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Summary and Analysis of GOD SEES THE TRUTH BUT WAITS


Leo Tolstoy

  •  Leo Tolstoy was a Russian writer and a master of realistic fiction.

  •  He was born in a wealthy family in Russia. His parents died when he was a child. He was brought up by his elder brother and relatives. He studied languages and law at Kazan University for three years. 
  • He was dissatisfied with the school and left Kazan without a degree. Then he returned to his estate and educated himself independently. 
  • In 1848, he moved to the capital, St. Petersburg, where he passed two tests for a law degree.
  • He took military training and became an army officer. He wrote his first novel Childhood (1852), which became a success.
  • Tolstoy’s short story “God Sees the Truth, but Waits first published in 1872 is about the false conviction and imprisonment of a man for a murder he did not commit, and it takes the form of a parable for forgiveness.


Leo N. Tolstoy's 'God Sees the Truth, But Waits,' is competently titled short story that strengthens the biblical message that when the world is up against you, God alone knows the truth. A young merchant Ivan Dmitrich Aksionov, a dweller of Vladimir (a town of Russia),the protagonist of this story is falsely imprisoned for 26 years for a crime he did not commit but puts his trust in God. He is accused of the crime and for stealing twenty-thousand rubles from the merchant.

He waits for God’s decision in his lifetime. God’s decision finally arrives but very lately.


Aksionov was quite handsome, fair-haired, curly-headed fellow, full of fun, and very fond of singing. When quite a young man he had been given to drink, and was riotous when he had had too much; but after he married, he gave up drinking, except now and then.  

He had a wife with small kids. Once, during summer, Askionov planned to go to Nizhny fair to sell his goods. Before setting off, his wife stopped him going to fair. She informed him about a nightmare which he had dreamt. She related that nightmare saying that he returned to town with grey hair (old). Aksionov laughed and even interpreted the dream as a sign of luck. 

On the halfway, Aksionov met a merchant from Ryazan with whom he drank and spent his night at an inn. Both of them slept in adjoining rooms. Askionov used to sleep in the right time at night. He always liked to travel in the cool morning. Next day, before dawn, he set off with his horses and coachman while the air was cool. When he had gone about 25 miles, he stopped to feed his horses. He ordered to boil some water in samovar (kettle) and started playing his guitar.

At the meantime, two soldiers and a district officer came to him and questioned him a lot of questions related to the merchant whom Aksionov had spent his last night. They informed Asnionov about the merchant’s murder. The dead body of the merchant had been found at an inn’s room with his throat cut. They took Aksionov back to inn’s room and searched his luggage. They found a blood-stained knife in his luggage. Aksionov trembled with fear.

He was charged for murdering the merchant and even robbing twenty-thousand roubles from him. Aksionov was arrested and sent to gaol. His wife came there to meet him along with her small kids. She got permission to meet her husband from the official after begging much. She fainted to see her husband among the criminals and thieves in criminal’s dress. Later on, she informed her husband about the rejection of the petition to the Czar. Aksionov wept when his own wife raised a suspicious question to him (Vanya dearest, tell your wife the truth, was it not you who did it?). Aksionov said good-bye to his family for the last time. For him, God was the only one to expect for mercy. He was tortured severely there.

Aksionov was sent to a Siberian prison for twenty-six years to work in the mines. His hair and bear turned white and grey. He walked slowly, spoke very little and never laughed. He learnt to make boots and earned money. He bought a book named The Lives of the Saints.He used to read the chapter in the dim light of the cell and every Sunday he used to read and sing the chapter at the church. His fellow prisoners respected him and called him Grandfather or the Saint. Prisoners would go to him for justice if there were fights in the prison. He spent his every single day in God’s devotion and on the way of truth.

One day, a gang of new prisoners came to the prison. Among those prisoners, one was Makar/Semyonich. He was a tall, strong man of about sixty with grey hair. He related his story to others about his arrest in horse stealing case. He was also from Vladimir. When he got known about Aksionov’s story, he kept on laughing shamelessly. Aksionov couldn’t get to sleep that night after hearing Makar’s words. He felt sure that Makar was the person who killed the merchant. He kept on thinking about his family, his long-time sufferings and so on. 

After months of knowing each other, Aksionov discovered that Makar is the one who killed the merchant from Ryazan. He was quite angry with the Makar but didn’t speak a word about it.

One-night Aksionov discovered Makar digging a tunnel under his sleeping shelf. Makar threatened him not to tell a word otherwise he would kill him. Aksionov didn’t bother about Makar’s threatful words.

Next day, soldiers discovered the tunnel. The governor arrived to question the prisoners but no one spoke a word about the tunnel. When Aksionov was asked about the tunnel, he also denied saying about Makar Semyoinch

That night Makar quietly came to Aksionov. Makar begged for forgiveness. He confessed the truth about the murder of the merchant and also about the fact of a hidden knife. Aksionov remained silent. Makar knelt upon the ground and again asked for forgiveness. He admitted confessing his crime to the governor. Makar didn’t rise, bent his head on the floor and wept for his forgiveness. Aksionov even wept along with Makar. Aksionov felt his heart lighter. He longed to stay and die in prison. 

At last, when Makar confessed and the order of Aksionov’s release came, Aksionov was already dead.   


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