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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 488

You had your pleasure from me in this world, and now you want to get your salvation through me in the world to come!

Maslova (Katusha) refuses to allow herself to become the means of Nekhludoff's spiritual redemption by marrying him. Although she is in prison, she has a strong...

(The entire section contains 488 words.)

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You had your pleasure from me in this world, and now you want to get your salvation through me in the world to come!

Maslova (Katusha) refuses to allow herself to become the means of Nekhludoff's spiritual redemption by marrying him. Although she is in prison, she has a strong sense of self and realizes his marriage proposal is a way of serving himself, not her. His seduction led her to a life of prostitution and murder, but he must carry the guilt for that by himself.

"That’s what it is," Nekhludoff went on in his thoughts. "If one acknowledges but for a single hour that anything can be more important than love for one’s fellowmen, even in some one exceptional case, any crime can be committed without a feeling of guilt."

The centrality of love—agape love, Christian charitable love—toward other humans is a central and repeated theme in the novel, so much so that it seems that Tolstoy is more concerned with communicating this philosophy than writing a fully realistic novel. Society cannot be reformed without humans experiencing genuine love toward one another.

If a psychological problem were set to find means of making men of our time—Christian, humane, simple, kind people—perform the most horrible crimes without feeling guilty, only one solution could be devised: to go on doing what is being done. It is only necessary that these people should he governors, inspectors, policemen; that they should be fully convinced that there is a kind of business, called government service, which allows men to treat other men as things, without human brotherly relations with them, and also that these people should be so linked together by this government service that the responsibility for the results of their actions should not fall on any one of them separately. Without these conditions, the terrible acts I witnessed to-day would be impossible in our times.

Having witnessed prisoners forced on a cruel march in the heat, which kills some of them, Nekhludoff recognizes that evil is systemic: it comes not from individuals but from bureaucracies and institutions that normalize cruelty and relieve people of responsibility for participating in it.

It all lies in the fact that men think there are circumstances in which one may deal with human beings without love; and there are no such circumstances. One may deal with things without love. One may cut down trees, make bricks, hammer iron without love; but you cannot deal with men without it, just as one cannot deal with bees without being careful. If you deal carelessly with bees you will injure them, and will yourself be injured. And so with men. It cannot be otherwise, because natural love is the fundamental law of human life.

Nekhludoff sums up his revelations about love in the quote above. A society without love at its core is a society in which all people are injured.

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