Resurrection is characteristic of Leo Tolstoy, one of Russia’s foremost novelists, because of its rich visual record of people and settings and its deftness in presenting the vices of petty officialdom, the humor of small people who want to seem great, and the hollowness of ritualistic orthodoxy. Tolstoy was convinced that evil begins when people cease to listen to their conscience and become self-centered. The public theme of the novel revolves around the shortcomings of social organizations. The personal theme, which involves the need for forgiveness, takes a form characteristic of Tolstoy: human failure revealed by a sin committed in semi-ignorance, followed by a long and soul-strengthening atonement.
The greatest strength of Resurrection is in its penetrating exposure of an unjust social order. A secondary focus is on the personal level in the effect of Nekhludoff’s philosophical and political conversion, specifically in his relationship with Katusha, without whom Nekhludoff’s reawakening and self-sacrifice could not have occurred.
In his student days, Nekhludoff’s social convictions were idealistic. He believed in perfectibility and rejected the principle of ownership of land by the elite. His idealism dimmed, however, after he entered military life, and he quickly abandoned all thoughts of perfection. He sacrificed both his relationship with Katusha and his own values to establish a public image that mirrored...
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