A Gentleman in Moscow

A Gentleman in Moscow

by

Amor Towles

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A Gentleman in Moscow: Book 5, Antagonists at Arms (And an Absolution) Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
On June 20, the Count is in the Boyarsky, serving a Finnish couple. As they order, he asks for their room number. When the Count formulated his plan, he quickly determined that he would need to steal a passport from a Scandinavian guest, without the person noticing. Here is an unmissable opportunity, he thinks, and he knows he must visit their suite that night. When he asks if they want dessert, the Count is pleased to hear that they plan to go right to bed.
Over the course of the Count’s planning, fate intervenes in both positive and negative ways (such as the change of the venue, or the political dinner that is held in the Metropol), and here fate gives the Count a fortunate break in providing him with Scandinavian guests that plan to go right to bed, so that he can visit their room.
Themes
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Shortly after midnight, the Count goes to suite 322, setting his shoes by the door so as not to make any noise. He slips easily in and out of the room with the passport and 150 Finnish marks in hand. He discovers, however, that while he was inside the night service had picked up his shoes for shining. Taking comfort in the fact that everything else has gone to plan, he climbs back up to his suite.
Although the Count gets a lucky break, one of the ideas threading the novel is that people cannot rely solely on fate to allow things to work out; they must also be proactive in taking advantage of unexpected situations, as the Count is here.
Themes
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When the Count arrives in his room, the Bishop is sitting at his desk with the Count’s first map of Paris, with Sofia’s escape path drawn through it in red pen. The Bishop says coolly that the Count is a man of many interests. The Count lies and says that he has been reading Proust lately, and thus wanted to reacquaint himself with the layout of the city. The Bishop gets up and walks past the Count, descending the stairs to the ground floor, presumably to inform the authorities. When he arrives there, he is shocked to find the Count already sitting behind his desk with a pistol in hand.
Of course, fate can also provide obstacles, as it does when the Bishop discovers the old map of Paris from before Sofia’s venue had changed. For the Bishop, on the other hand, this is a rather fortunate development, as it finally allows him to gain the upper hand over the Count, and perhaps be rid of him once and for all as their personal and political rivalry finally comes to a head.
Themes
Imprisonment, Freedom, and Purpose Theme Icon
Chance, Luck, and Fate Theme Icon
Bolshevism and Class Struggle Theme Icon
The narrator flashes back: when the Bishop left the Count, the Count was struck by fury, fear, and frustration. Then, he had quickly sprung into action, running down the main staircase while the Bishop took the belfry staircase. He used Nina’s passkey to open the door to the manager’s office and found the panel behind which lay the old dueling pistols.
The Count uses the games and adventures that he had with Nina and Sofia to his advantage: bolting down the stairs like Sofia had, he uses Nina’s key and the panel that he had found when it was still Mr. Halecki’s office to make sure that the Bishop cannot reveal their plans.
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Seeing the Count, the Bishop insists that he leave. The Count tells him to sit. When the Bishop starts to dial the police, the Count takes the pistol and fires it at a portrait of Stalin on the wall. The Bishop sits, and the Count asks for his watch, which tells him that it is almost 1:00 A.M.
For all of the animosity the Count bears the Bishop, he does not kill him, because as he explained to Osip years earlier, he never wanted to shoot another one of his countrymen.
Themes
Chance, Luck, and Fate Theme Icon
Bolshevism and Class Struggle Theme Icon
As the Count waits in the office with the Bishop, the Bishop sneers that the nobility have always been convinced of their supremacy, and have thought that their wealth was a confirmation of the rightness of their actions. But, he goes on, what the Count says and does now will come to light, and he will be held accountable for it.
Here the Bishop comes in with one of the larger and more common attacks on the nobility: that their wealth and manners alone justify their superiority. Yet the Bishop’s criticisms are somewhat outdated, as the nobility has not existed for thirty years by this point, and the Count has proven himself a capable worker and true “gentleman” rather than just an exploitative, lazy nobleman.
Themes
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Bolshevism and Class Struggle Theme Icon
Related Quotes
The Count looks over the Bishop’s filing cabinets and asks for the key to them. The Bishop hands over his keyring, losing his sense of superiority in the process. The cabinets reveal files on members of the hotel staff, which contain notes about things such as flaws in the staff members’ work or personal shortcomings. The Count pulls the files of his friends.
It is also somewhat hypocritical of the Bishop to claim that the nobility has always been corrupt, when here the Bishop demonstrates his own corruption by keeping files on the hotel staff’s flaws (but not their virtues).
Themes
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At 2:30 in the morning, the Count leads the Bishop to the boiler room, forcing him to dump the files into the furnace. Then the Count finds another travel guidebook in the basement—this time, for Finland. The last stop on the tour through the basement is the room in which the silver service is stored. He locks the Bishop in the room, knowing that there is a banquet on Tuesday and someone will find him then.
The rooms the Count visits are the same rooms that he visited on his first day of adventures with Nina. The detail of the guidebook also proves important, as it informs the Bishop that the Count intends to go to Finland, before the Count subjects the Bishop to his own form of imprisonment.
Themes
Imprisonment, Freedom, and Purpose Theme Icon
Bolshevism and Class Struggle Theme Icon
At three in the morning, the Count heads back to his room when he encounters the one-eyed cat, who sees him with the stolen passport, money, the travel guide, stockings on his feet, and two pistols in his belt. The one-eyed cat turns his blind eye upon the Count and disappears down the stairs.
The Count’s plan has not been without its twists, turns, and strange details, but overall, he is able to overcome the odds and start to carry out his escape.
Themes
Imprisonment, Freedom, and Purpose Theme Icon