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I went through Tolstoy's story God Sees the Truth, But Waits but I wonder what the title suggests and how it suits the story in regard to the protagonist Aksionov.

A good innocent man is wrongly imprisoned on charge of a murder, punished for 26 years and is made to lose everything and his entire life for no fault or crime of his, but only on the basis of evidence.

Then, the truth comes to light in the end when the actual murderer Makar Semyonich confesses it and the order for the release of Aksionov comes but Aksionov is dead by then.

I understand that God knows the truth that Makar committed the murder but waits to punish him and he gets punished even if delayed. So, the title of the story sounds suitable in the case of Makar.

But in the case of the protagonist Aksionov, God knows the truth that he is innocent but He made him suffer so long - 26 years - in prison & lose his entire life and why his life is taken away in the climax when he is granted release.

In the case of Aksionov, what truth did God see and what did God wait for - whether to bring to light his innocence and restore the life with his family that he deserved or to end the life of such a good and innocent man so cruelly and unjustly?

What is Leo Tolstoy trying to convey through this story and what does the title suggest in regard to Aksionov?

I really don't understand how to relate the title and the plight of Aksionov and I am baffled about the title and the climax of the story.

  • It's not necessary that God necessarily waited for doing something. Perhaps said God only waited to see what will happen. – muru Jun 7 at 13:45
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This is quintessential Tolstoy the man, Tolstoy the philosopher. The point is not to judge or second-guess God's actions. He has His own ways, and we can only be sure that He knows everything.

The argument is the same as one of those put forth today against death penalty: wrongful convictions do happen, even in the face of 'hard evidence', and when (if!) the truth becomes known, it may be too late.

Tolstoy, the man of strong convictions and integrity, comes to the conclusion (at least later in his life) that we people just can't judge each other. Only God can. Consequently, the whole institution of courts and judges is fundamentally flawed.

Moreover, the very idea of authority of one man over another is wrong. Notice that Aksionov doesn't dob Makar to the guard, even though he is very tempted to. The truth is revealed through his reliance on God, deferral to His actions. And this is not so much a question of having faith; rather, this is a moral choice over human judgement and actions (which Axionov have experienced very well).

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The story title is a Russian proverb, Бог правду видит, да не скоро скажет. IMHO, more correct (at least, more literal) translation would be "God sees the truth, but not too soon He will tell it".

Like many Russian proverbs, it is kind of cryptic, and could be interpreted in many ways, like

  1. The truth will eventually be revealed.
  2. General dissatisfaction with how God acts.
  3. By the time the truth it revealed it might be useless; if you care about the truth you must act, and you must act now.
  4. Many more

Back to the story. I didn't have a chance to ask Tolstoy directly. I may only speculate that he had in mind the third meaning, and he used it at the meta level. The title is not about the destiny of the characters. It is about the fundamental flaws of human justice, as @Zeus mentioned.

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