What happened in the resolution of Leo Tolstoy's "The Penitent Sinner"?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The resolution of Leo Tolstoy's story "The Penitent Sinner" shows how the penitent sinner, after pleading his case to St. Peter, King David, and John the Divine, is finally allowed in heaven.

The story reads,

And the gates of Paradise were opened, and John embraced the penitent sinner, and admitted him into the Kingdom of Heaven.

This, however, was no easy feat. At all times that the sinner would request to be allowed in the Kingdom of Heaven, each of the men he encountered would deny him entrance because the man is a sinner. They would argue that heaven is for saints and good people, and that he-the sinner- would not be allowed in.

At each of these arguments, the sinner would reply how each of those great saints in heaven once were sinners too. He would then relate to each of the saints which specific sins they have committed and how God was so merciful upon them. This would end up granting him a closer step inside Heaven.

The final encounter with John the Divine is what seals the deal. Just when John is about to tell the sinner that the sinner cannot get inside the gates of heaven, the sinner takes a different approach and reminds John that, because Jesus loved him the most, he is sure to have learned how to have mercy on others.

And the sinner rejoiced and said: “Now thou can'st not refuse to let me in. Peter and David might have let me in because they knew the weakness of man and the mercy of God. And thou wilt let me in because thou lovest much. Didst not thou, oh, John the Divine, write in thy book that God is Love, and he that loveth not knoweth not God? Didst thou not in thine old age say this one sentence to the people: ‘Brethren, love one another’? How then can'st thou now begin to hate me and drive me away? Either deny what thou thyself hast said, or else let me into the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Therefore, the resolution of the main character's problem is that his plea aided him to be able to enter Paradise.