Literature Study GuidesWar And PeaceVol 4 Part 1 Chapters 14 16 Summary

War and Peace | Study Guide

Leo Tolstoy

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War and Peace | Vol. 4, Part 1, Chapters 14–16 | Summary



Princess Marya is on her way to the Rostovs in Yaroslavl to see her brother in Chapter 14. She is happy because she knows that Nikolai loves her and she loves him, but she is also grieving for her brother whom she dearly loves. It is almost as if the love for Nikolai Rostov gives her strength to cope with the illness of Andrei. When Marya meets the family, she feels awkward and out of place, but when Natasha comes out to greet her, she immediately feels at home. She recognizes immediately in Natasha "a sincere companion in grief, and therefore her friend." Marya also realizes that her brother is mortally ill. Natasha tells Marya that things with Andrei drastically changed about two days ago.

When Andrei wakes up, Marya feels chilled by his greeting, which seems distant and cold (Chapter 15). Now she knows what Natasha means; her brother is moving away from the land of the living. In dying, Prince Andrei feels estranged from earthly cares and experiences "a joyful and strange lightness of being" (Chapter 16). Two days earlier he dreamed that death was behind a door, and he kept trying to close the door and bolt it. But death pushed from the other side, "the two halves [of the door] open noiselessly," and death came in. Andrei woke up but realized he was awakening to death. The two women are with him when he dies shortly after, and they weep together in an awareness of the mystery of death which they have witnessed.


In the past Marya was inclined to dislike Natasha, but at Yaroslavl she immediately loves her because she sees how much she loves Andrei. The two women come into a communion of grief; their superficial dislike is not important enough in the face of their mutual love for Andrei and the gravity of death. The friendship that begins at Andrei's deathbed develops into love and commitment between the two women and will be the basis for the new family that develops at the end of the novel and includes Pierre and Nikolai. For Tolstoy, women were the rock on which the family stood, and his two heroines will develop into wives and mothers by the end of the novel—their sacred calling, in Tolstoy's view. Their friendship will also take place within the circle of the family.

The prince has been seriously ill since he was taken off the battlefield. When he first reunites with Natasha, he is joyful and seems to get back the spiritual vitality he lost when Natasha betrayed him. Natasha inspires him to fight to live, and he makes remarkable progress. But he runs out of physical vitality. "Can it be that fate brought us together so strangely only so that I should die?" he thinks. "I love her more than anything in the world. But what am I to do if I love her?" At this point he realizes that the scales of life and death are not weighted in his favor. Andrei thinks about death and how "love hinders death" because "love is life." When he falls asleep, he has the dream of death, which lets him know that his time is running out. Try as he might to bolt the door, death will have its way. After that Andrei begins to let go of life, which is the state Marya finds him in. The women who loved him witness Andrei separate himself from life and then slip away.

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