Literature Study GuidesWar And PeaceVol 3 Part 3 Chapters 30 34 Summary

War and Peace | Study Guide

Leo Tolstoy

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War and Peace | Vol. 3, Part 3, Chapters 30–34 | Summary



The Rostov train, which includes some of the wounded, has stopped about 13 miles from Moscow (Chapter 30). On September 2 they see from a distance the first fires of Moscow burning. Sonya has now told Natasha that Andrei is traveling with them (Chapter 31). In the middle of the night, she sneaks into Andrei's room to see him. When he sees her "he smiled and gave her his hand." Andrei has been in and out of consciousness, but his realization of a divine love that pervades everything remains (Chapter 32). When he wakes up she is beside him, asking for forgiveness, and he declares that he loves her "more, better, than before." From then on she remains at Andrei's side, and the countess does not interfere, even when Andrei's doctor says it is likely he will "die in her daughter's arms during the journey."

Back in Moscow Pierre wakes up, half-heartedly remembers his intention to kill Napoleon, and quietly leaves Bazdeev's in his workman's disguise (Chapter 33). As Pierre surveys the burning city, he encounters a woman who asks him to help her save her child. The girl was accidentally left behind by the family after they evacuated a burning house. Pierre goes back to the fire and finds the child hiding under a bench, and he brings her to her mother. In Chapter 34 Pierre sees two French soldiers stealing boots from an Armenian man and sexually harassing his daughter, and he begins beating one of them. Soon he is seized by the French, who find a dagger on him. They immediately take him for an arsonist. When they ask him who he is, Pierre refuses to give his name, and he is taken to jail.


Sonya, ever the friend to her cousin Natasha, tells her that Andrei is among them. Natasha finally has a chance to beg for Andrei's forgiveness; moreover, she still loves him, so she is compelled to see him. While Andrei is gravely ill and in and out of awareness, the spiritual exaltation that began on the battlefield is still with him. He has never stopped loving Natasha, but now he understands her better because of his greater compassion. Once one person understands another and can put themselves in the other's place, it becomes difficult to remain judgmental. The upheaval of their lives, caused by the war and their distance from an aristocratic society that continually engages in deception and hypocritical judgment, allows both of them to see the other more clearly. The close presence of war puts things in perspective, and false pride is dwarfed before the enormity of death and destruction. Moreover the love that Andrei feels for Natasha is much larger than his previous feelings of bitterness and betrayal.

The countess understands her daughter perfectly, and she knows there is no use arguing with Natasha about becoming Andrei's nurse. Further she also understands that nursing Andrei is the best medicine for her daughter, even if it means suffering the pain of holding him as he dies. This suffering that Natasha will undergo will also trigger a radical change in her, demonstrating one of the major themes of the novel, that suffering leads to transformation.

Pierre is also undergoing a change. He is coming back to himself and gets past the idea of killing Napoleon. His bravery and compassion are in evidence, first when he rescues the child who has been separated from her mother, and second when he interferes when the French soldier puts his hands on the Armenian woman. As is usual when Pierre loses his temper, it is difficult to stop him. Also in evidence in this scene is how the orderly French army is becoming an amoral occupying mob, as two soldiers openly steal from an old man and try to force themselves on his daughter. Thus Pierre will now have to face a new chapter in his life as a prisoner of war.

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