Nikolai Leskov Questions and Answers

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In Leskov's "The Sealed Angel," which Old Believers convert to the ruling church and in what order? Who are the two characters most responsible for this?

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Luke is converted first to the Orthodox Church, followed by Maroe and the rest of the Old Believers. The responsibility for this conversion is harder to pin down because of the story's ambivalent attitude toward the faith of Luke and the others. The chain of events that leads to the theft of the icon theoretically begins with the double-dealing of Pemen, so, in a sense, he could be held responsible. The Englishman's sympathy for the Old Believers also emboldens Luke and the others to attempt the theft, so he (and his wife) can be thought of as responsible as well. Of course, the priest to whom Luke confesses and who provides absolution is also responsible for their conversion.

True responsibility, however, perhaps lies with the notion of belief itself. The Old Believer's reliance on miracles is behind both their belief in their icons and, ironically, their turning toward Orthodoxy, when Luke is made to believe that the...

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