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Part I of Book I, is enveloped with the cloud of gloom. As Moscow comes under seize, important characters in the novel meet their end. Ellen, the high priestess of society falls seriously ill and succumbs to her ailment. Pierre is taken a prisoner and threatened with the shadow of death. Andrei struggles with his life, before he breathes his last. In relating the fate of these characters, Tolstoy impresses on the futility of life.
Ellen had led a fast life and in her pursuit of pleasure, had taken the life of others for granted. She had played with the sentiments of those that had desired her and used them for her selfish needs. She marries Pierre to enhance her position in life. She uses the wealth and comforts provided by him for her own benefit. In return, she gives him nothing but anguish. Later, when she is tired of chasing him and gets attracted to other influential men, she asks him to give her a divorce. Ellen uses and discards Pierre at her will. Similarly, she plays with the sentiments of two of her admirers and creates tension in their lives by forcing them to marry her. However, she is not able to pursue her game of love for too long. Guilt and frustration drive her to her death.
Pierre is taken a prisoner and made to face the harsh realities of life. He leads the life of a gypsy and passes through miserable conditions. He is haunted by the phantom of death, after he witnesses the execution of his fellow prisoners. Meeting prisoners from different walks of life, he learns the value of life and the significance of death.
The end of Part I, poses a few questions about the fate of the characters. The readers are likely to wonder about the future of Natasha. They might get curious about the outcome of the meeting between Marya and Nikolai. They are likely to be anxious about the lives of Sonya and Pierre. As the lives of a few important characters come to an end, the future of other characters involved with them comes into focus.