The narrator examines historians’ attitudes toward Tsar Alexander and Napoleon, finding them once again oversimplified, and asserts again the view that history is made not by great men, but by countless tiny factors.
Natasha and Pierre are married in 1813. Count Rostov dies that same year, after seeking his family’s forgiveness for ruining their finances. Nicholas, who is in Paris when he receives the news, accepts his inheritance, which amounts to debts totaling twice the value of the deceased count’s property. Nicholas pays what he can, borrowing money from Pierre, and enters government service to pay the rest of the debts. Nicholas struggles to maintain his mother and Sonya in their customary luxury, hiding his poverty from them.
Mary arrives in Moscow, having heard reports that Nicholas is sacrificing himself for his mother. Nicholas is unexpectedly cold to Mary. Countess Rostova presses Nicholas to court Mary. After a long silence, Nicholas visits Mary, treating her formally. Mary tells him that she misses the man she used to know, but that she accepts his new attitude. Secretly she still feels love, and starts crying. Suddenly they both realize a relationship is possible between them.
The year 1813 also sees the marriage of Nicholas and Mary. Nicholas soon repays all his debts and becomes a successful, traditional Russian farmer who takes special interest in his peasants. He rebuilds Bald Hills. Despite occasional antagonism, Nicholas and Mary are a happily married couple. Nicholas reads Mary’s parenting journal, in which she records her child-rearing experiments, such as grading her children on their behavior. Nicholas approves of Mary’s enthusiasm as a mother, though he somewhat objects to her pedantic style. Nicholas criticizes Natasha’s domination of Pierre without realizing that he dominates Mary in the same way. Mary tries to be patient, listening to her husband’s financial updates while striving to maintain Christian forbearance and forgiveness.
By 1820, Natasha has become a sturdy mother of four, thinking only of her family, never of fashions or accomplishments. Pierre wholly submits to his role as family man, never flirting with women or dining out. When Pierre overstays a trip to St. Petersburg by three weeks, Natasha becomes worried and irritable, but then is filled with joy when he returns with gifts for the family. Pierre discusses St. Petersburg gossip with his family and with his friend Denisov, who has accompanied him home.
Andrew’s fifteen-year-old son, Nicholas Bolkonski, adores Pierre and wants to stay up late to be with him. Pierre speaks to young Nicholas about the problems of running charitable institutions. Pierre asserts that things are rotten in St. Petersburg, predicting an overthrow soon. Privately, Natasha and Pierre reflect on their home life and whether Platon Karataev would have approved of it. Pierre concludes that the peasant would have, though he hesitates somewhat in his response. Nicholas Bolkonski muses on his veneration for his uncle Pierre, and dreams of military glory.