Resurrection is Russian writer Leo Tolstoy's 1899 novel about a nobleman trying to right a past wrong and his journey through the class system that existed in Tsarist Russia. It was his last published novel before his death in 1910.
In the story, Russian nobleman Dmitri Ivanovich Nekhlyudov has an affair with the maid Katerina "Katusha" Mikhaelovna Maslova in which Maslova is impregnated with Nekhlyudov's child. The child is lost in birth and Maslova becomes an alcoholic prostitute. She is ultimately wrongly accused of murdering one of her clients.
Unknown to Maslova, Nekhlyudov attends her trial. During it, he struggles with his own feelings of guilt for setting Maslova on the path on which she was found herself. He attempts to intervene by aiding in her appeal.
During his visits to Maslova's prison, Nekhlyudov is —seemingly for the first time—exposed to the horrible conditions endured by the lowest classes. And, in the course of fighting for her freedom, he becomes jaded by the bureaucratic indignity of the correctional system. Nekhlyudov is personally tortured by his inability to reconcile the ethics of the system of punishment to which Maslova and the other prisoners are subjected. Through this all, he continues to nurture an on-and-off love for Maslova.
In the end, Nekhlyudov manages to have Maslova's sentence of hard labor reduced but is unable to win her hand.
Katerina Maslova, better known as Katusha, is being led out of prison to attend her trial for murder. Of illegitimate birth, she had been taken in by Sophia and Mary Ivanovna, well-to-do sisters who had cared for her and begun to educate her. When she turned sixteen, Katusha had been seduced by her guardians’ nephew, Prince Dmitri Ivanovitch Nekhludoff. Learning that she was to become a mother, Katusha stayed with a village midwife until her child was born. The baby was taken to the foundling hospital, where it soon died, and Katusha, after a series of tribulations, became a prostitute. When she is twenty-six years old, she is accused of complicity in the murder of a Siberian merchant.
While Katusha is being led into court, Nekhludoff, her seducer, lays in bed considering his position. He had recently been having an affair with a married woman, even though he is almost engaged to marry Princess Mary Korchagin. He also thinks of having given away some of his lands to the peasants. Having arisen, Nekhludoff is reminded that he has to serve that day as a juror in the criminal court.
In court, Nekhludoff is astonished to see that the defendant is Katusha and that she is accused of having helped rob and poison the merchant from Siberia. The trial is disgusting because the officials are vain, stupid, and more concerned with formalities and their own self-interest than with a fair trial for the accused.
When Nekhludoff was a student at the university, he had spent his summers with his aunts, and it was there that he had first come to know and to like Katusha. He had given her books to read and had eventually fallen in love with her. When he next returned, three years later, military life had made him depraved and selfish, and he seduced her. On the following day, he had given her money and left for his regiment. When he returned after the war, he had learned that she had become pregnant and had gone away. Somewhat relieved, he had tried to forget her.
Now, at the trial, the sight of Katusha fills Nekhludoff with a mixture of loathing and pity. At first, he is afraid that his relation to her will be discovered, but Katusha does not recognize him, and gradually he begins to feel remorse for the life to which he has driven her. Because of a careless legalistic oversight by the jury, Katusha, though innocent, is sentenced to four years of hard labor in Siberia. Driven by his uneasy conscience, Nekhludoff goes to a lawyer to discuss the...
(The entire section contains 1540 words.)
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- Critical Essays