"Resurrection" is a novel by the Russian writer Tolstoy. It was published in 1899 and it was the last significant work by Tolstoy. He idealizes the character of a Russian peasant and he has a critical opinion of the privileged aristocracy.
Tolstoy wrote the most famous worldwide works such as "Anna Karenina", "War and Peace"…
The novel follows up with the love story between Dmitri Ivanovich Nekhlyudov and Katerina Mikhaelovna Maslova. Katerina ended up in the street because she ended up pregnant with Dmitri and she was forced to become a prostitute just to survive.
The novel is based on Dmitri’s wish to make amends to Katerina for his sins and selfish behavior. Dmitri saw Katerina in a court room after a long time and she was on a trial for a murder she didn’t commit. Katerina ended up in Siberia.
The novel begins with Katerina walking to the courtroom. Dmitri recognized her and remembered his behavior towards Katerina in the past, his student days, first love and the transformation from a peaceful, unselfish man to a selfish one.
While Katerina walked to the courtroom she felt people staring at her but she enjoyed the attention. Despite enjoying it she bowed her head down, blushed of embarrassment and mumbled some words. Her life was pretty unusual. Her mother was an unmarried bondwoman and she lived with her mother and then later with her sisters. Katerina’s mother gave birth every year and she baptized the children. Since they were all unwanted she refused to feed them. Children were in the way for her and often they would starve to death. Five children were baptized and then left to die of hunger. Her sixth child was saved by a woman who offered to be the child’s godmother. The child was Katerina. She baptized the girl and gave the mother some money and food to keep Katerina alive.
Her mother died when Katerina was only three years old. Her grandmother thought of her as a burden so her godmother took her in. She taught Katerina to read and write. The other woman which lived with her said that Katerina is supposed to be a maid so she punished her and beat her up. Katerina was raised up under two influences so she was half educated and half maid. She wasn’t called by her full name. Her nickname was Katusha. She would sometimes clean and serve coffee and sometimes she would sit and read to the ladies.
Many asked her to marry them but she said no to everyone because they would only put her through hardship and Katerina was used to living well. She lived like that until she was sixteen. The women who raised her were Dmitri’s aunts and when Katerina met him, she fell in love.
After two years Dmitri came back to visit his aunts. He was going to war. In the four days he spent with them, he seduced Katusha. Dmitri gave Katusha some money and then he left. Katusha ended up pregnant and she hated everything about it. Katusha even asked the women to fire her and they did. She found another job as a maid but she had to leave because an old man was coming on to her. Katusha was very rude when she defended herself so she was fired. Since she was about to give birth, Katusha started living with a widow.
Giving birth wasn’t so hard but the woman who delivered the baby gave him and Katusha a disease. The baby boy died. She didn’t manage her money well so soon she lost everything and ended up living with an aunt and then with a writer. The writer gave her an apartment to live in and Katusha fell in love with a salesman who promised to marry her. When he left without keeping his word Katusha started smoking and gave in to alcohol. Wine gave her a sense of value and she couldn’t live without it.
In the end out of vengeance she became a prostitute. Another life began for her and she broke God’s and humans orders. She worked as a prostitute for seven years, changed two brothels and ended up in the hospital. When she was 26 she ended up in jail and after six months of living with murderers and thieves Katusha was brought to court. When she entered the courtroom men were looking at her black eyes, white face and breasts. The trial wasn’t only for her. There were two more accused.
Dmitri recognized Katusha for her voice. She was accused of killing a client and then robbing him. She testified she was sent from the brothel to the taphouse to bring some money to a salesman and there she opened a briefcase for which they gave her a key. She stated she didn’t take any money for herself. Katusha said that the salesman beat her up after she came back and that he gave her a ring so that she wouldn’t leave but before he gave her the ring, Katusha was convinced she had to put some kind of a sleeping medicine in his drink to be able to run away from him. The other accused said she knew nothing about the case even though she had a significant amount of money on her accounts. When she was asked about the money, she said that she earned it with her future husband. The third accused said he had given the medicine to Katusha in his first statement but he denied it in his second statement.
After the trial Dmitri started remembering all the nice moment with Katusha. He remembered her face, dress, eyes, smile, and kindness and how she without feeling repulsed kissed a peasant to congratulate him. He also remembered going to Church and sneaking into her room when everyone was asleep, knocking on her window and kissing her. He also recalled the night he took her into his room, she tried to resist him but got closer to him. It was the night they conceived a child. He offered her money, insisted she had to take it and disappeared.
Afterwards Dmitri changed. He became an egoist, selfish and heartless. Dmitri didn’t care about the peasant, despite giving them a lot of attention in his previous years. The memories made him go and see his aunts which raised Katusha. They told him all about her life and he felt responsible for it. Dmitri, out of guilt, decided to marry her and complain on her verdict. He couldn’t stop thinking how everything was his fault, from Katusha’s prostitution to her trial. Dmitri went to the court. He met with the judge and asked about Katusha because he wanted to see her. Dmitri’s request to see Katusha was granted.
When he approached Katusha, she didn’t recognize him. When he asked her to forgive him for his sins and awful behavior she realized who he was. She laughed in a way she laughed to the men she wanted to like her. Dmitri expected Katusha to remain the same. He hoped she’ll be happy about his visit and intentions. Katusha wasn’t ashamed of being a prostitute but she was ashamed of being in jail. She created such an opinion about people and the world that she didn’t have a problem showing her position in the world and being proud of it.
Dmitri wanted to change his life. Get an apartment, fire his maids and share his land with the peasants. He became kind and merciful, cared about people other than himself. He believed that land was owner free. Dmitri was relieving his soul by helping those weaker than him, visiting Katusha and wanting to marry her so that he could give her a decent life.
Dmitri had to go to Petersburg so that he could give his complaint about Katusha’s sentence. First he went to a small estate on which he lived. He decided to give it to the peasants on lease so that they could have something to live off. He went to the estate his aunts gave him and did the same thing. He set the prices lower than on the other estates but the peasants were still dissatisfied and tried to bargain. Dmitri hoped they would accept his proposal with joy but they only complained.
After talking to the peasants he decided to travel again in order to find some more information about Katusha. He talked to the widow which took Katusha in when she was pregnant. She told him that Katusha’s child died soon after it was born. Dmitri, after hearing about the child, decided to pay the peasants another visit. He was changing, started sharing his money and land. Dmitri didn’t want to be unjust because even though he knew land was free he knew it wasn’t the same. He told the peasants they should all get an equal amount of land but that they need to share it amongst themselves. He didn’t ask about the price and he told them to pay the amount they all agree on. The peasants were skeptical about Dmitri’s offer because they knew the wealthy only looked after themselves so they’ve decided to reject his offer. Dmitri in the end gave his land to his sister’s children because he didn’t have intentions of becoming a father.
He was still fighting to get Katusha out of jail. He didn’t set her free but he did get her out of prison. She was transferred to a hospital. Dmitri didn’t know in what kind of condition she will be in the hospital. When he entered the hospital he met a doctor who was prone to prisoners and he would often get in trouble because of it. Dmitri talked to Katusha about meeting her aunt but she wasn’t very interested in what he had to say. Katusha had asked him to help free some innocent people she met in prison and he told her he agrees to do it.
He went to Petersburg to get a woman liberated, as Katusha asked. When he was there, he was staying with his aunt, a countess. Dmitri toled her all about Katusha and she mercilessly said that disgusting behavior will always be disgusting behavior and she couldn’t believe someone could be wrongfully convicted. Dmitri needed her to pull a few strings and help him free Katusha but the judges decided to reject his complaint. He was sad because the rejection confirmed Katusha’s meaningless suffering and it caused more suffering to him. He was still going to stay with her. Dmitri hated himself for acting like an animal, not making a difference between right and wrong and hurting Katusha with his unreasonable and lustful behavior.
When he was coming back to Moscow he went to the hospital to see Katusha but he was unable to hide his bad mood. Dmitri had no strength to tell Katusha that he had failed. Her eyes were filled with tears while she was looking at him but he was indifferent because Dmitri had found out she kissed a man in the hospital. He looked at her with disgust. Dmitri asked Katusha to sign a plea he will be sending to the court and he left the hospital. Katusha was bound to be sent off because of her kissing and Dmitri was getting ready to go with her. Their departure was on July 5th. Before Dmitri left his sister paid him a visit. She was ten years older than Dmitri and she was in love with his friend. When he died, both Dmitri and his sister ruined themselves. She got married to a man she didn’t love and Dmitri went to the war. Dmitri said goodbye to his sister and went with Katusha.
623 men and 64 women were in front of the prison, waiting to leave. They were being divided and taken away. There were also women with children. There were so many people, one could barely see the end of them. Dmitri walked with the prisoners tortured by heat and dust. Some even died on their way to the train station. A woman was getting ready to give birth in the wagon, some were drinking and so was Katusha. Dmitri sat in the third class because he wanted to be as close as possible to those who suffered.
During his travel he started thinking about different takes on life. Everything was based on people thinking that if they are in a certain position they can treat people without any kindness, but there was actually no such position. We can treat things without any kindness but we still need to value everything life has given us because some people don’t have enough to survive. We always need to keep in mind that we can’t treat people like they’re nothing. If we love people close to us we will learn to love everyone and ourselves. We won’t hurt anyone if we make someone happy. The heart is fragile; it forgives, but also leaves traces of our inconsiderate actions on others. We can’t do to others what we don’t desire others to do to us.
Watching the sad looks on people’s faces made Dmitri think about why people are allowed to judge other people. How can we judge people if all of us commit sins? We all have a cross to bear and we need to do it patiently. All of us have done something wrong, intentionally or unintentionally, so only God can be our judge.
When the train passed Perm Dmitri managed to get Katusha to sit with the political offenders. Her journey was exhausting both physically and mentally. It was exhausting physically because of the filth and insects who reminded her of men, disgusting and pushy. Men didn’t let her breathe. They were coming on to all of the female prisoners but they especially came on to her because she was beautiful.
Going amongst the political offenders made her position a bit better. The accommodation was better, men weren’t trying to force themselves on her and no one mentioned her past. After a restless and licentious life in the last 6 years, she quite enjoyed to live with political offenders. She was especially amused by a woman she met there.
Her name was Maria. She was a beautiful girl, terrified of falling in love and she hated the affect her beauty had on men. Maria was from a rich family and she hated her wealth since she was a little girl. She loved spending time with maids, cooks, stablemen because she hated to be with the ladies and the gentlemen. She was always reproached about spending so much time with the help. When Maria was 19 she came to a conclusion that her life was awful she went away with her friend. She worked at a factory and after that she went to live in the city where she got arrested.
Katusha and her new friend both felt disgusted by sexual love. One hated it because she has seen it all and the other one never felt it and perceived it as something unreasonable and therefore disgusting. Maria had an influence on Katusha and so did the man who fell in love with her. When he was in high school, he stood up to his father because he thought his father came into money for all the wrong reasons. His father didn’t even listen to him so he went away to become a teacher who narrated about the things he thought were right and shot down everything he thought to be fake.
He was arrested and convicted and his only defense was silence. He was banished and he created his own religion and concept of marriage. He believed that reproducing was a lower human function and he justified his theory with the phagocytes in the human blood. For him bachelors were phagocytes which helped weaker and ill parts of the body. He gave in to debauchery when he was young and he thought he and Maria were worldwide phagocytes until his love for Katusha didn’t kill his theory.
He called Dmitri and told him he knew all about Dmitri’s behavior towards Katusha and he told him he will marry Katusha if she accepts. But Katusha didn’t want to give him her hand in marriage until she clears out her relationship with Dmitri. Dmitri told her she was free even though he wasn’t. Katusha decided to marry another man and Dmitri gave up his desire to make amends and kept on living his life without Katusha.
Katusha was a good, kindhearted and gentle but during her life she became coldhearted and indifferent.
Dmitri was unselfish and caring in his early youth but after Katusha left his behavior changed. He started acting selfish and egoistic. After realizing all the wrong he had done to other people he was persistent in making amends.
Katusha’s fiancée was a reasonable man who fought for respect and wellbeing of other people while borrowing money for his greedy father and that was the reason why he hated unfairly earned money.
Maria was a good and honest friend. She fought against the upper class and rejected the luxurious lifestyle. We can say she was hardworking and conscious.
Leo Tolstoy Biography
Leo Tolstoy was a Russian novelist born in 1828. A profound social and moral thinker, Tolstoy was one of the greatest writers of realistic fiction during his time. The son of a nobleman landowner, Tolstoy was orphaned at the age of 9 and taught mainly by tutors from countries like Germany and France.
At the young age of 16, he enrolled in Kazan University but quickly became dissatisfied with his studies and dropped out soon after. After a brief, futile attempt to improve the conditions of the serfs on his estate, he plunged into the dissipations of Moscow's high society.
In 1851, Tolstoy joined his brother's regiment at the Caucasus, where he first met with cossacks. He later portrayed the natural cossacks life with sympathy and poetic realism in his novel "The Cossacks", published in 1863. Tolstoy completed two autobiographical novels during his time in the regiment and the works received instant acclaim.
Back in Saint Petersburg (now Leningrad) Tolstoy became interested in the education of peasants and started a local elementary school that fostered progressive education.
In 1862 he married 18 year old Sofya Andreyevna Bers, a member of a cultured Moscow family. In the next 15 years he raised a large family, ultimately having 19 children. During this time he also managed his estate and wrote his two most famous novels, War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877).
In the uniquely candid powerful novel Confession, Tolstoy described his spiritual unrest and started his long journey toward moral and social certainty. He found them in two principals of the Christian gospels: love for all human beings and resistance to the forces of evil. From within autocratic Russia, Tolstoy fearlessly attacked social inequality and coercive forms of government and church authority. His didactic essays, translated into many different languages, won hearts in many countries and from all walks of life, many of whom visited him in Russia seeking advice.
At the age of 82, increasingly tormented by the disparity between his teachings, his personal wealth and by endless fights with his wife, Tolstoy walked away from his home late one night.
He became ill three days later and died on November 20, 1910 at a remote railway station. At his death he was praised the world over for being a wonderfully moral man. That force and his timeless and universal art continue to provide inspiration today.