War and Peace: Novel Summary: Book Five

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Book Five

This section begins with Pierre's encounter with a stranger (Bazdayev), who informs Pierre of the wonders of freemasonry. Pierre begins to see the optimistic possibilities of such a society and understands it to be a brotherhood for men to support each other on a path to virtue. In Chapter III and IV he is asked to join them and is initiated now that he believes in God. It is in these chapters that Pierre embraces the concept of regeneration and purification.
The change in Pierre becomes more obvious when he tells his father-in-law (Prince Vasili) to leave rather than submit to his demands and manipulations as he has in the past. In the wider circles of society, Pierre is blamed unfairly by gossip that he alone is responsible for the duel with Dolohov. It also becomes clearer that Boris is visiting H�l�ne frequently.
In Chapter VIII, the narrative focus shifts to Prince Andrei who has decided he no longer wants to fight in the war and vows not to take part in active service. Pierre's story is returned to in Chapter IX as it is revealed that he wants to liberate his serfs. His ignorance of their conditions is maintained as his chief steward orchestrates the visit. It is also clear that Pierre is not equipped mentally to pursue his ideas more thoroughly. When Pierre visits Prince Andrei, in Chapter XI and XII, a discussion ensues in which Prince Andrei claims he has no wish to do good for his neighbors. The conversation does help to lift Prince Andrei inwardly though.
The action moves to Rostov and his regiment, the Pavlograd Hussars, in Chapter XV. It is stated that the Pavlograd regiment lost only two men in action, but famine and sickness reduced their numbers by half. The indictment of this waste of lives is continued when it is related how Denisov is threatened with a court martial for stealing food for his starving troops, but is shot so must go to hospital instead. The terrible conditions of the hospital are detailed in Chapter XVII.
In Chapter XIX, Rostov meets Boris and asks for his help with regard to Denisov. Boris's 'veiled look' epitomizes his skills in diplomacy and his lack of true concern for others. On 27 June, the preliminaries of peace are signed by the Tsar and Napoleon and Rostov's increasing disillusionment is noted at the end of this Book: 'Horrible doubts were stirring in his soul.'
The hypocrisy of those who judge Pierre harshly in favor of Dolohov becomes increasingly apparent as Pierre is the one who is criticized for the duel. Because of Pierre's lack of social graces, it is implied, he is regarded as the main culprit. His desire for change and escape from such superficial responses is marked by his decision to join the freemasons. This decision is also indicative of his wish to search for meaning in his life. He perceives that the aristocratic circles into which he has become accepted with the help of his father's legacy are merely shallow distractions from moral considerations.
Rostov is gradually altering his perspectives too as he demonstrates his kindness to those with less food, and in his visit to the hospital. This visit is of importance because of the graphic descriptions offered as well. There is a strong anti-war sentiment underlying these passages that show how the soldiers are discarded and left to die once they are wounded. Further to this, the waste of lives that comes about with war is emphasized as many of the sick and dead of Rostov's regiment have been damaged by famine and lack of organization rather than combat.

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