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War and Peace

War and Peace


by Leo Tolstoy

War and Peace Volume 1, Part 3, Chapter 1 Summary


  • Right, so Part 2 was all about war. Now we’re back to peace. Abooout-face! Back to Moscow!
  • As we figured out before, Prince Vassily is quite the smooth operator. He’s like the Old MacDonald of gaming the game, with some scheming here and some planning there, here a plot, there intrigue, everywhere machinations.
  • Now his main prey is, of course, the newly rich Pierre, to whom Prince Vassily wants to marry his hot daughter, Helene.
  • Pierre is quickly realizing that, as ever, mo’ money, mo’ problems.
  • Just as everyone before was ignoring him at best and being grossed out by him at worst, now the brown-nosing is at full tilt. The worst part is that Pierre is buying into all the false compliments and eating up the lovefest. He’s not the most street smart of people, to put it mildly.
  • This, of course, feeds right into Prince Vassily’s plans. He has basically taken charge of Pierre’s social, financial, and career affairs. Vassily has set Pierre up with a cushy no-show job at court and keeps him on a tight leash, constantly around the sexy Helene.
  • Every time Pierre has even the slightest itch to object to anything, Vassily puts on this big show of how he is the world’s busiest man, but for Pierre – well, out of charity, he’s taking the time to work things out. And, of course, Vassily is not above pocketing some of the money – a bunch for himself and a good portion to keep any witnesses to the whole fighting-over-the-will scene quiet.
  • Pierre goes to Petersburg to start his new “job,” which doesn’t actually require him to go anywhere or do anything. Instead he goes to parties and is overjoyed to see that everyone suddenly thinks he’s the most charming guy ever.
  • He gets an invitation from Anna Pavlovna, the woman who hosted the party that started the novel.
  • When he gets there, he wants to hang out with the guys, who are talking war and politics, but Anna Pavlovna hustles him off to a corner to sit with Helene and some old lady. Pierre is at first not paying too much attention, but Helene moves closer and closer to him, pretending to look at a jeweled box.
  • Finally, she’s so close that he can’t help but imagine seeing her naked and thinking about her body and the birds and the bees. The novel gets seriously graphic here...well, at least for the 19th century. There’s a whole long description of Pierre suddenly figuring out that Helene is naked under her clothes.
  • But at the same time, since he’s not a total idiot, he starts putting together the fact that she keeps being thrown at him by other people. He’s horrified by the idea that maybe he’s already somehow committed to marrying her.
  • Also, he knows that Helene isn't very smart, and he really doesn’t like her. Except, now that he’s had his little sexual awakening, it’s hard to keep that perspective in his head when all he can do is fantasize about their wedding night.

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