Aksionov realizes that forgiveness is the path to peace.
In the story, Aksionov suffers in prison for twenty-six years. Coincidentally, the man who is responsible for his unenviable situation ends up in the same prison as him.
In the story, Makar Semyonich confesses that he was the one who killed the merchant and planted the murder weapon in Aksionov's belongings.
When Aksionov reminisces about everything he has lost, his anger rises against Makar Semyonich. He has little peace, despite his prayers to God. In the end, an opportunity arises for Aksionov to betray Makar Semyonich and cause his archenemy suffer. For his part, Aksionov considers telling the guards that Makar Semyonich has been digging a tunnel in order to aid his escape from prison.
However, when the time comes, Aksionov chooses not to betray Makar Semyonich. Aksionov concludes that making Semyonich suffer will do nothing to restore his past life to him. Specifically, it will not return his youth, health, or family to him. Those gifts are no longer his to claim. Aksionov is prematurely old, and there is no action he can take now to restore his youth to him. Aksionov decides to stay silent when he is questioned by the Governor.
Later in the night, Makar Semyonich approaches Aksionov and asks for his forgiveness. For his part, Aksionov chooses not to speak words of condemnation to Makar. Instead, he assures his old enemy that God will forgive him. As for Aksionov, he finally realizes that forbearance and forgiveness are the only paths to peace.