Summary and Analysis
Book III: Chapters 6–8
The Rostovs are greatly excited with Nikolay's letter telling them of the battle and his injury. They ask Boris to deliver some money and mail to their son. Boris and Nikolay discuss their military experiences with Berg, the young German engaged to Vera Rostov. When Nikolay gets to talk about his participation in the battle against the French, unwittingly embellishing the facts, Prince Andrey enters the room."Yes, many stories have come out of that engagement," he says with cool contempt. Nikolay hates him and feels humiliated; at the same time he secretly admires the older man's authoritativeness.
Among the 80,000 men passing in review before the Russian and Austrian emperors, Nikolay falls in love with his youthful tsar. As his throat strains with"Hurrah," he thinks he would be glad to die on the spot were Alexander to smile at him. When he spies Prince Andrey sitting his horse in a"slack, indolent pose," his fury is aroused anew but subsides in a rush of self-sacrifice and forgiveness inspired by his love for the sovereign.
After the immature"first loves" of Pierre and Marya, Tolstoy describes the hero-worship of Nikolay for his emperor. The review also provides the author with a vehicle to contrast Rostov's self-abnegation with Prince Andrey's assertive egotism. When Nikolay retells the story of the Schöngraben campaign as he would have liked it to happen, Tolstoy contrasts them again. He shows how someone like Rostov, who acted unconsciously during the battle, has no objective view of it, whereas Prince Andrey, who never forgot himself for a moment during the fighting, knows the facts of the action. We are convinced of the sincerity of each man; both views are truthful. Through the experience of Captain Tushin, however, we must conclude that unselfconscious soldiers, who, like Nikolay, accept anonymity, contribute more heroism to their cause than self-aware men like Bolkonsky.