Literature Study GuidesWar And PeaceVol 4 Part 3 Chapters 1 7 Summary

War and Peace | Study Guide

Leo Tolstoy

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War and Peace | Vol. 4, Part 3, Chapters 1–7 | Summary



In Chapter 1 the narrator reflects on the conventional historical view that military success determines the power of respective countries. In the war of 1812 between the French and the Russians, the rule book did not apply. While the French won the Battle of Borodino, they lost the war because the Russians did not play by the book. While Napoleon wanted to fence, Kutuzov and the Russian people took out a club: they retreated, they burned their towns and their fields, and they used guerilla warfare. Chapter 2 addresses partisan warfare. The Russians in small groups inflicted additional damage on the French as they retreated west. The partisan war began when the French came into Smolensk (Chapter 3). However the Cossacks and the peasants already had been killing deserters and marauding enemy soldiers as a matter of course.

Denisov and Dolokhov are among the early partisans, and in late October they have their eye on a French transport. As the partisans discuss the matter, a young officer and a Cossack come down to meet them with a letter from a general who wants to join forces to attack the transport (Chapter 4). The messenger turns out to be Petya Rostov, and Denisov greets him warmly. Denisov is annoyed by the letter because he doesn't want to share the booty, but he agrees that Petya can stay with him. One of Denisov's men has captured a prisoner, a drummer boy, but he doesn't know anything valuable (Chapter 5). Tikhon, Denison's scout, fails to come back with a French informant (Chapter 6). Denisov then brings Petya back to camp, and he learns the young man took part in the Battle of Vyazma (Chapter 7). Petya is so happy to be among the seasoned men, and he shares whatever he has, including a five-pound bag of raisins. He timidly asks if the drummer boy can be given some food, and Denisov readily agrees.


At the beginning of Part 3, Tolstoy shows how conventional historical ideas are turned on their head by what happened in Russia in 1812. While the Russians technically lost the Battle of Borodino in August, the consequences that would normally follow from such a defeat did not follow. Rather the 600,000-man army of Napoleon that entered Russia in midyear "ceased to exist" by the end of the year. Moreover the Russians did not use Napoleon's play book: the aristocracy and people in power did not submit to his yoke, as had been done in other parts of Europe; the people willingly sacrificed their own livelihoods so that Napoleon would not have access to supplies; and the soldiers attacked the French by stealth. The Cossacks are mentioned several times in the novel, and these independent, fierce fighters from southern Russia and the Ukraine are a natural match for the partisan actions of the military men in the regular army.

The introduction of Petya back into the story once again illustrates the theme that war is an immoral, unnecessary waste of life, and that people are deluded by notions of honor when it comes to killing their fellow beings. Petya, now 16, wants to prove himself among the men. He clings to Denisov, the friend of his elder brother, and when he gets back to camp, he is eager to share all that he has with the brother soldiers—his raisins, for example. He thinks about the drummer boy, and even though initially worried about looking foolish, he asks if he can give him food. "Ah, what can I do for him?" he thinks, as he opens the door for the boy. The drummer boy is probably closer in age to Petya than the partisan fighters, and this interaction highlights Petya's youth and innocence, which is about to be spent on his childish desire for glory.

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