so Julie has distanced herself from Marya now that she is rich and married. Marya's fair-weather friends are an all-too-common experience for girls and women, especially when society values the bonds between men and men and between men and women but not between women and women. Such is the case in the patriarchal society of War and Peace. Sonya and Natasha have a sisterly bond, but it diminishes after Natasha gets married and Sonya stays behind in Nikolai's household. Natasha and Marya will eventually bond, connected by their love for the same man.

Pierre has yet to find his role in the new war. Although he has donated a lot of money to the war effort—by equipping a regiment—he still feels the need to do more. Thus once his household evacuates, he decides to go to the army, although he is not entirely certain what he will do once he gets there. He is still waiting for a breakthrough of some kind, and the war offers the possibility, not only of a change of venue but a change of perspective.

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