Literature Study GuidesWar And PeaceVol 3 Part 3 Chapters 24 29 Summary

War and Peace | Study Guide

Leo Tolstoy

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War and Peace | Vol. 3, Part 3, Chapters 24–29 | Summary

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Summary

In Chapter 24 Rastopchin is angry for being left out of the decision-making loop by Kutuzov, who then adds insult to injury by asking for a police escort for the retreating troops who must go through the city. The egotistical Rastopchin feels marginalized, and once he learns he has no city left to govern, makes a lot of reckless decisions. In Chapter 25 a gang of people (the mob in Chapter 23) demands to see him, claiming they have orders from him to fight the French. To divert the angry crowd's attention, Rastopchin brings Vereshchagin out, saying he is responsible for the fall of Moscow and directs them to beat him. The crowd essentially tears Vereshchagin apart and kills him.

When the French arrive, they are tired and hungry and set up headquarters in the Kremlin (Chapter 26). The commander forbids the soldiers to loot or perpetrate violence. Nonetheless they loot, tempted by the riches of the empty city. The narrator speculates that Moscow is eventually burned down because property owners had left their wooden structures behind, and with no one there to care for them except for a careless, occupying army, it was inevitable that the city would be destroyed.

Pierre is still in Bazdeev's house and tottering on the edge of a mental breakdown (Chapter 27). He returns to his earlier thoughts about a mystical connection between his name and Bonaparte's and how he is destined to stop him. His original idea of defending the city has morphed into a plan to assassinate Napoleon. As the French occupy the city, an officer comes into Bazdeev's home (Chapter 28). Just then Bazdeev's mad brother comes out with the pistol and tries to shoot him, and Pierre takes the gun away, saving the officer's life. Pierre then attempts to leave, but the officer asks him to stay and the two of them become friends (Chapter 29). They have dinner and talk about women, and Pierre confesses a long-standing love for Natasha.

Analysis

Rastopchin is the worst kind of leader: a man who goes into politics or government simply to feel like a "big shot" and have people show him respect and deference. He has worked very hard, using his poster propaganda campaign to make people think that the army will save Moscow, even long after it is apparent that this is not going to happen. He has no remorse about lying to people to get what he wants. He is outraged that Kutuzov is abandoning Moscow, less because he feels for the citizens, but more because it is his city, and he is losing his domain. When he gets the notice from Kutuzov about the retreat, he spitefully relinquishes responsibility, making reckless decisions such as letting out all the prisoners and madmen who are incarcerated. When he feels some danger to himself because the mob has come to him for an accounting, he doesn't think twice about throwing an innocent victim—somebody who may or may not even be guilty of sedition—into the hungry maw of their rage.

Tolstoy also addresses the historical speculation about who burned Moscow. Was it the French or the Russians? Certainly the Russians had begun using a "scorched earth" policy as they retreated. And it was not uncommon for enemy armies to destroy the cities they conquered. But what is more likely is that the city burned inadvertently, as a result of the combined actions of the French and the Russians.

Pierre experiences a temporary psychosis—a departure from reality—in which he thinks he is destined to kill Napoleon. This has been brought on by his war trauma, his feelings about Natasha, and his sadness as well as his isolation. It also makes him momentarily like Andrei, who earlier in the novel wanted to play a major part on the stage of world history and who forgot for a long time to pay attention to his private life. His confession to the French soldier about his love for Natasha is cathartic, allowing him to feel better and to see more clearly rather than diverting his feelings into an unrealistic fantasy of assassination. As is seen in Chapter 33, he becomes less interested in killing Napoleon.

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