Summary and Analysis
Book XV: Chapters 1–3
Since Andrey's death, Princess Marya and Natasha keep to themselves and never mention him. Marya emerges from mourning first, because she has commitments to Nikolushka and to her estate, while Natasha gives herself up entirely to her thoughts. What rouses Natasha from her morbid lethargy is a resurgence of active loving, this time toward her mother. The countess is hysterical with grief at Petya's death and only the constant presence of Natasha — night and day for three weeks — quiets the mother's frenzy. Countess Rostov emerges from her mourning a spiritless old woman; Natasha emerges exhausted, but her mother's affliction has returned her to the world.
Princess Marya puts off leaving Moscow in order to nurse Natasha back to health. The two women form such a close friendship that each is comfortable only in the presence of the other. Gradually Natasha grows stronger, and her life-spirit begins to break out of the mold in which her soul languished.
In her isolation, Natasha has tried to focus her thoughts to"penetrate the mystery which her spiritual vision fastened on." This unsuccessful attempt to duplicate the emotions of Prince Andrey, and thus to remain attached to him, is Tolstoy's way of showing the essential life-affirming qualities of Natasha. She cannot reach the understanding of death that Prince Andrey reached because she is a creature of life, of nature, and of love. Here Tolstoy compares Natasha to a flowering plant whose bloom has been injured; her roots are still intact and she must eventually reflower. Love is Natasha's restorative, and with her exercise of love toward her mother, she is able to bloom once again.