Book Three begins with an ironic analysis of Prince Vasili's manipulation of Pierre. This is demonstrated when Prince Vasili holds back some of Pierre's rent income. They both travel to Petersburg and because of his wealth Pierre is now a desirable husband for his daughter, H'l'ne. Pierre's naivety is also exposed as he wonders why he is so popular and doubts the benefits of marrying her, but is attracted nevertheless. Rumours that her brother Anatole was in love with her do not put him off. It is because of Prince Vasili's stage-directions, however, that Pierre marries her six weeks later.
In Chapter III, Prince Vasili then takes Anatole to visit Bald Hills in order to set up a union between his son and Princess Maria. However, Anatole flirts with her companion, Mademoiselle Bourienne, to the point that Princess Maria finally understands the unsuitability of their proposed match.
The action focuses on the Rostovs in Chapter VI and Chapter VII examines the war at Olmutz. Here, Rostov and Boris meet and Prince Andrei walks in as Rostov exaggerates and lies about his involvement with the Schon Graben affair. Prince Andrei's thoughts reveal that he 'could not endure that type of person.' Following this clash, Rostov's love for the Tsar is made all the more explicit as the troops are inspected by him. After the Tsar's visit, the troops are more confident.
Chapter XI begins with an abstract view of human history which is compared with the workings of a clock. In the following chapter it is reiterated that Prince Andrei wants glory and triumph and he is left uneasy after an unsuccessful Council of War.
The battle of Austerlitz is then referred to and in Chapter XVI Prince Andrei takes up the standard to help halt the Russian retreat, and appears to be fatally injured. In the following chapters, Rostov is sent with a message for Kutuzov and becomes caught up in the Horse Guard's charge on the French. Later, he sees his 'idolized Sovereign' in an empty field and cannot believe it.
The horrors of war are continually referred to at this point and this emphasized with the descriptions of panic among the soldiers. Prince Andrei is injured and is initially presumed dead. In Chapter XIX, he is saved, ironically, by Napoleon. However, Napoleon becomes diminished for Prince Andrei as he looks to the sky, which is where 'only the heavens promised peace'.
Both Books Two and Three reveal Rostov's and Prince Andrei's separate desires for glory. Book Three develops the point that there is a gradual diminishing of their idols as both Napoleon and the Tsar are seen by both characters 'in the flesh' and, therefore, as fallible humans.
The insincerity of society life is also exposed as Pierre is manipulated into marrying H'l'ne. His desirability is ironically explored as being in relation to his newly-acquired wealth. His na've response to this situation delineates his lack of social awareness of the upper classes and also characterizes him as an outsider. His inability to understand the rules of these networks typifies him as a character that represents a challenge to the shallow superficialities of salon life. His counterpart may be found in Princess Maria as she also does not immediately recognize that Anatole and Prince Vasili are concerned only with the attractiveness of her wealth.
War and Peace: Novel Summary: Book Three