Literature Study GuidesWar And PeaceVol 3 Part 2 Chapters 6 14 Summary

War and Peace | Study Guide

Leo Tolstoy

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War and Peace | Vol. 3, Part 2, Chapters 6–14 | Summary



In Chapter 6 the narrator observes that some things in life remain the same, even as the world changes. Such is the case with the Petersburg salons, particularly Anna Pavlovna's and Hélène Bezukhov's. The salons differ somewhat in their political outlook, with Anna Pavlovna's being strongly anti-Napoleon and anti-French, while Hélène's people admire Napoleon and have regret about the rupture with France. An important topic of conversation in the salons in August is a change in leadership; even though Alexander doesn't like him, Kutuzov is once again put in charge of the army by a war committee.

The troops under Kutuzov continue to retreat, even as the French make repeated efforts to engage them in battle (Chapter 7). Prince Nikolai and Marya have gone to Bogucharovo after the old man has a stroke (Chapter 8). He initially refused to leave Bald Hills and criticized Marya for staying behind with him. When the French approach Bogucharovo, Marya again makes preparations to leave with her father. As she keeps vigil in the room next to him, she thinks about how scared she is to lose him and how much he loves her, since she does have fond memories. At the same time she thinks about how free she will be when he dies, although she is horrified by this thought. The next day the prince has a lucid period and asks for Marya. Although she didn't know it, he'd been calling her all night. He then says tearfully, "Thank you ... daughter, dear friend ... for everything, everything ... forgive me." Not long afterward, the prince has another stroke and dies, and his wake and burial further delay the household's departure.

After the burial Marya is prevented from leaving by the Bogucharovo peasants, who have determined that everyone must remain in place and, thus, hold her hostage (Chapters 9–12). These peasants have been in discussion with the French, who promise to pay for supplies. Marya is horrified by the idea that she would welcome the French. She addresses the peasants and invites them to come with her to Moscow, but they would rather throw their lot in with the French, who have started distributing counterfeit rubles. After the peasants turn her down, Marya spends the night thinking about her father and how he had called her "dear heart" on the day he died.

On August 17 Nikolai Rostov is out for a ride and happens upon the estate, since his regiment is camped near Bogucharovo (Chapter 13). Alpatych and two servants come out to meet him and ask for his help, inviting him back to the manor on Marya's behalf. When Nikolai gets there and learns that the peasants are in rebellion, he immediately demands to speak to them and the headman Dron, whom he intimidates sufficiently so that the peasants bring the carts and load the household's belongings (Chapter 14). Both Marya and Nikolai make a favorable impression on each other. Later Marya thinks she may be in love, and it crosses Rostov's mind that she would be a perfect match for him, although he also thinks about his promise to Sonya.


Hélène's salon is sympathetic to the French since she made connections among the French aristocracy when she was abroad during her first separation from Pierre. In addition the Russian aristocracy had been following the French for at least a century, so some of them are still hoping that the Russians and the French can be reconciled. And, of course, Hélène and her followers represent the "Frenchified" Russians who have embraced continental culture and scorned their native roots.

Prince Nikolai gets Andrei's second message to evacuate, but he doesn't want to, and even though he orders his daughter to leave, she does an unusual thing by disobeying him and staying behind. It is a good thing she does because when he has a stroke, she is there to help him and takes him to Andrei's estate. The abuse he pours on Marya's head is partially caused by his dementia and partially a result of their extreme interdependence. The old prince takes out his frustration about losing his faculties and the ability to control things on Marya. Like many people the prince is cruelest to the people whom he loves the most, and the dementia is exacerbating his cruel behavior. On her side Marya is tortured by her own longings to be free of him, and she feels terribly guilty about them. But it is quite natural for people to have such feelings when they have been taking care of a sick person for a long time, especially if the ill individual is abusive.

Marya is reluctant to go into her father's room because he told her to stay away, so it is tragic that he was calling for her at the end. He wishes to make things right between them and verbalize his true feelings, and before he dies he lets her know how much he loves her. Marya already knows this, but it is something she needs to hear and the words are healing. Oftentimes it is easier to forgive cruel and abusive behavior from a parent or a sibling than from a spouse, perhaps because those bonds are harder to dissolve than the ones made through romantic coupling, before a new family is created.

The peasants at Andrei's estate are more independent than the average serf, especially since Andrei's reforms. Of course the French want the peasants to stay because they need food and quarters. They lie to the peasants about paying for what they need, since Napoleon is in the habit of distributing false currency to local populations; the narrator notes that one of the peasants brought fake hundred ruble notes back from the French. But the rebellion of the peasants points to something important: wars are fought primarily for the benefit of the wealthy and the powerful, and they have the greatest stake in the outcome. The peasants on Andrei's estate do not have a strong reason to side with their countrymen. They have less of a slave mentality than the average serf, and there is not a lot of benefit for them in acting patriotically. Many peasants, however, had no choice but to fight in the war, since they were sent by their masters as foot soldiers.

The fact that Nikolai comes to Marya's rescue, as Pierre came to Natasha's rescue, is a perfect foundation for an attachment on both sides. Moreover Marya is exactly the kind of heiress who will satisfy Nikolai's mother. But while Marya feels free to entertain her feelings about Nikolai, he stops himself, remembering his pledge to Sonya.

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