Let’s Read This Thing : War and Peace is the collected notes and thoughts that popped into my brain while reading through Tolstoy’s 1200 Page Masterpiece. Spoilers!
So we’re down to the final three posts on this long journey of love, loss, and life lessons in early 19th century Russia. Today’s rundown of Part 3 will be followed up by the final Part of Volume IV, and then I’m going to lump the two Epilogues together since the second bit is pretty short.
What will I ever do with my time once this is done? What absurdly long book will I pick up next for an LRTT project? (I’m thinking Cryptonomicon… thoughts out there anyone?)
More on that at a later date. Let’s get back to Russia. Volume IV has been the winding down of everything- of wars, of the existences of several characters, of periods of self-doubt, immaturity, and spiritual woe. Part 3 brings us back to a few characters that have been off page for a while, closing out their stories while also bringing Pierre’s saga closer to its final resolution.
Petya, Natasha and Nikolai’s babiest brother, left for war so many chapters ago, and here we see the result of his enlistment. He catches up with Denisov, the career soldier, and Dolokhov, the eternal scoundrel. The three are part of the splinter force that is attacking the retreating French as they run back to the safety of Western Europe. The use of these characters to describe the ongoing guerilla war is effective, bringing yet another personal connection to the events that really happened.
Petya, in this case, is fresh-faced and eager for battle. He is enamored of the spirit that fills the troops around him, and he is impressed at the savvy and swagger of Dolokhov. Once upon a time his older brother was in a similar position. He too fell under the charms of Dolokhov, becoming overconfident in the shadow of the rogue’s charisma. At least Nikolai escaped with his life. Petya’s overconfidence ends his tale.
Petya’s death is one of many in this book that highlight the horrors and needless deaths that come with war. Earlier in the Part a Russian spy casually executes a French captive. The French themselves kill their prisoners who can no longer march, including Karataev, who has moved Pierre profoundly. Finally, Petya, the young idealist soldier, is gone well before his time. Wars may sometimes be necessary, but Tolstoy doesn’t neglect to critically point to the evils that occur.
Pierre conveniently happens to be a prisoner of the French soldiers that the Russian guerillas attack. The battle brings an end to his captivity and at last he can return home. Once again he is a man changed by his experiences, a man who can finally appreciate the simple joys that his life has in it. He has experienced tragedy but was blessed to make it so far when so many others are now gone.