Of course the reader hopes that Nikolai is going to grow up eventually… but this is a strange and troubling chapter (ch.6,p4 of vol.2). It begins predictably with his emotional-territorial anger, the same kind of feeling that propels warfare — I’m sure this is why we’re told that Nikolai has never even met Ilagin. We’re expecting some form of ritualised aggression. Then it becomes clear that Ilagin doesn’t want to fight or compete with the Rostovs.
Instead we get the very real aggressive spectacle of the poor hare being mauled and cut up. As Natasha’s shrieking shows, not everything is calm here, these are not people engaging in a philosophical discussion. They are just re-directing their anger into a different kind of cruelty.