Literature Study GuidesWar And PeaceVol 4 Part 4 Chapters 12 14 Summary

War and Peace | Study Guide

Leo Tolstoy

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War and Peace | Vol. 4, Part 4, Chapters 12–14 | Summary



On the day Pierre is liberated, he learns of Petya's death, Andrei's extended illness, and Hélène's death, and shortly after falls ill for three months (Chapter 12). The inner freedom he learned in captivity stays with him, and he is no longer concerned about the purpose of life. "[T]his absence of purpose gave him that full, joyful awareness of freedom which at that time constituted his happiness." Moreover he now has a deep faith in God, because he feels the divinity's presence. Pierre changes in other ways as well; for example, he does a lot less talking and much more listening (Chapter 13). He practices greater discernment in the distribution of his money, knowing who deserves it and who doesn't. While he is recovering, Moscow is also coming back to life (Chapter 14). By the fall of 1813, Moscow's population exceeds its population from the previous year, and the city is beginning to thrive.


As often happens, especially with a person with a robust constitution, Pierre gets sick after his crisis is over. Tolstoy repeatedly uses illness—Natasha falls ill after the affair with Anatole, for example, but she and Andrei are united again by his own lingering illness—as a way of marking major transitions in a character's life or perspective. The theme that suffering leads to transformation is evident in the changes wrought in this important character. Pierre has been on a spiritual journey, and through captivity and privation he has learned that true freedom is an internal feeling, not an external condition. Now that he actually has external freedom as well, that's an added bonus. He realizes that there is no "purpose" of life, only the meanings we assign to it.

His faith now is not a superficial faith—a doctrine that he put on like a piece of clothing after first meeting with his Mason mentor, Bazdeev. Rather this faith is based on experience. He also realizes that his seeking for a purpose was really just seeking God, so now he can stop looking. His enlarged spiritual perspective has created in him a compassionate listener, and the ability to listen brings out the best part of others. No longer does Pierre need to give money to everybody because he wants to be "a good guy." Rather, with new spiritual awareness, he can see where his money might do some good and where it will be wasted or could even do harm. Pierre's perspective echoes Tolstoy's own: Tolstoy was transitioning away from formal religion and toward a more personal relationship with God and a life built on Christian principles.

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