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War and Peace

War and Peace

by Leo Tolstoy

War and Peace Volume 1, Part 2, Chapter 4 Summary

  • Hey, hey, Nikolai. Remember him? No? He’s Natasha's bro, the one who didn’t get to be a commissioned officer but joined the army anyway.
  • What’s he up to now?  He’s BFFs with his squadron commander, Vaska Denisov, and they are quartered in the same house. 
  • OK, a little brain snack here. We’ll deal with the names in this novel later, in detail (check out the “Character Clues” section later on) but we just wanted to throw in here that Vaska is a really low-class, peasant-style abbreviation of the name Ivan. The fact that he goes by Vaska speaks volumes, kind of like the difference between a grown man named Robert and one named Bob-o.
  • Right, then.  Back to the story.
  • Everyone now knows that Mack totally got owned, but since Nikolai’s regiment is in Poland, this isn’t really affecting their day-to-day. (Mack was in Austria, remember?).
  • Nikolai loves his life, loves his horse, loves his landlord, and loves his horse’s groom too.
  • Vaska comes back from a night of gambling and carousing. Vaska whines and complains about how he lost all his money from a run of back luck and bad cards.
  • Vaska tosses his wallet with just a few gold coins left in it under his pillow.
  • Lieutenant Telyanin comes into the room. Nikolai can’t stand the guy, but Telyanin starts talking to him about his horse. Blah, blah, blah, horse this, horse that.  Then he takes Nikolai to show him how to shoe the horse correctly.
  • Nikolai leaves to go get the horse, and when he comes back, he is again grossed out by the sight of Telyanin’s face.  After the horseshoeing, Telyanin leaves and Nikolai goes back inside.
  • There, Vaska is writing a love letter to some girl when the regiment’s sergeant major comes to collect on last night’s gambling debts. Vaska goes to get his wallet only to find...it’s gone!
  • They ransack the room, but nothing.
  • Nikolai immediately realizes who took the money, and even though Vaska tries to stop him, he goes to find Telyanin.
  • He finally runs into him in a village bar and confronts him super-quietly but really menacingly.
  • At first, Telyanin puts up an innocent front, but almost immediately he breaks down and confesses to stealing. Nikolai is glad to hear the confession, because he wasn’t quite sure that he was right.
  • Telyanin starts to cry and busts out some sad excuses about having a mother and a father.
  • Nikolai isn’t having any of it, but the sight of this man’s tears upsets him and he throws the money back to Telyanin and runs out of the bar.
  • It’s kind of a weird moment because it’s hard to tell exactly what Nikolai is so upset about. Or is he just embarrassed? What exactly did he think would happen when he called Telyanin out on being a thief?
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