A Gentleman in Moscow

A Gentleman in Moscow

by

Amor Towles

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A Gentleman in Moscow: Book 1, An Acquaintanceship Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The narrator introduces the second restaurant in the Metropol, which the Count affectionately calls the Piazza. The Piazza does not aspire to “elegance, service, or subtlety” like the Boyarsky does, but instead works towards efficiency.
The description of the Piazza, in contrast to the Boyarsky, parallels the Count’s thinking about the fine service of someone who came up under the old regime, like Andrey, and the poor service of someone who is a part of the new Bolshevik regime, like the soon-to-be-introduced Bishop.
Themes
Bolshevism and Class Struggle Theme Icon
A few days after the barbershop mishap, the Count is being served in the Piazza by a new waiter. The Count refers to this man only as the Bishop because of his narrow head and superior demeanor. The Count notes how the Bishop misses many dining cues, like eating with a newspaper to indicate that the Count is alone, or closing his menu to indicate that he is ready to order. He also corrects the Bishop’s wine recommendations.
When the Count later discovers that the Bishop was hired because he has a friend with influence in the Party, he correlates his bad service and inexperience with this fact. He believes that the Bolsheviks eschew traditional values like tact and etiquette in service simply because they are traditional values.
Themes
Bolshevism and Class Struggle Theme Icon
As the Count waits for his food and wine, he thinks to himself how his morale could use a boost. He has been finding himself counting the steps to the lobby, or calculating the time to his next meal. He worries that the hotel is closing in on him.
The Count’s restlessness has grown in the past few days. This is accompanied by a more literal feeling of confinement, which is what makes his later adventures with Nina so valuable to him, because she literally expands the space he can inhabit.
Themes
Imprisonment, Freedom, and Purpose Theme Icon
Related Quotes
The Count then notices a young girl in a yellow dress (who is later introduced as Nina) spying on him from her table. According to Vasily, she is the daughter of a widowed Ukrainian diplomat. After the Bishop delivers the Count’s soup, Nina approaches his table and asks where his moustache has gone. He jokes that it has flown away for the summer.
Nina’s introduction is another chance occurrence that serves as a step to the Count finding a sense of purpose. Because of the incident in the barbershop, Nina is compelled to ask him where his moustache has gone, initiating their friendship.
Themes
Friendship, Family, and Love Theme Icon
Chance, Luck, and Fate Theme Icon
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Nina questions the Count about his life as a count, and whether he has known any princesses. She questions him about how princesses live, whether he has been to balls, dined in castles, or been in a duel. The Count answers affirmatively to all of her questions, but qualifies that the duel he had been in was more figurative than literal.
Though Nina starts off with an obsession of princesses, as the daughter of a Party member she quickly progresses past this phase, soon rejecting ideas of nobility and viewing the Bolshevik party as more equal and empowering.
Themes
Bolshevism and Class Struggle Theme Icon
The Count becomes more engaged with Nina, telling her a story about how a duel had begun in the lobby of the hotel. The hotel manager at the time kept a pair of pistols behind a secret panel in his office, and so the feuding parties were whisked away to a remote spot.
This small detail later serves an important and fateful purpose, as the Count happens to find the pistols and eventually uses them years later to enact his escape plan.
Themes
Chance, Luck, and Fate Theme Icon
Nina interrupts the Count’s story, that Lensky was killed by Onegin in a duel. He finds it amusing that she feels the need to whisper, as she is simply referencing a Pushkin poem. As Nina gets up, she remarks that she prefers the Count without his moustache, curtseys, and disappears.
Nina’s innocence and precocious wonder amuses the Count, and he starts to take on a fatherly sensibility towards her as their friendship blooms and she leads him on adventures.
Themes
Friendship, Family, and Love Theme Icon
Later that night, the Count sits alone at the hotel bar. He has had several drinks, to the point where the bartender, Audrius, offers to help him with his jacket, because he is struggling to put it on. He is shocked to learn it is only ten o’clock.
The Count continues to struggle with his imprisonment because of the seemingly endless expanse of his time and his in ability to fill it.
Themes
Imprisonment, Freedom, and Purpose Theme Icon
As Audrius helps the Count back to his room, the Count drunkenly tells him that when dueling was first taken up by Russian officers in the early 1700s, the Tsar had to forbid it because the soldiers were so enthusiastic about the practice that he feared there would be no one left to lead his army. The Count thinks about how duels had once been epic and grand, but had slowly devolved to the point where they were being fought over small things like “the tilt of a hat.” He thinks that men should have to take so many paces away from each other that it should be virtually impossible to kill one another.
This is the Count’s first large critique of the upper class, as he acknowledges some of the shortcomings of theoretically “noble” traditions. The practice of dueling, he believes, ultimately lost the honor it purported to be guarding. Like the Bolsheviks, he sees some of the harm in following traditions simply because they are traditions.
Themes
Bolshevism and Class Struggle Theme Icon