Chapters 21-25 Summary and Analysis

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Chapter 21

Butler visits the camp at Grozny and calls on Colonel Prince Vorontsov, with whom he once served in the same regiment. Vorontsov invites him to a splendid dinner party, which reminds him of his time in Saint Petersburg. After dinner, Butler begins to play cards, despite having been ruined by gambling debts once already. He loses 470 rubles, far more than he is able to pay, even if he sells his horse.

Butler goes home and sleeps for eighteen hours, then attempts to borrow 500 rubles. He writes to his brother and another relative, then approaches Major Petrov. However, the major says that while he would be happy to oblige his friend, his mistress, Marya Dmitrievna, would never permit him to part with such a sum.

Chapter 22

Having failed to save his family or make any move against Imam Shamil, Hadji Murad obtains Vorontsov’s permission to go to Nukha, a small town in Transcaucasia. He wants to live in Nukha because it is a Muslim town, with a mosque where he can pray, and because he thinks it is a suitable base for his negotiations and espionage.

However, Hadji Murad achieves nothing in Nukha, and the only information he receives from his spies is discouraging. He begins to consider whether he should accept Imam Shamil’s offer and return to fight on the Chechen side, though he hates Shamil and does not trust him. Moreover, he realizes that after he has spent so much time among the Russians, none of the Chechen fighters will trust him either.

Chapter 23

Hadji Murad finally comes to a decision. He will break into Vedeno with a few loyal men and rescue his family or die in the attempt. What he does after this, if he is successful, is a matter of indifference to him. He warns his murids to prepare for a journey and a fight, and they spend the rest of the night examining their guns and sharpening swords and daggers.

Hadji Murad hears one of his murids singing a song, which reminds him of the songs his mother used to sing him when he was a child. The image of himself as a child then leads him to think of his own son, Yusuf. These thoughts move him so much that he decides to ride out with his murids immediately, although the sun has not yet risen.

Chapter 24

Captain Butler has borrowed the money to pay his gambling debt at high interest and meanwhile seeks oblivion in drinking and in “the poetry of warfare.” At the end of April, a new detachment comes to the fort commanded by Major Petrov, in preparation for an advance across Chechnya. There is a great deal of drinking and rowdiness, in which the major is an enthusiastic participant.

Major Petrov is drunk when a fellow officer brings him the severed head of Hadji Murad. He says that Murad was a fine fellow, and wants to kiss his head. Marya Dmitrievna turns angrily away, pronouncing them all cutthroats. The Russian officer relates to Butler the story of Hadji Murad’s death.

Chapter 25

Hadji Murad and his murids rode out with an escort of Cossacks, from whom they soon escaped. The alarm was raised and a reward of a thousand rubles offered for the capture of Murad, alive or dead.

Murad was delayed in a waterlogged rice field and camped beside it for the night to rest the horses. Karganov, the local Russian commander, discovered his camp and surrounded it with his militia. The next morning, Karganov’s company was joined by that of Hadji...

(This entire section contains 921 words.)

See This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this study guide. You'll also get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Aga, a former companion of Murad’s. Both Karganov and Aga called upon Murad to surrender, but in vain.

There followed a pitched battle in which Hadji Murad was wounded twice. The second wound was fatal, but with the last of his strength, Murad came out from his entrenched position and advanced on the enemy. The last thing he felt was Hadji Aga striking him on the head with a dagger. Hadji Aga then cut off the head of Hadji Murad.

It was this episode, the narrator says, of which he was reminded when he saw the crushed thistle in the plowed field.


The futility that Tolstoy depicts as a central feature of life and war in Hadji Murad is particularly pronounced in its conclusion. Murad dies in circumstances that are squalid and absurd, never seeing his family or learning what their fate is to be. He has no chance to show his heroic qualities. His final advance against the combined forces of Karganov and Hadji Aga may be brave, but it accomplishes nothing: it is already a corpse, rather than a man, which advances.

Chronologically, the story of Hadji Murad ends with his severed head being presented to the drunken Major Petrov, a man whom Murad despised. Petrov is incapable of treating the head with respect and solemnity, farcically trying to kiss it. Tolstoy shows the bitter absurdity of his protagonist’s end, but he is unwilling to conclude on this note, so he rearranges the chronology of the story to end with the image of the crushed thistle in the plowed field, immediately preceded by the nightingales singing. Hadji Murad lives and dies on barren ground, surrounded by worldly opportunists. All the author can do to mitigate the bitterness of his end is to use his art to manipulate the sequence of events, allowing the great warrior to conclude his story, if not his life, on a note of tragic dignity.


Chapters 16-20 Summary and Analysis