Last Updated on September 13, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 994
Vorontsov leaves Hadji Murad with his wife and son while he goes to his office to make an official report about the Chechen warrior’s change of allegiance. When he returns, he finds that his young son is an admirer of Murad, who has given him a splendid dagger which he admired. Despite this apparent cordiality, Murad is anxious. Vorontsov has received him more enthusiastically than he expected, and he fears treachery.
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After dinner, an aide-de-camp from General Meller-Zakomelsky arrives, expressing the general’s displeasure that Hadji Murad’s arrival had not been reported to him immediately and demanding that Murad should be brought before him at once. Princess Marya Vasilevna senses that there will be trouble between her husband and the general and accompanies him to the headquarters, where she succeeds in mollifying the general. Hadji Murad, while he does not understand what they are saying, realizes that the Russians are arguing about him and that his arrival is a matter of importance to them.
Avdeev is taken to the hospital, where the other patients ask him about the raid in which he was wounded and reflect on the arbitrary nature of battle. The doctor locates the bullet that has wounded him but fails to extract it and finally does nothing but place a dressing on top of the wound. Avdeev’s friends, Panov and Serogin, come to visit him, but at first he seems not to see them. Finally, Avdeev asks that Serogin should write a letter to his family, wishing them long life, since he believes he is going to die. He asks for a candle and dies a few minutes later.
On the same day that Peter Avdeev dies in the hospital, his father and the rest of his family are threshing oats on the farm. Peter’s brother, Akim, is late in joining them. His father berates him and laments that Peter went to join the army instead of Akim, as he “was worth five of such as you at home.” Akim, however, points out that the old man also used to scold his brother when he was at home. The old man reflects to himself that, though it is normal for childless men to go to war in place of those with families, he bitterly regrets the loss of Peter.
The old man and his wife send Peter a letter, enclosing a ruble. The letter and the money are returned, with a note to say that Peter Avdeev has been killed “defending his Tsar, his Fatherland, and the Orthodox Faith.” His mother and his widow lament, but his widow is secretly glad, as she is pregnant by another man, whom she can now marry.
News of Hadji Murad’s surrender reaches the father of Prince Vorontsov, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Army, just before dinner. Over the dinner table, he tells his wife what has happened, and a red-haired general who is sitting next to her begins to tell stories about Hadji Murad. One of these concerns the elder Vorontsov himself, who made a mistake which cost numerous Russian lives, and nearly proved disastrous, in a campaign against Murad. Only after he has told the story does the general realize that he has embarrassed his host and himself.
A Georgian prince changes the subject, relating how Hadji Murad carried off the wife of one of his enemies. The company all agree that Hadji Murad is an honorable and chivalrous enemy and a great man. After dinner, while playing cards, the elder Prince Vorontsov receives a letter from his son, describing his part in Murad’s surrender and his subsequent encounter with General Meller-Zakomelsky.
When Hadji Murad comes to the palace of the Commander-in-Chief, he finds himself in the midst of numerous petitioners and visiting dignitaries. He tells the elder Vorontsov that he hopes to be of use to the Tsar in defeating their common enemy, Imam Shamil, though both men understand that he is not being sincere and that he “was and always would be an enemy to everything Russian and had surrendered only because he was obliged to.”
Vorontsov questions Hadji Murad on precisely how he wishes to serve Russia and take his revenge on Shamil. Murad proposes that the Commander-in-Chief should send him to the Lesghian line with an army so that he can destroy Shamil. First, however, there must be an exchange of prisoners, since Hadji Murad’s family have been captured by Shamil, and he cannot attack until they are free. Vorontsov says that he will think the matter over.
The superficial contrast between Chechens and Russians in the first section of Hadji Murad is followed by a more substantial contrast in these chapters. The negotiations of war and politics between men of destiny in chapters 6, 9 and 10 are interrupted by the common people and their struggle for survival in chapters 7 and 8. While this panorama of life is characteristic of Tolstoy, his treatment of the characters is not what the reader of War and Peace or Anna Karenina would expect. There is no earnest seeking after truth or moral perfection in Hadji Murad. Tolstoy always has some selfish, worldly characters in his novels, but they serve as foils for Levin or Bezukhov.
In Hadji Murad, everyone is shallow and self-interested, from the wily old Commander-in-Chief of the Russian army to Aksinya, the peasant woman who was married to Avdeev. Although Aksinya is only mentioned briefly, in two paragraphs at the end of chapter 8, her cynicism and hypocrisy reflect the moral tone of the book as a whole. She cries aloud for the death of her husband but is really pleased and relieved by his death, since it fits in with her plans to marry another man. Tolstoy shows this triumph of cynical self-interest at every level of society in Hadji Murad, his only late work in which there seems to be no spokesman for the author’s own transcendent idealism.