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

War and Peace | Study Guide

Leo Tolstoy

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

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Summary

The Russian army engages the French again at Krasnoe, after defeating them at Vyazma (Chapter 4–9). By the time the Russians reach Krasnoe, their troop strength has dwindled from 100,000 to 50,000, and the army is exhausted from running after the French. Although Kutuzov tries to avoid it, the Russians fight the French for three days. Kutuzov is criticized both by his generals and later historians for delaying the engagement of his troops in battle and for letting Napoleon get away. Tolstoy decries the fact that Napoleon is lauded and Kutuzov criticized, when Napoleon never showed any human dignity while Kutuzov acted out of love for his country.

After Krasnoe the French keep running, and the Russians chase them to Berezina but cannot engage them (Chapter 10). The generals are angry with Kutuzov again for not chasing the French past the Russian border, which would have been pointless. Kutuzov gets word that the emperor is displeased with his performance and will be arriving any day. He realizes he is about to get fired again, so he moves the troops to Vilno and informally retires. Alexander scolds him for his military mistakes, but nonetheless bestows on him Russia's highest honor, the Order of St. George, first degree (Chapter 11). Kutuzov is eased out of command as the staff is reorganized, and Alexander becomes commander-in-chief. Kutuzov dies shortly after.

Analysis

Kutuzov's activity—the narrator doesn't call it a strategy—was never accidental or temporary, and was consistent throughout the war. He knew "with all his Russian being ... what every Russian soldier felt," which was that the French were defeated. He is concerned about his troops, tired and without sufficient supplies, marching unnecessarily and aimlessly. His objective is to rid Russia of the French, not to gain glory. Therefore he has no interest in the various strategies of the generals, especially "the non-Russian ones," who are looking for glory by racking up another win or capturing an important enemy leader. In Kutuzov's unwavering mission to protect Russia while sparing the troops, Tolstoy means the reader to see the Russian soul in all its glory. Kutuzov is the father of the fatherland.

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