War and Peace Volume 2, Part 2, Chapter 11 Summary
Pierre is feeling all proud of himself and decides to go visit his old friend Andrei. What we get here is a chapter that doesn’t really advance plot or character, but does something that introduces a whole new genre into the novel’s mix: the philosophical dialogue. (Want to know more? Check out the “Genres” section. Now filled with more genres than you can shake a stick at.)
Andrei is living in a new house on the small estate near his father’s place. He is super grumpy and doesn’t seem too thrilled to see his old friend Pierre. Pierre thinks Andrei looks dead inside.
They start to catch up on old times, but the conversation is going pretty poorly. When Pierre asks Andrei about his future plans, Andrei doesn’t have much to say.
Pierre starts telling him all about his good works for his serfs, and that’s when the fun begins. And by fun, we mean a dry, dense conversation about morality.
Pierre says he is so relieved that he didn’t kill Dolokhov in the duel – after all, killing is wrong.
Andrei is all, well, I don’t know about that. All I live for is to avoid remorse and illness.
Pierre is shocked and puts in a good word for self-sacrifice and doing good things for others.
Andrei says, meh. To him, his old life of living for glory was pretty much all about doing things for others and getting their praise – but now, he just lives for himself and his family.
Pierre starts getting more and more agitated, arguing that it’s crazy to think that trying to make other people’s lives better is a bad thing.
Andrei then says this:
1. No human knows what is good and what is evil.
2. Trying to help the serfs is probably going to backfire. For instance, giving serfs an education and the desire for bigger and better things without the means to get them is just cruel. He has a point obviously – the whole feudal system needs to change if their lives are going to be improved. But it’s clear that he doesn’t really think the serfs are fully human.
3. He is only doing the stuff with the militia because he needs to keep an eye on his crazy old dad, and he’s the only one who can stand up to Prince Bolkonsky.
Pierre can tell that the combination of his army experience and the death of his wife has totally changed Andrei.