God Sees the Truth, But Waits

by Leo Tolstoy

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What is the author's view of good and evil in "God Sees the Truth, But Waits"?

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Tolstoy presents good as a gift given to us by God, whereas evil is something for which we ourselves are ultimately responsible. Aksionov is a good man because he positively responds to the gift of goodness. Despite being falsely confined to a Siberian prison camp for a crime he didn't commit, he's still continued to live his life by a firm moral code that shows him to be a good man.

Aksionov's goodness can be seen most strongly in his refusal to get Makar into trouble for trying to escape from the camp. Though Aksionov suspects—rightly, as it turns out—that Makar was the man responsible for committing the murder that landed him in prison, he still doesn't want Makar to be brutally punished for his escape attempt, which is exactly what will happen if Aksionov tells the warden what he knows.

Even though goodness ultimately avails Aksionov nothing, it is given to us by Tolstoy as something valuable in its own right, something worth cultivating and pursuing for its own sake, irrespective of the consequences. In the figure of Aksionov, Tolstoy appears to endorse an attitude of passive acceptance to life's ups and downs. And such an attitude is all the more effective if it is informed by an innate moral goodness.

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