Tolstoy's God Sees the Truth But Waits: Symbolism & Analysis

Tolstoy's God Sees the Truth But Waits: Symbolism & Analysis
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  • 0:03 Story Summary
  • 1:46 Temporal Things
  • 2:37 Grey Hair
  • 3:19 The Story's Title
  • 3:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we'll analyze some of the symbols from Leo N. Tolstoy's short story 'God Sees the Truth, But Waits,' a story about a man who is falsely imprisoned but perseveres in his faith in God.

Story Summary

Think about a time when you have suffered because of the actions of another person. How did you respond? While many would seek vengeance or feel sorry for themselves, in Leo N. Tolstoy's 'God Sees the Truth, But Waits,' Ivan Dmitrich Aksionov, the protagonist, puts his trust in God to see him through his trials. Let's take a closer look at this story.

Aksionov's troubles begin when he travels to the Nizhny Fair despite his wife's warning that she had a bad dream and didn't think he should go. Along the way, he encountered an acquaintance. The two of them spent the evening together and then booked adjoining rooms in an inn. The next morning, Aksionov woke up early to complete his travels.

About 25 miles down the road, Aksionov is apprehended by soldiers who accuse him of murdering his acquaintance based on having been seen with the man the night before his murder and because they found his early morning departure suspicious. When the soldiers search Aksionov's belongings, they find a bloody knife. Character witnesses from his home town claim that Aksionov is a good man but that he used to drink. Even his wife begins to doubt Aksionov's innocence. He is sentenced to be ''flogged with a knot'' and then imprisoned in Siberia for 26 years.

A man from Aksionov's home town is also sent to Siberia, and Aksionov begins to suspect that Makar Semyonich is the one who killed his acquaintance and is filled with anger. Later, Aksionov stumbles upon Semyonich as he attempts to dig a hole to escape. Semyonich threatens to kill Aksionov if he tells anyone. When a guard discovers the dig, Aksionov is questioned but responds that it is not his place to tell. Aksionov's integrity convicts Semyonich who begs for forgiveness and confesses. By the time Aksionov is released, he no longer wishes to go home to his family, but is ready to be with the Lord. Aksionov dies in prison.

Temporal Things

At the beginning of the story, Aksionov is defined through temporal things, including his business and his home, but also his family and his freedom. The first thing we learn about this character is that he is a merchant and has ''two shops and a house of his own.'' This story sends the message that in the long run, none of these things matter.

As Paul says to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 4:18, 'While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal,' Aksionov learns the hard way that when the chips are down, nothing remains except God. Aksionov loses his business, home, family, and freedom, but God remains at his side and knows the truth. By the end of the story, Aksionov has an opportunity to get these temporal things back, but '…his heart grew light, and the longing for home left him. He no longer had any desire to leave the prison, but only hoped for his last hour to come.'

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