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War and Peace

War and Peace


by Leo Tolstoy

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


  • After having it out with Helene, Pierre goes to Petersburg.
  • OK, guys, open wide for a Shmoop brain snack that’ll make the next part make sense. Moscow to Petersburg is about 500 miles. Back then, travel was just on horses, so that’s a long trip, considering that the speed of harnessed horses is about five miles per hour. Also, a bunch of horses harnessed to a carriage can only go so far before they need to rest and eat (about 25 miles a day). Which means that anyone who wanted to get somewhere was constantly forced to stop at little roadside inns to chillax while getting new horses for the next leg of the trip (called a stage).  Since the stage horses were rentals, they were under the control of people who worked at the inn, who wanted to maximize his money by getting as many people into each carriage as possible, since either way the horses could only make about one or two trips a day. (Come to think of it, it’s a little bit like airplane travel right now.)
  • So, anyway, Pierre stops at one of these inns and has to wait for horses.
  • The horse guy comes in and is clearly running a little bit of a scam by saying that fresh horses aren’t ready, when most likely he’s just waiting for more passengers to show up.
  • But Pierre doesn’t care. He’s not really paying attention to anything, because he’s consumed by all sorts of deep thoughts. Make that Deep Thoughts. Or maybe even DEEP THOUGHTS.
  • What are these thoughts? Oh, you know, just the nature of good and evil and the scope of morality and the meaning of life. No biggie.
  • Pierre is confused about everything he’s ever believed or disbelieved in. The only thing he can be sure of is death.
  • Just when he’s really feeling bad, another traveler joins him at the inn. It’s an old, unpleasant man who makes Pierre feel a bit squirmy for some reason.
  • The old man reads a book for a while, but Pierre can tell that they are about to have a conversation.

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