War and Peace Volume 4, Part 1, Chapter 12 Summary
Pierre and the rest of the spared men are taken away to a prisoner-of-war barracks.
There, he realizes that after seeing “this horrible murder performed by people who did not want to do it,” he has lost faith in human beings, in God, in life, in everything (188.8.131.52).
He sits in the barracks for a long time without moving.
Eventually he realizes that he is watching a man nearby doing something. The man starts talking to him in a soothing voice, almost like a children’s nanny. He feeds a stray dog that comes to the door and then gives Pierre a baked potato.
Pierre has never eaten anything more delicious.
The little man introduces himself as Platon – which is the Russian name of the Greek philosopher Plato (but also a fairly common male name). Coincidence? Tolstoy doesn’t usually go in for the significant-name thing, so you be the judge.
The man speaks through a lot of proverbs and sayings, kind of rounding out all his peasant speech with folk wisdom. It’s all sort of deep, but Platon has the funny habit of not remembering anything that comes out of his mouth. He is entirely unable to repeat himself.
He tells Pierre that he became a soldier as punishment, but now sees that it’s better this way. He went instead of his brother, since his brother had two kids and Platon had none.
After Platon falls asleep, Pierre lies down and thinks about him. He feels a little bit of the faith again growing in his soul.