Literature Study GuidesWar And PeaceVol 4 Part 2 Chapters 11 14 Summary

War and Peace | Study Guide

Leo Tolstoy

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War and Peace | Vol. 4, Part 2, Chapters 11–14 | Summary



Back in Moscow Pierre hears that the troops are departing (Chapter 11). He has lost some weight in jail, his clothes are tattered, and his hair and beard are full of lice. Nevertheless he is in good spirits. The narrator says that while Pierre has looked for peace within himself in so many directions before being captured, he now has found that peace as a result of being exposed to death and privation and through his friendship with Platon (Chapter 12). For the first time Pierre appreciates the comforts and freedom he previously enjoyed but took for granted, and he dreams of being free again. When the French break camp, they take the prisoners along with them (Chapter 13). Pierre advocates for a sick prisoner, but the French corporal who was previously friendly now doesn't care, saying, "He can walk." The animosity between the French and the Russian prisoners increases, especially when the French realize one prisoner has escaped (Chapter 14). Despite the added hardship of the forced march, Pierre thinks, "They're holding me prisoner. Who, me? Me? Me—my immortal soul!" and he laughs.


All his life Pierre has been dissatisfied. As a very rich aristocrat, he has had fine clothes, fine food, the best education, and access to women, power, and influence. Still in his young life he has struggled to figure out what his occupation should be. Now that choice has been taken away from him, he realizes how precious it is. One thing he considers is that perhaps striving for happiness is a useless effort. He recalls that Andrei once told him that happiness is a negative, and now he agrees. "The absence of suffering, the satisfaction of one's needs, and the resulting freedom to choose one's occupation, that is, one's way of life, now seemed to Pierre the highest and most unquestionable human happiness," the narrator says.

When the French come to move the prisoners, Pierre again experiences that "indifferent force that makes people kill their own kind against their will, that force the effect of which he had seen during the execution." The corporal who had befriended him now treats him like a stranger because he has slipped back into the role of jailer and enemy. It will be important for the French to keep control of the prisoners on the march, so there is no room for the previous camaraderie. When Pierre tries to intervene on behalf of the sick prisoner, his efforts are rebuffed. Once they are on the march, Pierre has to get used to an added layer of discomfort. But when they stop and rest and he has time to collect his thoughts, he takes refuge in the idea that freedom, like happiness, is a question of one's state of mind, not one's material circumstances.

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