War and Peace

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Books Fourteen–Fifteen

Summary Books Fourteen–Fifteen

Pierre’s reaction to the killing of Platon Karataev shows us the deep reserves of selfless sympathy that help define his character. Pierre had hardly known Platon long, but the loss is traumatic to him, and he is unable to bring himself to watch the shooting. The howling of the little dog communicates all we need to know about the devastation of this loss for Pierre, which affects him almost on an animal level. The vision of Platon returns to Pierre later during his recuperation, proving again his extraordinary connection with this unknown Russian peasant. Pierre’s ability to forge deep emotional connections with strangers forms a striking contrast with Napoleon, who shows no emotional connections even with those near him. The narrator makes a point of emphasizing how Napoleon took a warm fur coat for himself during the French retreat, riding off alone and abandoning his troops and officers. French individualism is portrayed in a strongly negative light, the opposite of the Russian tendency for warm human relations.

Natasha and Pierre’s sudden love is one of the most surprising developments in War and Peace. Pierre’s first wife, Helene, is nothing like Natasha, and he finds nothing but disappointment in their marriage. Natasha has been in love with several men by this point; her feelings toward Pierre have always been warm but not romantic. Yet, in another sense, this love almost seems predestined and inevitable. Natasha and Pierre are the two most emotionally sincere and profound characters in the novel, both of them displaying a childlike openness toward the world that neither of their earlier respective love interests, Andrew or Helene, had. Natasha and Pierre share a sensitivity and depth that make them perfect emotional matches for each other. Moreover, both of them have suffered enormously in the past year, enduring extraordinary personal losses that have forced them both to turn inward and reevaluate the meaning of life. They are both ready for a renewal, and their love is perfectly timed. The fact that their relationship develops under the supervision of the morally wise Mary gives a kind of validity and sanctity to it, a sense that their love has been blessed.