Summary and Analysis
Book IV: Chapters 7–9
At Bleak Hills, Liza is expected to deliver her child within days. Marya and the old prince conceal the news from her that Andrey is missing in action, although they both fear he is dead. The"little princess" is frightened and tense when her pains begin and relays of servants stand at the road waiting for the doctor. When the doctor arrives, Prince Andrey also emerges from the carriage; the men met at the train station. Princess Marya is struck by the strangely softened expression on her brother's face. Liza, however, does not realize the significance of Andrey's sudden appearance. Her frightened eyes seem only to reproach him for being unable to relieve her suffering. The birth is not going well; when the inhuman screams suddenly subside and the baby is heard crying, Andrey joyfully rushes into the room. His wife is dead. Her charming face expresses piteous reproach."I have done no harm to any one," she seems to say,"what have you done to me?" Something is torn out of Andrey's soul; he feels guilty of a crime he can neither expiate nor forget. The baby receives the name of Nikolay Andreitch and Princess Marya is godmother.
With Liza's passing, death becomes a poignant, personal crisis for Prince Andrey. Because of her innocent reproach, he is forced to confront his basic guilt and assess the quality of life that placed this guilt upon him.
Liza's existence was but a shadow of life, a series of trivial social affairs without meaning, direction, or moments for self-scrutiny. Prince Andrey is guilty of drawing his doll-like princess into the realities of life by removing her from Petersburg, causing her to face the chancy conditions of pregnancy, and finally, allowing her to die without having known what it is to live.
Liza's death scene demonstrates Tolstoy's powerful manner of stating a moral truth through fictional narrative. The"moral" of the scene, repeated throughout the novel in variations, is that Liza is a poor victim of an empty, corrupt society and dies without having known the substance of life; and that her husband, having married her, has been an unwitting accomplice in this"crime" and feels guilty for it. The illustration for this moral is entirely contained in the reproachful look on the dead princess's face and its soul-searing effect on Andrey. Tolstoy prepares Prince Andrey for this emotional awareness through a characteristic device:"rapid juxtaposition of joy and sorrow . . . [to show] a state of emotional light and darkness" (quoted in R. F. Christian's Tolstoy's War and Peace, a Study). Andrey is agonized at the inhuman cries of Liza in her labor. Overjoyed and relieved at the first cry of his newborn infant, he rushes eagerly into the room only to discover his wife is dead. The simultaneous occurrence of death and birth heightens the dramatic impact of the scene. Tolstoy has set Andrey free of his dull marriage and the hero, armed with a new understanding of life and death, may struggle onward in his search for meaning.