God Sees the Truth, But Waits

by Leo Tolstoy

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What realization does Aksionov have at the end of "God Sees the Truth, but Waits"?

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In "God Sees the Truth, But Waits" by Leo Tolstoy, the innocent merchant Ivan Dmitrich Aksionov is unfairly punished by being imprisoned and sent to Siberia for supposedly killing a fellow merchant. He responds to the unfair hand he has been dealt by putting his faith in God. He reads religious books, goes to church on Sundays, and becomes known to authorities and prisoners alike as someone who is devout, honest, and trustworthy.

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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.

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Aksionov realizes that, as man-made justice is imperfect, it is not his place to report Makar Semyonovich to the authorities for his escape attempt. Aksionov himself is a victim of man-made justice, and has come to understand, during his lengthy incarceration in the gulag, that true justice can only be dispensed by God Himself, however long that may take.

Even when he discovers that it was Makar who committed the crime for which he's been unjustly imprisoned, Aksionov still maintains his faith in divine justice and forgives Makar his transgressions against him. Aksionov's realization brings him inner peace, so much so that he achieves spiritual freedom before man-made justice finally does its job and releases him from the prison camp. Based as it is upon an imperfect human notion of justice, the penal system is unable to approximate to that divine justice which has released Aksionov's soul from bondage to the things of this world.

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In "God Sees the Truth, But Waits," Aksionov is unfairly punished for a crime that he didn't commit. How does Aksionov respond to the unfair hand that he has been dealt?

In the short story "God Sees the Truth, But Waits" by Leo Tolstoy, a merchant named Aksionov sets off for a fair to sell his goods despite his wife's premonitions of disaster. On the way, he is unjustly accused of murdering a fellow merchant and is first put in prison and then sent to Siberia. Aksionov responds to the unfair punishment with honor, humility, a stoic attitude, and faith in God.

After Aksionov says "goodbye to his family for the last time," he realizes that only God knows the real truth of the situation. For this reason, he can only appeal to and expect mercy from God. From this point:

Aksionov wrote no more petitions, gave up all hope, and prayed only to God.

During the twenty-six years he lives in Siberia as a convict, he seldom speaks, never laughs, but often prays. He obtains a book called The Lives of the Saints and reads from it. He attends church on Sundays and sings in the choir. The prison authorities and prisoners respect him for his honesty and integrity.

Aksionov's real test comes when the merchant's real killer arrives at the Siberian prison. When he finds out who the man is, he becomes wretched and wants to kill himself, and then he becomes enraged and wants vengeance. However, when he catches the man digging an escape tunnel, he has mercy and does not turn the man in. Aksionov's piety causes the man to beg forgiveness and eventually to confess to the authorities that he was the real killer.

We see, then, that Aksionov responds well to the unfair burden of guilt that he has carried for much of his life.

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