Thoughts on: War & Peace: Book 4 Part 4

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About:
War and Peace by Leo Tol­stoy is a fic­tional book first pub­lished in 1869. The work is regarded as one of the most impor­tant works of world lit­er­a­ture. The copy I read was trans­lated by Louise and Aylmer Maude.

  • 1350 pages
  • Pub­lisher: Oxford Uni­ver­sity Press, USA; New edition
  • ISBN: 0199232768

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Thoughts:
It’s the end of the war and Tolstoy writes about the stragglers and the generals. Both know that horrible things have happened and will happen before this is over but they also justify those acts somehow to themselves.

If there is a theme to this section, I would argue that it is “friendship”. Tolstoy manages to write about real friendship without the syrupy sentimentality usually associated with the subject. Not only friendship between comrades in arms, but also between Natasha and Maria.

This is the last part of the novel before Tolstoy’s famous epilogues. The author ends the main story with a sparkle of hope and optimism for the future of those who survived the war and the peace.

Synopsis:
Natasha is mourning Andrei, yet she is unaware that Petya has died as well. Natasha replays in her mind her last conversations with Andrei and to consider whether or not they had understood one another when news of Petya’s death come.
Countess Rostov is frantic, the Old Count feels helpless and is ridden with guilt about his inability to protect his family; he is unable to support the Countess at her time of need. A broken man, the Old Count asks Natasha to see to her mother who is banging her head against the wall.

Surprisingly Natasha feels stronger as the latest tragedy occurs and takes care of her mother. The Countess starts mourning Petya 3 days after they had received the news. Maria postpones her trip to Moscow but when she goes, she takes her closest friend with her, Natasha.

As he inspects the lines, Kutuzov sees multitudes of French prisoners in horrible shape. The prisoners are either sick, starving, wounded or suffering from the cold. As he witnesses two men fighting over a raw piece of meat he wonders if they are human beings. However, Kutuzov soon hardens his heart and claims that no-one invited the French into Russia.

At the same time, Kutuzov is being criticized for not wiping out the French army when he could have as well as his decision not to chase the French beyond Russia’s borders. The Tsar himself is displeased yet he still awards Kutuzov the highest military honor, at the same time as Kutuzov is accused of incompetency.

Despite all the criticism, Kutuzov feels he has done his duty and can die in peace.

When he was rescued Pierre saw Petya’s corpse, but now he hears about Andrei’s death and the death of his wife, Hélène. This information overwhelms Pierre and on the way back to Moscow he becomes sick as his experiences take their toll.

As he recovers, Pierre feels a sense of elation and remembers the wisdom of peasant Platon Karatayev. Everything that has cluttered Pierre’s mind from before is irrelevant and people around him seem to notice.

When he hears that Maria Bolkonsky is also in Moscow, Pierre goes to visit her. With Maria is another lady, all dressed in black, which Pierre does not recognize at first but then realizes it is Natasha. Pierre does not recognize Natasha because her appearance is out of context for  him, but also because the joy in her face, which has always been a distinguishing feature, has been replaced by profound sadness.

Despite Natasha’s condition, Pierre still feels joyful. Natasha tells Pierre about Andrei’s last days, she feels better sharing this with him as she did not share it with anyone before. As Pierre listens to Natasha he is deeply moved because he remembers how bitter Andrei was last time they saw each other. Pierre shares his experiences with Natasha as well and feels his love for her returning. He guesses what she’s thinking and tells her that it’s not his fault that he is alive and wants to live, and she is not at fault for feeling the same way.

Pierre goes on his way to Petersburg to pay his ex-wife’s debts even though he is under no obligation to do so. Before he goes, Pierres speaks to Maria to make sure that Natasha would accept should he propose to her in marriage. Maria seems to be concerned that Natasha already forgot Andrei, but soon reassures herself that this is not the case. Natasha herself is looking forward and hopes that Maria will wed Nikolai.

 

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Zohar — Man of la Book
Dis­claimer: I got this book for free
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account

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