Leo Tolstoy Questions and Answers

Start Your Free Trial

What is the significance of the three truths that God wishes the angel to learn in Tolstoy's "What Men Live By," and how were they revealed?

Expert Answers info

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write5,917 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and Business

The logic in Tolstoy’s beloved and inspirational story “What Men Live By” seems a bit convoluted at times but gets sorted out if the subtle shades of meaning are attended to. The three truths that the displaced angel learns answer the questions:

What dwells in man, What is not given to man, and What men live by.

The answers were revealed through daily living experiences in the shoemaker's cottage. One meaning of "significance" is the import or consequence of a thing. If this meaning is used, then the significance is that the truths released the angel Michael from his punishment and allowed him to return to heaven. His punishment to live like a mortal man was given because he allowed a dying mother to convince him that humans live by fulfilling the needs they perceive as she thought of her new born infant daughters. Living on earth with the shoemaker, Michael learned what humans truly live by, along with what dwells within humans and what is not known by humans.

I have...

(The entire section contains 578 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

check Approved by eNotes Editorial