War and Peace
by Leo Tolstoy
War and Peace Volume 1, Part 3, Chapter 7 Summary
- No worries. Turns out Boris gets the package just fine and sends a note to Nikolai to come pick it up.
- The army is near Olmutz, waiting to be reviewed by the Russian and Austrian emperors.
- Nikolai rides over to the town, still in his dirty battle gear, psyched to look like a warrior.
- Meanwhile, Boris and Berg (the guy who only ever talks about himself) are both doing army administration, so they’ve been living high on the hog traveling around in style with the VIPs.
- Boris and Nikolai hug after not having seen each other in a year and a half. Nikolai is sort of sad that he doesn’t have some cooler way to greet Boris.
- Nikolai starts doing his best tough-guy-soldier thing, yelling and using slang.
- After some chitchat, Boris gives Nikolai his letter and the money. Nikolai kicks Berg out of the room for privacy, then reads the letter, feeling guilty for not writing home more.
- In the package there’s a letter of recommendation for him to give to General Bagration, but Nikolai throws that on the ground. Boris is all, what’s wrong with you? Turns out Nikolai doesn’t want to become a diplomat; he wants to stay in the fighting part of the army. Boris is like, um, your loss.
- Berg comes back now and they have some wine. Berg tells some stories...about Berg, obviously.
- Then Boris asks Nikolai to tell them how he got his wound.
- Nikolai wants to tell them what actually happened, but without even realizing it he embellishes the story and turns it into a big, dramatic cliché. Basically, instead of the truth, he gives them exactly what they are expecting.
- Shmoop aside: this is actually a pretty key moment. On the one hand, we learn a little bit about Nikolai and how much he wants to be seen as a macho soldier man. But also, it’s a meta (self-referential) commentary on the novel itself, which is not like any other novel that had been written at the time. Tolstoy is trying to do the opposite of Nikolai – he’s really trying hard to be as truthful, non-clichéd, and non-formulaic as possible, and this probably really confuses and puts off some readers. Cool, huh? Check out more about this in the “In a Nutshell” section.
- In the middle of Nikolai’s story, Andrei comes in. Andrei is friends with Boris but doesn’t know Nikolai. He just assumes he’s some idiotic jock.
- Andrei starts calmly making fun of Nikolai and how all war stories seem to be so super-awesome-sounding. Nikolai is offended and flips out because he can’t believe some diplomat is talking to him like that.
- Things are clearly heating up, when Andrei is calmly like, "I don’t want to fight you, and trust me, you don’t want to fight me either." But he does tell Nikolai where he can find him later, in case Nikolai can’t let it go.
- Andrei leaves.
- And of course, as soon as he does, Nikolai thinks of a great comeback. Bah, too late. He’s furious and annoyed and can’t help fantasizing about beating up Andrei. But somehow he also realizes that it would be really great to be Andrei’s friend.
- Wait, what? Yeah, we’re kind of thrown for a loop too.
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