Summary and Analysis
Book VIII: Chapters 1–5
About the same time that Natasha and Andrey become engaged, Pierre's mentor dies. With Bazdyev's passing, Pierre loses all interest in a religious life and retires to his Moscow home. Assuming his old habits of dissipation — drinking and gambling with his bachelor friends at the English Club — Pierre tries to drown out the meaninglessness and deception of life. Basically he still believes in the possibility of goodness and truth, but all around him he sees only evil and falseness in every human activity. Recalling what is said of soldiers under fire — that they try to find occupation to bear their danger more easily — Pierre imagines all men are like soldiers, using cards, women, horses, politics as a refuge from the mortal danger of life.
When winter begins, Prince Nikolay Andreitch Bolkonsky and his daughter Marya move to Moscow. More feeble than ever, the old man is also more irascible and forgetful, blaming his daughter for every misfortune in his life, and making a great show of affection for Mlle. Bourienne. Princess Marya is lonelier than ever. She misses her God's folk, cannot go about in society because of her father, and finds nothing in common with her friend Julie Karagin, who is now a wealthy heiress engrossed in a whirl of fashionable amusements.
Celebrating his name-day in 1811, the old prince has a small dinner party and invites Boris Drubetskoy and Pierre. Just before the guests arrive, the old prince becomes furious at his daughter and tells her they must live apart from now on. Princess Marya confesses her unhappiness to the sympathetic Pierre. Bezuhov then tells her that Boris is seeking to marry a rich wife, either herself or Julie Karagin. Marya inquires after Natasha, badly concealing her ill-will toward her prospective sister-in-law. Pierre has little to say, other than that Natasha is fascinating.
Boris Drubetskoy soon chooses to marry Julie Karagin and they announce the betrothal.
These chapters offer another instance of parallel experience for Pierre and Marya as both find their lives difficult. When Tolstoy has Pierre observe that life is fraught with dangers that men try to avoid thinking about, like men under fire, he prepares us for his further examinations of actual battle conditions as Napoleon invades Russia and as Pierre himself is drawn into the battle front.
Moreover, as he plunges each character into his deepest despair, Tolstoy readies us for the main battle within each soul he bares before us. In order to bring about the final state of inner peace and adulthood of these protagonists, the author now shows each stage of inner war as his characters strive to meet their destiny.