“God Sees the Truth, but Waits” by Leo Tolstoy

Categories: GodLeo Tolstoy


Leo Tolstoy was born in Tula Province, Russia, on September 9, 1828. His mother died when he was only two years old. After Tolstoy’s father died in1837, he was cared by his relatives. He attended Kazan University for three years but he never could complete it because of joining to Russian army on active duty. However, being a soldier could not stop his desire to write literary plays and during his duty he published his first work childhood. After writing childhood, he continued on writing autobiographic plays and his life on the army; the works included boyhood, Sevastopol Tales book, youth and an uncompleted work entitled The Cossacks.

In 1859, Tolstoy returned to Yasnaya Polyana and devoted himself to be management and study educational practices. In 1862, He married Sophia Andreevna Behrs who was 16 years younger than him.

They had thirteen children which five of them died at early age. His wife helped him as a secretary to complete is works, especially on writing his first great novel, War and Peace.

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Their early life was full of happiness and they had no problem. However, their relationship became progressively worse as he was being radical to the extent of disowning his inherited and earned wealth. He was known for his complicated and paradoxical personality. In 1972, he wrote the short story of God Sees the Truth, But Waits which was about a merchant who was jailed innocently.

In his life, he has written a lot of short stories which the well-known ones are The Candle, How Much Land Does a Man Need?, Little Girls Wiser than Men and The Coffee House of Surat.

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In 1973, he wrote the novel of Anna Karenina which was the best known one in his writings. Other most famous works were The Living Corpse and The Death of Ivan Ilyich. In his life, furthermore, he wrote various pieces on social, political, and economic topics ranging from vegetarianism to capital punishment but could not be published because of government. Tolstoy died on November 20, 1910 in Astapovo, Russia. Tittle:

Throughout the tittle, Tolstoy wants to tell the readers the fact that reality can be hidden but one day it comes out. The tittle has a lot of interpretations considering real life and the events of the story. God always sees the truth in whatever people do, but the meaning of “waits” is debatable and purposeful. First of all, in the tittle, the notion of the truth is isolated and not became known for some reasons. Sometimes, God examines those people who have good personality and looks gentle among people so that they prove their faith. On the other words, He takes them to a bad situation to purify their sins and reward them for their patient.

And no one knows what is happening in the future; people may see something wrong, but in reality it will be good, and vice versa. So, if people commit illegal works and sins, they always do secretly and keep them silent. At this time, just God knows the truth and waits to see whether the man is going to regret or not, and do the right thing or not. Regarding the short story, there are two opposite characters, Aksionov and Makar; innocent and guilty. At the beginning of the story, readers know that Aksionov is not the doer of the murdering but he is sentenced to be in jail for 26 years.

A part of the truth, God knows about everything but waits. For Aksionov, there are two truths which the first one is his meek personality. But the second one is the reality of his personality in every conditions. God does not make something to declare his innocence till He examines him by punishing and away from his beloved family, and to see what Aksionov will do, seek to revenge or forgive. By this bad condition, the true reality of Aksionov will be obvious to all, because if he revenges himself upon Marker and ruins his life as him, he has no difference with Makar.


Once upon time, in the land of Vladimir, a young merchant named Ivan Dmitri Aksionov lived with his family. He was in his young life and very happy by experiencing luxurious things that was offered by the world. One day of summer, when he was about to go to Nizhny fair as he planned, his wife warned him not to go. She told him that she had a bad dream, she said “I dreamt you returned from the town with hair of grey.” Ivan laughed and showed himself as if he didn’t care and continued on going to the fair. In the half way of his traveling he met a merchant. He drunk tea with him at the night and shared a room in the inn. Aksionov did not use to sleep for long hours, so he decided to wake up and continued his journey. While he was in the way of his journey, he was stopped by two soldiers in a troika to begin asking questions. Their questions were about the merchant that he met on the travel and spent time with him for he was found dead. As all evidences of the crime were pointing guiltiness of Aksionov, he was imprisoned. When his wife heard this bad news, she remembered her dream.

She was very worried to her husband and thought that her husband was guilty. Aksionov felt sadder when he realized this thought. 26 years in prison made Aksionov a well-grounded and God-fearing man. In spite the fact that his family has completely forgotten him, he still serves as a “Grandpa” to the other prisoners. Then came a new prisoner named Makar Semyonich. After a while, they knew each other, Aksionov discovered that Makar was killed the merchant. Although he realized everything but he uttered nothing about it. One night, while the prisoners were sleeping, Aksionov saw that Makar dug the earth. Makar told him not to tell anyone about what he has seen or else he would kill him. One day, a soldier noticed that a prisoner took some earth off his boots, when the soldier immediately started for searching any escaping plans and found the tunnel.

At that time, they asked the prisoners who knew about the plan, but no one replied. Since Marker warned them if they declared anything, they would be killed. Finally, the governor asked Ivan for he was the most generous man there. But Ivan said it is not my job and I don’t care. At night, when Aksionov was on his bed and about to sleep, Makar went to him to thank him. He felt very sorry for he made Aksionov suffer for all this years. He did not want forgive till he sobbed to Aksionov, then said the Lord will forgive you. Makar said that he will confess to the governor so that Ivan would be free. In fact, since Aksionov had no family neither home, he did not want to go out of prison. Rather, he waited for his last hour to come. In spite of what they’ve talked about, Makar Semyonich confessed his guilt. But when the order for Ivan Dmitri Aksenov’s release came, he was already dead.


Sadness comes to Aksionov when he found out that the man he stayed with last night has been killed. The soldiers searched his bag and found a knife with blood. In fact, Aksionov is not the murder, but at the end of the story he sees Makar in the same jail that he has been prisoned who is the killer. In the short story, there are some conflicts:

1. Man vs Man : Aksionov with himself and Makar
2. Man vs Nature: Aksionov with his black fate
3. Man vs society: Aksionov (as an innocent man) with court decision.


Aksionov: he was a young merchant lived in the town of Vladimir. He had two shops and a house of his own. Aksionov was a handsome, fair-haired, curly headed fellow, full of fun, and very fond of singing. In one of his journey, he accused by murdering a merchant and was sentenced to be jailed for 26 years. Although he was innocent, but he couldn’t anything with his fate. Finally he found the murder and forgave him for sake of God. Antagonist:

Makar: He was a bad person who appeared at the end of the story. He was the real murder who killed the merchant and wanted to kill Aksionov but he couldn’t. He felt shame for what he did for Aksionov and begged him for forgiveness. Finally, Aksionov forgave him and Makar confess the secret to the governor.


The short story takes place in Russia, Vladimir (Aksionov’s home and inn) and in Siberia where Aksionov was arrested. And the story was narrated in omniscient style that the narrator seems know all of the things that happen there.

1. Forgiveness vs Revenge and Bitterness

Leo Tolstoy, the writer, wants to show the readers what is the real forgiveness and what wise people do when they face difficult situations. In the short story, Aksionov has to accept his fate which becoming a murder while even he did not kill the merchant. After 26 years the governor found out that he was not the murderer when Makar, who was the real murderer, came to the jail and confessed his fault and asked for forgiveness. Aksionov forgave him without having desire to revenge. This shows the fact that Aksionov was different from normal people; people often revenge upon their enemies whenever they can. Furthermore, he also did not announce the truth as he promised to Makar.

2. Truth vs ”Justice”

Aksionov did not get justice that earned by himself. He was a good and innocent man, but court judged him as a murderer. In our daily life, we can see a lot of the same examples that people get something that they don’t deserve. Court and also people judge the event as they see their appearance not reality. It declares the fact that every judgments are true.

3. Injustice vs Forgiveness

It is belonged to the religious idea that people should be kind in every situation. Aksionov was areligious man which followed that idea and finally forgave Makar. Aksionov may represent Tolstoy’s characteristic because Tolstoy was a religious man.

4. Innocence vs injustice

The evident faults in the injustice system. The idea that God does what he does, such as withholding the truth, to allow us the opportunity to learn something vastly more important, such as the power of forgiveness the power of circumstance and persuasion over logical thoughts and deductions.

Tone of the Short Story:

The tone of the story is human’s depression and sorrow which is very tragic, and sympathetic. We can see the sympathetic depression of Aksionov When Makar asking Aksionov for forgiveness, he replied: “It is easy for you to talk,” said Aksionov, “but I have suffered for you these twenty-six years. Where could I go to now?… My wife is dead, and my children have forgotten me. I have nowhere to go…”

Personal value:

The purpose of Tolstoy in giving Aksionov’s suffering is to show us a good example of real generous man. He wants to tell us that God knows everything but does not appear the reality purposefully. It does not mean that He hates His people, but examines them so that they realize their real personality. Look at Aksionov, after suffering for 26 years, he felt inner peace when he forgave his enemy. The short story tells the readers must to be faithful in Go, in every moments of life, because He will bring justice to every situation. By reading the whole story, the readers learn the power of forgiveness and its impact on offering inner peace. Moreover, they will learnt to be freed from being angry and indignant with the world and having achieved ‘inner peace’. Tolstoy used a nice style in writing the story that interact the reader to read the whole story.

The title is ambiguous that makes the reader to read the story so as to find the ambiguity. Throughout the short story, he pointed on some perspectives such as religion, society and politician. Through the characteristics of Aksionov, he viewed that people must believe in God and his power. And he pointed out that religious people should be gentle and calm in difficult situations. Furthermore, he showed us that some time you cannot use what you have in society. Aksionov was rich, he had two shops and a house, but at the end he couldn’t use them and even lived with his family. In addition, although he was innocent, but he and his wife couldn’t win the court because they did not have witness. Finally, the writer tells the reader that when people let someone down God will pick him up.

Cite this page

“God Sees the Truth, but Waits” by Leo Tolstoy. (2016, Aug 17). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/god-sees-the-truth-but-waits-by-leo-tolstoy-essay

“God Sees the Truth, but Waits” by Leo Tolstoy

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