Summary and Analysis
Book IV: Chapters 1–6
Early in 1806 Nikolay returns home with Denisov, and the Rostov household is lively and gay. Although Sonya is very pretty, Nikolay neglects his sweetheart in order to amuse himself as young men of his station do. Count Ilya Rostov, a generous, good-natured father, has mortgaged all his estates to provide for his family's pleasures. He is now busy preparing a huge banquet in honor of General Bagration, the hero of Austerlitz. While the guests await dinner they exchange news. They are sad at the death of Prince Andrey Bolkonsky and discuss a rumored affair between Countess Bezuhov and Dolohov, Pierre's former drinking buddy.
Despite the superb dinner, Pierre is moody and depressed. Dolohov sits opposite him. Roused to fury by his former friend's sneering manner, Bezuhov challenges Dolohov to a duel. They meet at dawn the next day and Pierre, who never fired a pistol before, wounds his rival. Nikolay drives Dolohov home while the wounded man weeps at having to face his"adored angel" (his mother) and hunchbacked sister. This notorious bully and cardsharp, Nikolay discovers, is the tenderest son and brother.
Meanwhile Pierre believes he has killed his wife's lover. He blames himself for having married a dissolute woman whom he never loved in the first place. Ellen tells him he is a fool and denies her infidelity. A week later Pierre departs for Petersburg alone, having made over more than half his property to his wife.
Besides violence on the battlefield there is also violence on the home front. These chapters of Pierre's"war" within himself complement the previous description of the Austerlitz campaign and illustrate, once more, Tolstoy's handling of his theme on two levels, the individual and the collective. Pierre projects against Dolohov all his anger toward himself and his wife. With one pistol shot he concludes this loathsome, animal-passion marriage and sets off on another route of his life's journey. With this scene of violence, Tolstoy makes a powerful transition from the battlefield of nations to the battlefield within individual souls.