Denisov was trying to be too much like Rostov, and he probably thought he could get away with it, too just like Rostov probably would have. Thing is he went a little too far and he regretted it. Though I can’t say I blame him for trying to feed his troops. Still, if we remember the letter sent to Andrei, we know how complicated matters are, how difficult logistics are, and Denisov didn’t have all the facts
Mashka’s sweet root is actually Acorus calamus and when eaten it can be hallucinogenic. Thematically this is interesting because of how important perception is to the novel, how who the person we think we are is the person we try to present to the world and how that can be seen differently to all the people we know, all of them doing the same thing. We think everyone is watching us, but they’re not.
Why does Denisov well up in tears at the end of this chapter? I think it’s because of how much he loves the Rostov family, how even their impetuousness is endearing to him, how like a brother Nikolai is to him, and even his failed proposal to Natasha strengthened his feelings towards the family. Dolokhov fled from the Rostov’s at his failing, but Denisov is family and he loves his family even when it hurts.
Tolstoy’s observations of how people behave behind other’s people’s back is honest – when a person leaves our company it’s common for everyone to talk about them, usually unflattering gossip. It’s human behavior. Yet this doesn’t happen to Pierre, they speak well of him because he’s a good person. And as a character we feel his goodness, not because we’re told it, but Tolstoy shows is. Pierre equals good.
Tolstoy isn’t just picking on the Mason’s, his contempt for organized religion goes straight for the humble beliefs of the peasant Orthodox. Here we see through Pierre how the wonder-working ikon story told by the old woman is a scam, though Tolstoy never actually says so. Pierre’s innocence is to question the truth of such a thing, but he’s not cynical, he truly doesn’t understand how she doesn’t see it.