In Petersburg, H'l'ne has died after previously hoping for a divorce from Pierre. There is also news that Moscow has surrendered, although the Tsar says that this will never happen. The private concerns of individuals at this time are referred to and these are used as a counterbalance to the patriotic claims of historians.
Rostov, whilst attempting to secure more horses for his troops, is invited to a soiree at Voronezh in Chapter IV. He blushes at the mention of Princess Maria and eventually they meet again. He cannot picture them as betrothed, though, as this would seem false to him. He then changes his mind and prays for his freedom from Sonya. Shortly after, he receives a letter from Sonya saying that she releases him from his promise to her.
Sonya's deceptiveness is glimpsed fully for the first time in Chapter VIII, although there have been hints of her mendacity in Book VII. She believes that since Prince Andrei and Natasha are becoming close again it is possible that they may marry. If this marriage were to take place, Princess Maria and Rostov could not marry as well because of the 'prohibited degrees of affinity' (as brother- and sister-in-law).
The narrative returns to Pierre and his trial in Chapter IX. It appears that he is to be shot. He is the sixth man in the line and the previous five are executed. Instead, he and the remaining others are used as witnesses to stop the committing of further crimes (of arson in this instance). The kindness and simplicity of a fellow prisoner, Platon, helps Pierre to cope with this new life as a prisoner in Chapter XII and XIII.
This Book ends with Princess Maria travelling to Yaroslavl to see her brother, Andrei. His conversation is 'unimpassioned, desultory' and his resignation to his death is obvious to Princess Maria and Natasha. His death closes this Book.
The indictment of injustice and inhumanity continues in the depictions of Pierre's treatment after his arrest. The graphic portrayal of the executions and being kept in ignorance if Pierre is also to be murdered are crucial scenes in the criticism of the abuse of power. The absurdity of his arrest and consequent prisoner status are apt for demonstrating how poignantly cruel yet ridiculous injustice is.
The death of Prince Andrei is similarly emotive and this is made all the more so by his resignation to the inevitable. Life and death have become interchangeable and his desultory conversation and apparent coldness exemplify his departure from desiring to live. His late reunion with Natasha, and his forgiveness of her, offer forms of closure for this strand of the plot as these factors eventually allow Natasha to find love elsewhere. There is also a Christian overtone to these occurrences as forgiveness rather than retribution is placed at the center of this plot.
War and Peace: Novel Summary: Book Twelve