Leo Tolstoy Short Fiction Analysis
Leo Tolstoy’s ego embraces the world, so that he is always at the center of his fictive creation, filling his books with his struggles, personae, problems, questions, and quests for answers, and above all with his notion of life as an ethical search as strenuous as the pursuit of the Holy Grail. He does not try to puzzle or dazzle; his work is not a clever riddle to be solved or a game to be played but a rich realm to be explored. He disdains the kind of exterior purism practiced by Gustave Flaubert and Henry James among others, which concentrates on the inner lives of individuals—although he is superbly skilled at psychological perception. His aim, rather, is to discover, as far as he can, the essential truth of life’s meaning, the revelation to be gained at the core of the vast mesh of human relations. What energizes his work is his conviction that this truth is good, and that, once discovered, it will resolve the discords and conflicts that plague humanity.
In Tolstoy’s art, the natural, simple, and true is always pitted against the artificial, elaborate, and false, the particular against the general, knowledge gained from observation against assertions of borrowed faiths. His is the gift of direct vision, of fundamental questions and of magical simplicity—perhaps too simple, as a distinguished historian of ideas has indicated. Isaiah Berlin, in a famous essay titled “The Hedgehog and the Fox,” sees Tolstoy as torn between his pluralism...
(The entire section is 3623 words.)
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