Summary and Analysis Book III: Chapters 1–5



Because he has become wealthy and titled, Pierre is one of the most sought-after young men in Petersburg. He even believes, as weak-willed persons do, that he deserves the attention and admiration of the people around him. Prince Vassily, who attaches himself to the young count and helps him manage his suddenly numerous business affairs, succeeds in involving Pierre with his daughter. As they are always thrown together at parties, Pierre is soon overpowered by the accessibility of Ellen's dazzling décolleté and feels fated to marry her. Although uneasy at rumors linking Ellen and Anatole in incest, considering her stupid as well, he forces himself to say the words. Six weeks later they marry.

With his daughter taken care of, Prince Vassily takes Anatole to visit Prince Nikolay Bolkonsky. The old prince dislikes having to entertain this"upstart" and his profligate son, and dislikes the agitation of Princess Marya, Liza, and Mlle. Bourienne at the visit. Carefully dressed for her first appearance by the well-intentioned ladies, Marya looks plainer than ever in her fancy clothes and hairdo; she feels humiliated by her appearance. Moreover, Anatole's handsomeness and grace attract her, and God willing, she would be glad to marry him. Irritated that his child might leave him, the old prince warns Marya that Anatole finds Mlle. Bourienne more attractive. After she sees her suitor and her companion kissing, Princess Marya refuses the marriage offer.


While Pierre gives way to his profane desires and marries Ellen, Princess Marya is able to resist profane temptations. Through these parallel incidents we can compare the pattern of Pierre's search for truth with that of Marya. Pierre's weak, undefined nature compels him to go through life's experiences in order to learn from them, while Marya's deep morality and religious strength allow her to bypass negative encounters.