In this scene (Volume II, Part Two, Chapter X), Pierre is visiting his estates for the first time in a long time. He has become a Mason and is moved to improve the lot of his serfs. There is a long description of how bad conditions are and how he is being fooled into thinking that all is well. The butterfly represents his hope for a better future.
Here is an excerpt: "Pierre did not know that the village where he offered bread and salt and where a chapel to Peter and Paul was being built was a market village with a fair on St. Peter's Day, that the chapel had been begun long ago by the wealthy peasants, who were the ones who welcomed him, and that nine-tenths of the peasants in that village were completely destitute. He did not know that since, on his orders, women with nursing babies were no longer sent to do corvee, that these same women had to do still harder work on their own land... And therefore Pierre was delighted by his visits to the estates and returned fully to that philanthropic state of mind in which he had left Petersburg, and wrote rapturous letters to his mentor-brother, as he called the grand master."
Pierre, duped again. First by his beautiful wife Helene, and now by his estate managers. Yet can't we all relate to the feeling of self-satisfaction as we send money to hurricane victims in Haiti? or to our favorite charity? He's trying to do the right thing. As we all are. Only Tolstoy seems to have the BIG PICTURE, doesn't he? -- Lola
from page 479-480 of original text
page 380-381 Pevear/Volokhonsky translation