Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 376

On one level, Resurrection is a love story about two characters from vastly different backgrounds, Prince Dmitri Ivanovitch Nekhludoff and Katerina Mikhaelovna Maslova (known as Katusha). More broadly, however, the novel offers Leo Tolstoy’s indictment of the inequities of the Tsarist Russian legal and judicial system and political structure. The title refers to the personal awakenings of both characters, as well as to the possibility of political change stimulated by ethical self-reflection.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

The novel is primarily set during the period from Katusha’s trial for murder—in which Dmitri, her former lover, happens to serve as a juror—through her conviction, imprisonment, and exile to Siberia. The story extends back, however, into her teenage years—the brief time they were together—and the outcome of the relationship: her pregnancy, the death of their baby, and her descent into prostitution. As Dmitri learns of the events in her life after he had seduced and abandoned her, a radical change begins to take place in him. After she is convicted, he not only decides to help her but also falls in love with her.

Much of the novel is a sharp critique of the justice system, as Katusha is falsely convicted. Through the character of Dmitri, many of the system’s workings are revealed. After trying various mechanisms to get her released, which fail, he follows her to Siberia, where she has been exiled. The relative severity of conditions in different parts of Siberia is presented, along with the developments in their growing love. Tolstoy portrays the emotional conflicts they both experience, combined with the serious class differences, as reasons they cannot end up together. Dmitri’s love shifts toward wanting what is best for her, which is a relationship with a political radical, Valdemar Simonson; Katusha likewise sees that Dmitri cannot be matched with a former prostitute and convicted murderer.

Overall, while the author’s focus on their stories encourages readers’ personal involvement with the subject matter, the plot strains the reader’s credulity, and his tendency toward romanticism dulls the impact of the social critique. Dmitri, rather than Katusha, is the main protagonist, and contemporary readers are less likely than those of Tolstoy’s day to empathize with members of the Russian royalty or nobility.

Places Discussed

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 571

Law court

Law court. Government court in which the prostitute Katusha is tried and sentenced for murder. When Prince Nekhludoff, acting as an officer of the court, first sees Katusha, he does not recognize her, since she is using the name Lyubov (which in Russian literally means “love”). When the judge demands to know her baptismal name, her patronymic, and her surname, Nekhludoff is horrified to realize that this is the same peasant girl he seduced and then abandoned many years earlier.

While many authors use the courtroom setting as a symbol of justice, Tolstoy makes it a seat of the miscarriage of justice. Katusha is found guilty of the murder of the merchant and sentenced to hard labor in Siberia, although she believed the poison she used on the merchant was in fact a harmless sleep drug. Nekhludoff is stricken with guilt at the knowledge that his seduction and abandonment of her has led to this.


Prison. Institution in which Katusha is detained while awaiting transportation to a Siberian penal camp. Here she meets a large number of other women sentenced for various crimes. Many of these people are not guilty of the crimes for which they are charged, and many of the others have committed crimes that should not be considered crimes at all.


*Moscow. Russia’s largest city, in which Katusha is tried and convicted for murder. Tolstoy pays little attention to the emblems for which Moscow is most famous, such as the Kremlin and Red Square, as his focus remains firmly upon the ordinary working people, their markets, cheap pubs, and neighborhoods in which they live in squalor.

*St. Petersburg

*St. Petersburg. Imperial capital of Russia to which Nekhludoff travels to have Katusha’s case reviewed by a state council. If that fails, he plans to petition the czar himself to pardon Katusha or commute her sentence from penal servitude to simple exile. Tolstoy portrays St. Petersburg as a place of elegant and subtle corruption, where men with perfect manners who speak perfect French make unethical deals.


Panovo. Estate on which Nekhludoff first meets Katusha. At the time of their first encounter, the estate belonged to Nekhludoff’s aunts. In his youth, he was capable of a pure affection for the young Katusha; however, after he became acquainted with the world’s corruption, he in turn corrupted her and helped drive her toward prostitution. However, after seeing her unjustly condemned, Nekhludoff arranges for Panovo and his other estates to be managed by trustees so he will be free to follow Katusha to her Siberian exile.


*Siberia. Vast wasteland of eastern Russia that is the involuntary destination of the exiled Katusha. The wide expanses of the Russian empire east of the Ural Mountains were used for penal camps and internal exile by the Russian government almost as soon as these regions were incorporated into the realm. Even in the days of the czars, Siberia was strongly associated with the exile of prisoners, both criminals and political prisoners, although the conditions that Tolstoy so harshly criticizes in this novel would prove mild compared to the brutality of the Soviet gulag system in the twentieth century. In Siberia Nekhludoff finally makes things right with Katusha. While reading the Bible, he discovers the rules by which God means humans to live, neither harming others nor imposing harmful punishments on them, but loving and caring for one another.


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 240

De Courcel, Martine. Tolstoy: The Ultimate Reconciliation. Translated by Peter Levi. New York: Scribner’s Sons, 1988. A thorough discussion of Tolstoy, touching on all his important works. Describes the people and events in Tolstoy’s life during the long and arduous writing of Resurrection and includes an analysis of that novel.

Noyes, George Rapall. Tolstoy. New York: Dover Publications, 1968. Connects the many works of Tolstoy with reference to biographical information that is pertinent to the understanding of his writings. Includes many of Tolstoy’s published writings, diaries, and letters. Concludes that Resurrection is a novel of accessories, where the importance lies in gestures, mannerisms, and analysis of its characters’ thoughts.

Rowe, William W. Leo Tolstoy. Boston: Twayne, 1986. Indicates the historical facts from which Tolstoy contrived Resurrection. Suggests the possible meanings and images of the novel. Includes biographical information as well as discussions of several novels and stories. An excellent source.

Simmons, Ernest J. Tolstoy. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973. Focuses on Tolstoy as a major thinker of his time and a religious, social, and political reformer. Describes Tolstoy’s childhood and life as a writer, and explains Tolstoy’s motivation to write Resurrection and the structure and intent of the novel.

Troyat, Henri. Tolstoy. Translated by Nancy Amphoux. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1967. A thorough treatment of the author, with many illustrations. Gives a long explanation of the conditions surrounding the writing of Resurrection and some explanation of the text.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Critical Essays