First off, we’ve got a Shmoop all-points bulletin. In this novel there are the Kuragins (that’s Prince Vassily, his no-good drunkard son Anatole, his womanizing son Ippolit, and a his beautiful daughter Helene), and then there are the Karagins, who are introduced in this chapter. What’s the matter Tolstoy, run out of names?
Right, then. Now we’re in Moscow, and it’s name day at the Rostovs’.
Shmoop brain snack coming your way: Name day is a Russian Orthodox thing – every saint gets a day of celebration on the calendar, and if your name is the same as the saint’s, then it’s your name day and you get a party. It’s like a secondary, smaller, birthday.
Mommy Rostov and Daughter Rostov are both named Natalya (or Natasha), so it’s a double name day.
Everyone is coming by to visit, wish them well, and make small talk.
Count Rostov is so used to the routine, he’s like a factory worker. Everyone gets the same greeting, the same invitation to dinner, and the same hustle out the door. Princess Drubetskoy helps out with the guests. The Rostovs are the rich relatives that she and her son Boris live with. (We know. Hard to keep it all straight.)
Finally, the last guests are the Karagins.
Marya Bolkonsky immediately starts to gossip about the illegitimate Pierre and his father, Count Bezukhov, who is apparently on his deathbed.
In the gossip we learn three things: 1) Pierre’s totally rude behavior at Anna Pavlovna’s party is the talk of the town; 2) his drunken escapade ended with the police being called, and then the partiers tying the policeman to the bear; and finally, 3) his father has a bazillion illegitimate kids, but Pierre was his favorite, so he potentially stands to inherit a ton of money – although legally, the next in line to inherit is Prince Vassily Kuragin.
Count Rostov thinks the thing with the bear is super-hilarious.