What is the point of view in Resurrection by Tolstoy?

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In Resurrection, Tolstoy uses the third-person-omniscient point of view, which is characteristic of his longer works, such as War and Peace and Anna Karenina. While the former of these begins with dialogue and the latter with a gnomic utterance that is one of the most famous opening lines in world literature, Resurrection begins with an observation which suggests a bird's eye view of its setting:

Though hundreds of thousands had done their very best to disfigure the small piece of land on which they were crowded together, by paving the ground with stones, scraping away every vestige of vegetation, cutting down the trees, turning away birds and beasts, and filling the air with the smoke of naphtha and coal, still spring was spring, even in the town.

This gives a good idea of Tolstoy's characteristic point of view in the novel, sitting in judgment and drawing general morals from the actions of humanity. At times he comes closer to the perspective of Nekhludoff, but even then he is often drawn to generalize about human experience from the specific thoughts and feelings of his protagonist, as in Chapter XII, when he describes Nekhludoff as a young man:

During that summer on his aunts’ estate, Nekhludoff passed through that blissful state of existence when a young man for the first time, without guidance from any one outside, realises all the beauty and significance of life, and the importance of the task allotted in it to man; when he grasps the possibility of unlimited advance towards perfection for one’s self and for all the world, and gives himself to this task, not only hopefully, but with full conviction of attaining to the perfection he imagines.

This is remarkably similar to Tolstoy's autobiographical writing about his youth (in Childhood, Boyhood, Youth, for instance), suggesting that we still have the authorial point of view even in a description of the feelings of one of the characters.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on November 13, 2019
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