War and Peace

War and Peace

by

Leo Tolstoy

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War and Peace: Volume 3, Part 1: Chapters 16–18 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
When the Countess hears that Natasha is ill, she and the rest of the household travel to Moscow, where the entire family soon moves into their own house. Natasha has gotten so sick that everyone forgets about her attempted elopement. She doesn’t sleep or eat and grows weak and thin, making doctors fear for her life. Though their prescribed remedies don’t do much good, Natasha’s heartbreak and body both heal over time.
As war escalates, Natasha is fighting for her life at home, recovering from the heartbreak of her betrayal by Anatole and, above all, her broken engagement with Prince Andrei.
Themes
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Though Natasha’s demeanor is calmer, she is no more cheerful. She avoids society, and she no longer sings. She’s often choked with tears of regret over the innocent life she’s thrown away. She often thinks of the carefree winter at Otradnoe and knows such hope and joy will never be hers again. Sometimes Petya can make her laugh, and when Pierre comes to visit, she is grateful for his tenderness. She thinks Pierre is kind to everyone, and she doesn’t attribute anything special to his attitude towards her.
Natasha’s experience has changed her. Her youthful carefree attitude is gone; her prediction the previous winter—that life would never be so joyful again—has come true. She is going through her own kind of disillusionment.
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Happiness and the Meaning of Life  Theme Icon
An Otradnoe neighbor, Agrafena Ivanovna Belov, comes to Moscow to venerate some saints. She suggests that Natasha prepare for communion, and Natasha agrees. Normally, the Rostovs prepare for communion by listening to a few services at home, but Natasha joins Agrafena Ivanovna at every church service for a whole week.
Devout Orthodox Christians would be expected to prepare themselves for Holy Communion by attending services and confessing their sins beforehand. Though the Rostovs aren’t exceptionally devout, Natasha’s heartbreak inclines her to consider life’s meaning more seriously.
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Happiness and the Meaning of Life  Theme Icon
Mrs. Belov picks up Natasha at three o’clock each morning, and they walk to a neighboring parish that’s known for having a stricter priest. Natasha stands before the Mother of God icon, feeling a new humility and trying to follow the service. Even when she can’t understand what she’s hearing, she feels that God is guiding her. She focuses especially on prayers of repentance and walks home in the early mornings believing that she can start life over. After a whole week of preparatory services, Natasha goes to communion in a white dress and returns home feeling calm and renewed.
The Russian Orthodox liturgy would be celebrated in Church Slavonic, a language developed in the ninth century and only partially understood by most Russian speakers. Even though she’s not familiar with the language, Natasha finds deeper spiritual meanings in the structure of the daily liturgy. Communion offers her a kind of rebirth after her experiences that winter.
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Love, Marriage, and Family Theme Icon
Happiness and the Meaning of Life  Theme Icon
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By early July, unsettling rumors of war reach Moscow. Many of these are exaggerated, suggesting that Russia needs a miracle to escape Napoleon’s wrath. In mid-July, on a hot Sunday morning, the Rostovs attend the liturgy at the Razumovskys’ house chapel, as they always do. Natasha overhears young men whispering about her, Bolkonsky, and Kuragin. She used to take pride in her beauty at such moments, but now the attention pains her.
Tension rises in Moscow. As rumors of war grow more alarming, Natasha also hears rumors about herself that, rather than flattering her pride, now serve to humble her. She no longer enjoys attracting attention for its own sake.
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In the service, Natasha catches herself judging another worshiper and feels despair at her wickedness. She feels tears starting and focuses on the service, longing to know how to live a good life. During the prayers, Natasha prays earnestly for both Prince Andrei and Anatole. Later in the service, the priest unexpectedly kneels to lead the congregation in a lengthy prayer for Russia’s salvation from foreign invasion. Natasha doesn’t fully understand the prayer to prevail over enemies, especially since she’d prayed to forgive her enemies just moments earlier. But she joins in the prayer with all her heart.
Like Pierre, Natasha finds it’s difficult to carry out one’s resolve to live a good life, especially in a troubled world. With the patriotic prayer for Russia’s victory in war, Tolstoy suggests that there’s a fundamental contradiction when people who profess Christianity go to war against one another and justify their killing on religious grounds.
Themes
European Culture vs. The Russian Soul Theme Icon
Love, Marriage, and Family Theme Icon
War and Peace Theme Icon
Happiness and the Meaning of Life  Theme Icon