War and Peace

War and Peace

by

Leo Tolstoy

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War and Peace: Volume 1, Part 2: Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
As the day darkens into evening, Tushin’s men retreat; Zherkov is roundly scolded for having failed to reach them with the initial order. Many wounded catch rides on the retreating guns, among them Rostov, pale and pitiful, clutching his arm. They eventually make it to the village of Guntersdorf, soldiers beating off a final French attack before things fall quiet. Gradually, the groans of the wounded fill the silence. Rostov sits next to Tushin, numbly watching their campfire. In a nearby cottage, Prince Bagration eats dinner with Prince Andrei and other officers. The regimental commander tells Bagration that he led a bayonet attack, though it isn’t true—it’s what he’d meant to do, and it seems to him that perhaps he really did.
Historically, the engagement at Schöngrabern, or Hollabrunn, is considered to be a French victory. However, it achieved Kutuzov’s goal of delaying the French long enough to allow him to join up with the rest of the Russian army, so it’s also regarded as something of a Russian moral victory. Though Tolstoy portrays Tushin’s actions on the battery as being decisive in resisting the French, Tushin sits at a campfire while the superior officers eat in comfort, again highlighting the contrast between those who give orders and those who actually fight. He also suggests that people’s perceptions (like the boastful commander’s) are distorted in the aftermath of battle.
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Tushin is summoned into the officers’ cottage. He enters timidly, tripping over a French standard. Bagration asks Tushin why two of his guns were abandoned. Disgraced, Tushin stumbles over his words—he hadn’t thought of it until this moment. Prince Andrei speaks up in Tushin’s defense, saying that when he joined Tushin, he found most of his company killed and no covering troops; actually, he believes most of the day’s success owes to Tushin and his men. Tushin follows Prince Andrei out and thanks him, but Andrei says nothing in reply. None of today’s events have measured up to Andrei’s hopes.
In Tolstoy’s eyes, Tushin is a heroic and honorable figure for maintaining his attack on the French under fire, yet the army staff not only fails to acknowledge this, but also criticizes him for leaving some guns behind. This further disillusions Prince Andrei, who witnessed the situation firsthand and tries to speak up in Tushin’s defense. While Andrei had believed that war was an honorable pursuit, he doesn’t see evidence of that in his superiors’ narrow-minded attitudes.
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Meanwhile, Rostov still sits by the fire, tormented by pain in his arm. He falls asleep and dreams of his family, of Denisov, Telyanin, and Bogdanych, and the dreams merge with the pain. When he wakes up, it’s snowing, and he thinks wistfully of the Russian winter, wondering why he ever came here. The next day, Bagration’s detachment joins Kutuzov’s army.
War hasn’t turned out as Nikolai Rostov expected, either. In his pain, he can’t separate dream from reality—hinting at Tolstoy’s view that war isn’t a rational occurrence—and he longs for his homeland of Russia. Despite Rostov’s disillusionment, Kutuzov’s goal—uniting the armies—has been achieved.
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