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The scene shifts from Otradnoe to Petersburg. Pierre gets disillusioned with his life in the city. Marital disharmony and dissatisfaction in the fold, make Pierre renounce his present life. He loses interest in his work and shifts to Moscow. He reverts back to his old life and starts indulging in the vices he had shunned in the recent past. He starts drinking and visiting places of disrepute. At home, he spends time contemplating and reading.
Prince Bolkonsky, his daughter and Madam Bourienne arrive in Moscow to spend some time in the city. The Prince becomes more irritable and moody. He looks disturbed and shows intolerance towards his daughter. His hatred for Napoleon makes him suspect all French men including his doctor and so, he turns the physician out of his house. Princess Marya bears the brunt of his anger and frustration but turns bitter. She starts hating Madam Bourienne for encouraging her father to flirt with her. She also gets impatient with her nephew, though she repents for her action. She develops a dislike for Natasha for luring her brother from her. Moscow brings misery to her. Friendless in a strange city, she feels lonely and isolated. To add insult to injury, the old Prince abuses her often and goes to the extent of ordering her out of the house. Princess Marya has no one to turn to and thus, is dejected. When Pierre meets her after a party, he finds her in a disturbed state of mind. In a state of agitation, Marya mentions about her fatherís authoritarian ways and her insecure position in the house. She also expresses anxiety about her brother marrying Natasha. However, she is willing to befriend Natasha before the arrival of Andrei on the scene.
Boris arrives in Moscow with the intention of improving his position in life. With the intention of marrying an heiress, he woos Princess Marya. However, Pierre alerts Marya about the nature and intention of Boris before the latter can take advantage of the Princess. With Marya out of his way, Boris turns his attention on Julie Kuragin, an unimpressive, rich girl. Julieís looks and attitude repulse him but her wealth tempts him to propose to her. Thus, Boris gets engaged to Julie and becomes the owner of large estates.
Count Rostov along with the girls arrives in Moscow and stay with Marya Dmitrievna. Dmitrievna is delighted to receive the visitors and provides them with all comforts. She takes charge of the girls and takes them out to shopping. She also induces them and the Count to visit the Bolkonskys. When they visit Andreiís family, they are disappointed. Prince Bolkonsky avoids them and Princess Marya is too embarrassed to entertain them. Observing Maryaís restrained behavior, Natasha feels insulted and hates the Princess for creating such a situation. When the Prince meets Natasha, he remains aloof. Thus, Natasha turns bitter towards the Bolkonskys after her visit to them. She hopes for Andreiís early arrival to retrieve the situation.
One day, as Natasha visits the theatre along with the Count and Sonya, she makes the acquaintance of Ellen and Anatol. Ellenís beauty and grace captivate her and she starts admiring Lady Bezukhov. She is also delighted with the attention bestowed on her by the sister and brother. A few days later, when Ellen invites them to a party in her house, the Rostovs accept the invitation. At the party, Anatol flirts with Natasha shamelessly and takes the first opportunity to kiss her. Natasha gets carried away by the passion and loses her head over Anatol. In the days to come, she exchanges notes with him and decides to elope with him. Having made this decision, she writes a letter to Princess Marya breaking off her engagement to Andrei. On the day of elopement, as Natasha waits in restlessness, Sonya informs Marya Dmitrievna about their plan. As Dmitrievna gets ready to apprehend the culprit, Anatol becomes aware of the trap laid by the elderly lady and runs away from the scene. Dmitrievna exposes the true nature of Anatol to Natasha and asks her to keep the affair a secret from the Count. When Pierre comes to visit them, he reveals the evil nature of Anatol who had kept his first marriage a secret from Natasha. Natasha is shattered. She loses the will to live and falls ill. On his return from official work, the Count hears about Natashaís broken engagement and feels disturbed.
Pierre takes pity on Natasha and visits Andrei to convey her anguish. Andrei comes to grips with the situation but refuses to accept Natasha. Pierre feels let down and is sorry for Natasha. Natasha is heart-broken. She only wants Andrei to pardon her. While the Rostovs are distressed about the happenings, the Bolkonskys are happy. Prince Bolkonsky and Marya are relieved to hear about the breaking of Andreiís engagement to Natasha.