Thoughts on: War & Peace: Book 3 Part 3

December 29, 2012

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

Thoughts on: War & Peace: Book 3 Part 3

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More books by Leo Tolstoy

Tolstoy has some interesting observations in this part of the book. The author compares time to math, when we look at small units we really don’t understand what we’re seeing, but when we put all the small movements together (and within context) is when are small brains can process change. Historical events are the same, only when you have an understanding of World War I can you understand what brought about World War II and an attempt to simplify the causes (for example: the rise of the Nazi party) does not work.

The most outstanding part of this book, I thought, was the point of view of the wounded Andrei, seeing his world through the fog of war and the haze of wounds. As omnipotent readers, we know the circumstances and the story, but reading it again through fuzzy eyes really drives home the point of what the men went through.

In this book, Tolstoy abandoned his habit of making fun of the upper class, they are refugees just like anyone else. However, they have the option to be refugees, their blessing is also their curse as the “working class” are non-people they are also not considered dangerous. When Napoleon enters Moscow without the upper class being present, he thinks of the city as “empty” despite the multitudes of working class citizens being present.

The French army is hurt, moving out of Borodino, it advances towards Mosco. Kutuzov, realizing that the French momentum cannot be stopped, gives up Moscow without a fight or sacrificing lives to defend it. This move is very unpopular and meets with general disapproval of the populace. The “haves” evacuate Moscow.

Poor Hélène has a very difficult issue – two suitors, besides that she’s also married. But to someone with Hélène’s intellect this is a small problem, she’ll convert to Catholicism and can obtain a divorce ratified by the Pope himself. Hélène sends a letter to Borodino for Pierre asking him for a divorce.

Pierre returns to Mozhaisk, he is forced to spend the night in a carriage. Tired from the battle Pierre has a strange dream mixing Andrei’s quotes about war and Masonic teachings. He hears about the death of Anatole and Andrei, his friend, on his way back to Moscow.

The Rostovs didn’t want to leave Moscow without Petya so they waited till the last moment. Natasha is recovering from her depression and helps to pack. However, when the wounded soldiers start to come en masse from Borodino Natasha tells them that they can take the cars and wagons knowing full well her father won’t mind – which he doesn’t but her mother is furious. The Count, feeling guilty about losing the family’s fortune, gives way to his wife but Natasha is mad and cannot understand how her mother can think of material things in the face of such despair.
The Countess gives in to her daughter.

Unbeknownst to Natasha, one of the wounded is Andrei. The Countess asks Sonya not to tell Natasha, afraid to open old wounds.
Pierre is also in Moscow, he is staying in Bazdeyev’s house, but Bazdeyev is dead and the house is occupied by his mother and mentally handicapped brother. Going through Bazdeyev’s papers Pierre decides that his fate is tied to Napoleon’s. Pierre thinks of liberating Europe by assassinating the French Emperor. He borrows a peasant’s coat and a gun.
This is how he meets Rostov.

When Napoleon enters Moscow he is surprised to learn that the ruling class has left, no one is there to greet him. As far as he is concerned the city is empty (sans of “working class”). But he need not worry, soon fires start in Moscow. In a large city made mostly of wooden buildings which are empty, fires are inevitable.

French officers enter Bazdeyev’s house where the mentally handicapped brother tries to shoot one of them. Pierre stops him and the French officer, Captain Ramballe, is grateful and even lets the brother go free. The grateful Ramballe invites Pierre to dine with him, but the more Pierre drinks, the more resolute he becomes to assassinate Napoleon. After a few more drinks he opens up to Ramballe and even tells him of his love for Natasha.

The Rostovs, looking behind them, see their beloved city burning.

Sonya couldn’t keep her mouth shut and tells Natasha about Andrei’s presence among the wounded. Here there is a soap-opera type scenario:
if Andrei survives…
… and marries Natasha…
… then…
Nikolai couldn’t marry Maria because of some arcane rules of the Orthodox Church (don’t ask me to explain any further, I barely got this much out of it).
Once the Rostovs are asleep, Natasha sneaks out to find Andrei. Natasha has no idea how Andrei will react, but when he sees here he smiles and holds out his hand.

The story shifts to Andrei’s perspective. He is in pain, semi-conscious and asks for a the New Testament. He thinks he is in an Army hospital and remembers a man next to him, an enemy, who sobs like a child when his leg was amputated. Andrei feels pity for the man and for himself; he also feels he wants to kill him. Andrei thinks about love, which in his normal life he could never attain. Suddenly, Andrei sees a white figure approaching him, it is Natasha who is asking for his forgiveness but Andrei does not understand what there is to forgive.

Natasha never leaves Andrei’s side after this day.

The morning after his supper with Captain Ramballe, Pierre is disgusted with his own behavior but is still determine to kill Napoleon. As he walks down the chaotic streets of Moscow, Pierre rescues a girl from a burning building but cannot find her parents. Noticing some French soldiers harassing a woman, Pierre goes to rescue her but gets overpowered. The soldiers find a gun and a knife on his person, but Pierre refuses to give them a name and is arrested.

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More books by Leo Tolstoy

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  • AlyceDecember 30, 2012 at 1:59 am

    What a nice detailed post! It’s been almost 12 years since I read War and Peace, and while I do remember basics of the plot, what I remember more are the boring sections where Tolstoy gets preachy. I’d be curious to see if I have the patience to read it now, since the first time I read it I was on bed rest and had nothing else to do.

    • Zohar - Man of la BookDecember 31, 2012 at 8:53 am

      It’s a very unique book, I finished reading it actually and am just working on my writeups at this point.

  • Sharon HenningDecember 30, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    One of the things I love about Tolstoy’s books are his character development. None of his people remain stagnant. They start out as one sort of person but life experience turns them into another sort of person. Or maybe a more complete person.

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