War and Peace

War and Peace

by

Leo Tolstoy

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War and Peace: Volume 3, Part 3: Chapters 33–34 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
On September 3rd, Pierre wakes up feeling ashamed. He remembers his conversation with Ramballe the night before. He also recalls that Napoleon is due to enter Moscow that day. He dresses quickly and tries to figure out how to carry his pistol unobtrusively. He opts to carry a dagger instead.
Pierre’s awkwardness with weapons hearkens back to the duel many years ago. Pierre is once again acting rashly, this time with an even more questionable sense of duty.
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The Moscow fire has grown overnight. As Pierre walks through the city, French soldiers look at him with astonishment, unable to classify him socially. But Pierre is oblivious to everything around him, only aware of the dread he carries inside. Unbeknownst to him, he’s too late to encounter Napoleon. Napoleon has entered the city and now sits in the tsar’s office in the Kremlin, moodily issuing orders to keep looting under control. But Pierre keeps going, not noticing the intensifying fire.
Pierre is disguised as a peasant, but he doesn’t really look like one—yet at this point in the occupation, French soldiers aren’t expecting to see any noblemen left behind. So Pierre is a puzzle to everyone who sees him. While he’s often been hard for others to classify, it’s never been truer than now.
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Suddenly Pierre hears a woman’s cry nearby. He sees a middle-aged woman, some children, and a nanny sitting beside the street. The woman’s husband is sorting through their belongings. When she sees Pierre, the weeping woman throws herself at his feet, saying that her youngest daughter has gotten left behind and burned up. Now alert, Pierre offers to find the girl. The family’s maid leads him down the street to a burning, partially collapsed house. Pierre feels exhilarated and forgets his burdensome thoughts.
Pierre’s reaction to the distraught woman—instantly attentive and eager to help—suggests that his true character is thinly veiled by his bizarre behavior and that, in fact, he doesn’t really want to kill Napoleon. His basic impulse is to help others, not do destructive things.
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A looting Frenchman leads Pierre to the garden behind the house. He finds a three-year-old girl hiding under a bench. She screams and bites Pierre’s hands as he carries her out of the garden. Pierre runs through the crowded streets in search of the girl’s family, noticing a beautiful young Armenian woman among the throng in the square. Other Russians point him in the direction of the child’s family, but he’s distracted by two French soldiers who’ve approached the Armenian woman and her family. He leaves the child with the Russians and moves toward the Armenian woman as a looter grabs the necklace she’s wearing. Pierre flings the looter away. Gaining strength from his fury, Pierre pummels a second soldier, to the cheers of the crowd.
Even after Pierre fulfills his task of rescuing the little girl, he’s quickly drawn to yet another person in need. The French looters give Pierre an opportunity to vent his anger at Napoleon, at the situation, and above all, to finally do something.
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All of a sudden, Pierre feels his hands being tied. A crowd of French soldiers surrounds him. When the soldiers question him, Pierre refuses to answer them. He says he’s their prisoner and asks to be taken away. He feels strangely ecstatic. The soldiers place Pierre under a strict guard. They’ve been rounding up suspected Russian “incendiaries,” and Pierre seems like the most suspicious of them all.
Pierre’s actions have immediate consequences, which he immediately accepts—he’s always wanted to surrender to something, though it’s a much different scenario than he’d ever imagined. This part of the story ends on a suspenseful note, with Pierre accused of being one of Moscow’s arsonists. He gets arrested for a very different crime than the one he set out to commit, and it’s not yet clear what that will mean for him or his still unsatisfied longing to find meaning in his life.
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