In Leo Tolstoy’s story “God Sees the Truth, But Waits,” why did the author include In the story, Tolstoy tells us that In prison Aksionov learnt to make boots, and. In God Sees the Truth, But Waits by Leo Tolstoy we have the theme of guilt, forgiveness, faith, conflict, freedom and acceptance. Narrated in the. LEO TOLSTOY’S “GOD SEES THE. TRUTH, BUT WAITS”. GARY R. JAHN. It is well known that in the late ‘s Tolstoy passed through a spiritual crisis which.

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Reprinted from Studies in Short Fiction 3 It is well known that in the late ‘s Tolstoy passed through a spiritual crisis which led, inter alia, to a renunciation of his highly successful career as an author of “literary” pretensions.

Less well known are two earlier abdications from this role. In the early ‘s Tolstoy abandoned literature in order to establish a school for the peasants living on his estate and to publish a journal explaining his pedagogical methods. The scope of his efforts on this occasion was national rather than local, and he devoted some four years to the writing of a series of primers for use in elementary schools.

In connection with this project, Tolstoy wrote a large number of stories, sketches, and articles to form the bulk of the practical matter in a course in the elements of literacy which he had designed.

God Sees the Truth, But Waits

Among these are two stories which he, in his tractate on aesthetics, What is Art, excepted from the general repudiation of the fiction which he wrote prior to the crisis and conversion of the late ‘s. This paper will offer a structural analysis of the second of these stories with an eye to demonstrating that, while Tolstoy’s stimulus for writing it was superficially nonliterary, the structural eloquence of the story is in no way impaired as a result.

I would suggest that the meaning of the story can be best understood by considering the narrative in the light of the tolstoyy suggested by the structure of the plot.

Duffield and Company, Tolstoy’s gof writings on education from this period are collected in vol. All references to Tolstoy’s works, both in the text and in the notes, are to volume and page of this edition. The translations are mine. Considering the brevity of the story, the scope of the narrative seems extraordinarily ambitious.

While the basis of the narrative is biographical, however, the number of incidents recounted is very small. Aksenov, a happy and successful merchant, leaves home on a business trip. On the night of his first day on the road he shares a hotel room with a stranger, a fellow merchant.

During the night a thief enters the room and robs and murders Aksenov’s companion. Unaware of this, Aksenov departs early in the morning, and, on the second day of his journey, he is overtaken by the police and charged with murder. Although innocent, he is tried and convicted. A new convict, Makar Semenov, then arrives at the prison, and Aksenov learns that it was this hardened criminal who had committed the crime for which he himself had been imprisoned.

One night Aksenov observes Makar digging a tunnel. The prison authorities discover the tunnel before it is completed.

Short Story Analysis: God Sees the Truth, But Waits by Leo Tolstoy – The Sitting Bee

The prisoners are assembled for interrogation, and the warden questions Aksenov in particular. Ttruth he has good reason to hate Makar, Aksenov refuses to report him.

Makar is so moved by Aksenov’s protection of him that he comes to him at night to seek his forgiveness. On the next day Makar confesses to the authorities that he was the real murderer. Aksenov is granted a full pardon, but by the time it arrives he has died. The unity of the narrative is based upon the fact that it relates the life story of a single individual. It is highly selective in the events presented, and the structure of their arrangement is tightly controlled.

There are substantial accounts of only two brief periods in Aksenov’s life. The first half of the story is devoted to the events surrounding the murder of the merchant.


The second half of the story recounts the events consequent upon the coincidental meeting of Aksenov and the real murderer. In all, these events represent only a few weeks in Aksenov’s life.

The isolation and juxtaposition of two significant events in the life of the protagonist is basic to the symmetry that is the dominant factor of the story. The symmetry is evident in many ways. An examination of the general ordering of the narrative material reveals that the bulk of each half of the story is devoted to a detailed account of a climactic event in the life of the protagonist.

Both of these accounts are preceded by a physical description of the protagonist and a brief portrait of the manner of his life and of his emotional state prior to his involvement in the climactic events which follow.

As he is described in the first half of the story, Aksenov would seem to be still in his young manhood, perhaps twenty-five to thirty years of age. Symmetry also governs the narration of the two climactic events themselves.

Both narrations begin with a conversation. In the first half of the story there is a conversation between Aksenov and his wife prior to his departure on a journey. In the second half Aksenov converses with Makar following the latter’s arrival at the prison.

After the initial conversation in each half of the story there follows a narrative account of the protagonist’s subsequent actions. In the first half Aksenov begins his journey, and during the night of his first day on the road the man with whom he shares a room is murdered. In the second half, again at night, Aksenov observes Makar’s attempt to dig a tunnel through which to escape from the prison. Consequent upon the actions which occur during the brief narrative interval, the protagonist is, in both halves of the story, drawn into a dramatic confrontation with the authorities.

In the first half Aksenov is interrogated by the police inspector who apprehends him. In the second half the authorities discover the partially completed tunnel. When the prisoners are assembled for interrogation, Aksenov is singled out and questioned by the warden regarding his knowledge of it.

Both of the scenes of confrontation are followed by a second meeting between the participants in the initial conversation.

Best Russian Short Stories/God Sees the Truth, but Waits

In the first half of the story Aksenov’s wife visits him in prison and it is suggested that she too believes him to be guilty of the murder. In the second half Makar comes to Aksenov to confess that he had been the real murderer and to ask Aksenov for forgiveness. Both halves of the story conclude with a brief narrative of the sequel to the incidents described.

In the first half Aksenov is tried, convicted, scourged, and deported. In the second half Makar confesses to the authorities. Aksenov is pardoned, but by the time the document arrives he has died. The development of the character of the protagonist is also symmetrical, but the symmetry arises from the juxtaposition of accounts of his emotional state and his reaction to specific situations which are closely related by their symmetrical positioning in the text but are essentially dissimilar in their significance for the character of the protagonist.

This pattern might be called a symmetry of opposites. An example is the description of the protagonist which begins each half of the story and the events which appear later in support of the de. He is a successful merchant for although he is still young he already owns two shops and a house. He is the father of a family. At the beginning of the second half of the story, his physical appearance has changed completely.

His hair has turned white and his beard has grown out long, narrow, and grey. He has lost all of his worldly goods and has sunk from a position of relative affluence to that of a penniless convict. He has lost all contact with his family. Since his imprisonment he has received no word from home and does not know what has become of his wife and children. All his merriment has evaporated. He sings now only in the choir of the prison church and is esteemed by his fellow prisoners and the prison authorities for his gravity and meekness.

The protagonist’s emotional response to his confrontation with the authorities is quite dissimilar in either half of the story. In the first half Aksenov is highly agitated, stunned, stammering, and confused. The emotional response of the protagonist to the second conversation in each half of the story is, again, both similar in detail and dissimilar in its emotional import.

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In the first half Aksenov sheds tears of despair when he learns of his wife’s lack of faith in his innocence. In the second half he sheds tears of joy as he hears Makar’s confession and forgives him.

The implication in the narrative conclusion to each half of the story is that the protagonist’s emotional state remains the same as in the preceding scene, so.

At the end of the first half he is suffering and in despair, while at the end of the second half he is joyful, calm, and contented.

The symmetry of the structure of the story is further reinforced by a number of verbal echoes in its two halves. The first half of the story ends with the words “. The symmetry of plot and verbal texture has two primary functions. First, it draws attention to the two main events in the protagonist’s life as climactic situations resulting in a profound change in both the outward and inward character and progress of his life.

Second, it organizes the representation of the life of the protagonist in such a way that two distinct schemes of development become apparent. The outward and material development of Aksenov’s life is presented by what might be called a structural anaphora. This line of development is the specific function of the symmetry of like to like in the story. Summarizing tolsty line in brief, one may say that the protagonist passes from worldly success to worldly wretchedness in the first half tolstog the story, and in the second half this process is repeated more intensely as he passes from wretchedness to death.

Aksenov’s inward and spiritual development, on the contrary, is presented as forming an antithetical pattern, and the representation of this line of development is the specific function of the symmetry of opposites. The presence of two variants of the sefs that dominates the structure leads to a tension within the story itself. The account of Aksenov’s life contains two lines of development that are distinct from one another both in structure as anaphora to antithesis and in their significance for the protagonist.

A proper understanding of the meaning of the story must take this tension into account and allow it a role commensurate with its structural importance. None of the analyses of “God Sees the Truth, But Waits” of which I am aware have taken the structure of the story satisfactorily into account.

By way of example, we may consider the most substantial of the existing interpretations, that of the late N. Gusev maintained that the theme of the story was the eventual triumph of truth over falsehood. Materialy k biografii s trtuh g. In Gusev’s interpretation neither the way in which the teuth about the murder becomes known nor the effect on the protagonist of the long delay which precedes its revelation have any special importance.

Gusev’s interpretation seems to me to have two prominent flaws. First, his insistence on understanding the word pravda in the title of the story only in the sense of “truth” does not take the full meaning of the word into account. Throughout his remarks Gusev consistently opposes pravda to daits lie, falsehood. But pravda extends beyond “truth” to a broader meaning that might be rendered as “truth with justice” or “righteous truth.

Second Gusev’s deemphasis of the role of the protagonist relative to the theme of the revelation of the truth seems unwarranted in light of the fact that the reader’s sympathy is strongly engaged on Aksenov’s behalf. The reader knows from the beginning what the truth is and the entire interest of the story is in the observation of Aksenov’s reactions against the injustice of his situation.