God Sees the Truth, but Waits Analysis - A Silent Song and Other Stories Easy Elimu Study Guide

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God Sees the Truth, but Waits by Leo Tolstoy

About the Author

Leo Tolstoy was born in 1928 in Tula Province, Russian.

A master of realisticfiction and one of the world’s greatest novelists, Tolstoy is best known for his finest novels: and Peace (1865 69) and Anna Karenina (1875 – 77).

His shorter works include Ellie Death of Ivan Ilyich, The Living Corpse and The Kingdom of God is within You.

in his last three decades, Tolstoy worked as a moral and religious teacher, an embodiment of nature and pure vitality.

Though dead now, his soul lives as a living symbol of the search for life’s meaning.

The Title

The title of the story "God Sees the Truth, but Waits" is appropriate for the story because it reflects the central theme of the story which is about the nature of truth, justice and redemption.

The story focus is true justice comes from God and that forgiveness is liberating. 

Throughout the story, the protagonist, Ivan Dmitritch Aksionov is wrongly accused of a crime he did not commit and is sentenced to prison for 26 years.

Despite his innocence, Aksionov is resigned to his fate and never loses faith in God.

He prays and reads the lives of the saints, and is respected by other prisoners who call him "the saint."

The title highlights the idea that God sees the truth of Aksionov's innocence, but chooses to wait and allow the natural course of events to unfold.

The story also brings up the idea of human justice versus divine justice.

Aksionov is denied justice in the human court system, but he finds peace and redemption through his faith in God.

He is ultimately vindicated when the real criminal confesses, but this comes after Aksionov's death, highlighting the idea that justice may be delayed but it will be served ultimately.

The title also highlights the motif of waiting that runs throughout the story.

Aksionov waits for justice, his wife waits for his release and his children wait for a father.

Makar Semyonich, the real criminal also waits for Aksionov to speak up but he is ultimately the one who waits for forgiveness.

In addition, the title of the story implies that the author believes in a higher power that judges fairly and ultimately.

The story can be read as a commentary on the idea that while human justice may be flawed and corruptible, God's justice is infallible and will be served.

The Plot Summary

"God Sees the Truth, but Waits" is a short story by Leo Tolstoy, that follows the story of a man named Ivan Aksionov, who is falsely accused of murder and robbery and is sentenced to 26 years of imprisonment in Siberia.

Before he is framed and accused of the heinous crime Ivan Dmitritch Aksionov is a young merchant from the town of Vladimir. He owns two shops and a house.

As a young man, he was unruly and given to drinking a tad too much, but he stopped drinking when he got married.

He bids his family farewell one day as he departs for the Nizhy Fair.

His wife forbids him from going because she had a nasty dream about him.

She dreamt that he would return from the journey when his hair is completely grey. She begs him to postpone the journey until later.

However, Ivan Dmitritch Aksionov laughs it off, claiming that it is a lucky sign, and continues on his way.

Halfway through the journey, he runs across a trader he knows. They stay at the same inn, share tea, and sleep in adjoining rooms.

Ivan Dmitritch Aksionov wakes his driver the next morning, pays the innkeeper, and they leave before daylight.

After around 25 miles, Aksionov chooses to stop and feed his horses.

An official, followed by two soldiers, approaches him next.

The official interrogates him, revealing that the businessman with whom he spent the night at the inn had been slain.

Because he was with the man and then departed suspiciously early, Aksionov becomes the main suspect.

The officer is adamant that Aksionov murdered the merchant and continues to question him about how he did it and how much money he stole.

Aksionov claims innocence, alleging that he only has 8000 rubles and that the knife does not belong to him.

Ivan Dmitritch Aksionov is captured with the odds stacked against him, shaking and looking guilty.

His money and property are taken.

He sobs bitterly. Inquiries are made about him in his hometown of Vladimir, and it is discovered that he used to drink excessively and loaf in his youth, but he is a good man.

Nonetheless, he is charged with murder and stealing 20,000 rubles from the Ryazan merchant.

His wife pays him a visit in prison.

Initially, she is barred from seeing Ivan Dmitritch but after pleading, the officials agree to let her and the small children see Aksionov.

She passes out as she sees her adoring husband dressed in jail garb and chained up with crooks and criminals.

After a brief conversation, he informs her that she must ask the Czar to save an innocent man the agony of unjust vengeance.

His wife informs him that her petitioning efforts were futile.

"Vanya dearest, tell your wife the truth, was it not you who did it?" she says, recalling her foreboding dream about grey hair.

Ivan Dmitritch Aksionov weeps in disbelief because even his darling wife is skeptical, disbelieving, and suspicious.

He recognizes that only God knows the truth and that he should make his appeal to Him.

Aksionov then quits drafting petitions and abandons all hope, praying only to God.

He is sentenced to whipping and transported to the mines.

He is flogged with knots and deported to Siberia.

He reamins a prisoner in Siberia for 26 years.

His hair and beard turn grey, and he becomes a feeble old man who walks slowly, says little, and never laughs.

During his stay in jail, he earns the reputation of a meek and religious guy among the other inmates, who refer to him as "grandfather" and "the saint."

One day, a new group of criminals arrives at the prison, and Aksionov meets a man named Makar Semyonich among them.

Ivan Dmitritch Aksionov begins to suspect that Makar Semyonich committed the murder for which he has been accused.

This profoundly distresses him to the point where he considers suicide.

He has fond memories of his former life as a free man.

He is extremely depressed as he recalls happier days with his laughing wife; seeing his small children and remembering how young, cheerful, and carefree he was.

He also recalls the day he was captured, the whipping, the executioner, chains, criminals, and the twenty-six years he spent in unjust detention and hard labor.

He harbors profound resentment and contempt for Makar Semyonich and yearns for vengeance.

He prays all night but is unable to find calm because his previous days and nights had been filled with pain.

One night, he comes across Makar Semyonich, who is attempting to dig a hole under the wall in order to escape.

Makar Semyonich threatens to kill him if he informs on him.

To which Ivan replies that “… you killed me long ago. As to telling of you - I may do so or not, as God shall direct.

When the convoy soldiers uncover the tunnel and ask Ivan Dmitritch Aksionov, he says that telling is not God's will.

He reasoned that vengeance against Makar Semyonich would be futile, even if he made him pay for his wrongdoing.

He does not believe in the human justice system.

Makar Semyonich visits Ivan Dmitritch Aksionov's bed that night, confessing his guilt and pleading desperately for pardon.

Makar Semyonich tears, pleading with the old man to forgive him. Ivan Dmitritch Aksionov begins to cry as well.

Surprisingly, he just answers, "God will forgive you." Perhaps I'm a hundred times worse than you."

His heart becomes lighter at this time, and he no longer want to leave the Siberian jail and return home. He wants nothing more than to die and be with God.

Makar Semyonich confesses to the authorities but by the time they order for Ivan Dmitritch Aksionov’s release he is already dead.

Key moments in the story

  • Aksionov’s excursion for a Trade Fair at Nizhny (p68 – 69).
  • His wifes premonition
  • Aksionov’s arrest and 26-year prison sentence (p69 71).
  • The coincidental encounter with the real murderer (Makar) (p71 – 72).
  • Ivan Dmitritch Aksionov is questioned on the escape tunnel
  • Makar begs  Ivan Dmitritch Aksionov's for forgiveness through which  Ivan Dmitritch Aksionov finally finds acceptance and peace
  • Makar’s confession on the murder  Ivan Dmitritch Aksionov is accused of
  • Ivan Dmitritch Aksionov's death

Characters and characterization

List of Characters

  • Ivan Aksionov: The protagonist of the story, Aksionov is a merchant from Vladimir who is falsely accused and convicted of murdering a merchant from Ryazan and robbing him of 20,000 rubles. He spends 26 years in prison, during which time he becomes meek, devout, and respected by his fellow prisoners.
  • Makar Semyonich: A convicted horse thief and one of the new prisoners in Aksionov's prison. Makar is revealed to be the actual murderer of the merchant, who had framed Aksionov for the crime. He expresses remorse and asks Aksionov for forgiveness before confessing to his crime.
  • Aksionov's wife: A loving and devoted wife who stays by her husband's side through his trials and tribulations, she desperately tries to prove his innocence by sending petitions to the Czar and visiting him in prison.
  • The Governor of the prison: The person who is in charge of the prison where Aksionov is incarcerated. He is portrayed as a fair and just person who trusts Aksionov's word.
    The convoy soldiers: The guards who escort the convicts to work, they play a role in finding Makar's tunnel.
  • The other convicts: The fellow prisoners with whom Aksionov share his prison sentence, they respect and regard Aksionov as a saintly figure and make him the spokesman for their petitions to the authorities.

Character Traits
Ivan Aksionov

  • Honest: Aksionov is honest and truthful as he is always willing to tell the truth, even if it may be detrimental to him. He is a just man who is unwilling to betray Makar Semyonich, knowing that he would be flogged if he did.
  • Forgiving: Aksionov is able to forgive Makar Semyonich despite the fact that he spent 26 years in prison, suffered and lost his family due to Makar's actions. He had a willingness to forgive and reconcile when Makar asked for forgiveness.
  • Meek: He is a meek person who is always willing to take the blame for things he has not done. He was falsely accused of the murder of a merchant, yet he does not defend himself, instead he suffers the punishment willingly.
  • Religious and pious: Aksionov is a man of strong religious beliefs. He prays and references God throughout the story. He trusts that God will guide his actions, and ultimately he believes in God's judgment rather than the judgment of men.
  • Patient: He is patient throughout his time in prison, even as he continues to hope for release, he waits for god's judgment. He remains patient and calm even in the face of injustice and suffering.
  • Just: Aksionov is a truthful and just person, known to be trustworthy by the prison authorities
  • Empathetic: Aksionov shows empathy and understanding towards Makar after he confesses to the murder, and forgives him.

Makar Semyonich

  • Deceitful: Makar is deceitful as he killed the merchant, framed Aksionov by putting the knife in his bag and lied to the authorities about his involvement.
  • Remorseful: Makar is remorseful as he begged for Aksionov's forgiveness, regretted his actions and confessed his guilt to the authorities.
  • Self-centered: Makar is self-centered as he is mainly focused on saving himself, He tries to escape and offering Ivan Dmitritch as a sacrificial lamb instead of himself.
  • Cowardly: Makar is Cowardly as he runs away and hide when he heard some noise and when he was confronted by Aksionov.
  • Lacking empathy: Makar did not show empathy towards Aksionov's suffering and only thought of his own safety and release.

Aksionov’s Wife

  • Loving and caring: wife and mother who is devastated by her husband's wrongful imprisonment
  • Resilient and determined: as she takes her young children with her to visit Aksionov in prison and pleads with the officials to allow her to see him.
  • Selfless: as she petitions the Czar for Aksionov's release even though it is unlikely that her petitions will be accepted.


Innocence and guilt

Aksionov is falsely accused and convicted of murder and theft, despite his innocence. The true killer, Makar Semyonich, ultimately confesses to the crime, highlighting the theme of guilt and the possibility of wrongful conviction.


Makar Semyonich ultimately seeks Aksionov's forgiveness and redemption for his actions, expressing remorse for the suffering he caused him. Aksionov forgives Makar, illustrating the power of forgiveness and the ability for individuals to change for the better.

Justice and fairness

Throughout the story, Aksionov faces an unjust legal system, being convicted based on fabricated evidence. The theme of justice and fairness is highlighted by the contrast between Aksionov's punishment and Makar's lack of consequences for his crime.

Faith and religion

Aksionov turns to religion as a source of solace throughout his imprisonment, and refers to his faith in God as a source of guidance and strength. The theme of faith and religion is emphasized as a means of coping with injustice and suffering.

The passage of time

The story spans a period of 26 years, and its protagonist experiences significant aging and change over the time. The theme of the passage of time serves to illustrate the effect of incarceration on a person's physical and emotional well-being, as well as the effect of time on memories, feelings and relationships.

Sacrifice and selflessness

Aksionov makes a sacrifice for the well-being of Makar by not exposing him and Makar's guilt leads him to make sacrifices to try to make amends.

Stylistic Devices


Repeating words or phrases.

(There are actually many different types of repetition like anaphora and epiphora.)

One example of repetition in the story is the phrase "It seems that only God can know the truth; it is to Him alone we must appeal and from Him alone expect mercy." Aksionov repeats this phrase multiple times throughout the story as a reminder of his belief in God's ultimate justice.


Symbolism is the use of words or images to symbolize specific concepts, people, objects, or events.

The character of Makar Semyonich serves as a symbol of Aksionov's own guilt and the weight of his conscience.

Makar's confession of his guilt and Aksionov's reaction to it symbolizes the process of redemption and forgiveness.

Aksionov's Grey Hair - Before Aksionov departs for the fair, his wife tells him of a dream she had the previous night, in which he returned from the fair with grey hair. He merely laughs and says it's a good omen, but this ominous symbol has more import than he realizes, as his grey hair foreshadows how the stress of his wrongful imprisonment will prematurely age him.

Bloody Knife - The bloody knife unexpectedly found in Aksionov's bag functions as the crucial piece of evidence needed to convict him. Since he is actually innocent, this knife stands as a symbol of Aksionov's lack of control over his fate. Later in the story, he learns that Semyonich planted the knife among Aksionov's possessions, having decided to frame him for the crime rather than murder him.

The Lives of the Saints - While in prison, Aksionov earns some money by working as a bootmaker, which he uses to buy the book The Lives of the Saints, a popular volume of biographies of famous Christian figures written in the 1700s by Catholic priest and scholar Father Alban Butler. The book represents Aksionov's religious devotion and how he steadily comes to resemble a religious authority himself. While other men drown in selfishness and self-pity, Aksionov becomes the grandfather figure of the prison camp, the honest man in a group of thieves.


Irony is a rhetorical device and literary technique that is incredibly useful when used correctly.

Simply put, irony is when something that is said or done is in contrast to reality or to what is expected.

The story is filled with Irony.

An example is when Aksionov was falsely accused of killing the merchant and was sentenced to prison, while the real killer, Makar Semyonich, lived freely.

The irony is that Aksionov was an innocent man and was punished for a crime he didn't commit.


Foreshadowing is a literary device used to give an indication or hint of what is to come later in the story.

Foreshadowing is useful for creating suspense, a feeling of unease, a sense of curiosity, or a mark that things may not be as they seem.

The story uses foreshadowing through Aksionov's dream of his hair turning grey, his wife predicts that he will come to a bad end because of this, this foreshadows his imprisonment and suffering.


Imagery is a literary device used in poetry, novels, and other writing that uses vivid description that appeals to a readers' senses to create an image or idea in their head.

Through language, imagery does not only paint a picture, but aims to portray the sensational and emotional experience within text.

The story uses imagery to create a vivid picture of the prison and the conditions the convicts are living in.

For example, when Aksionov is describing the prison he says "The place was dark and damp, and the air was full of the smell of rotting straw and the breath of sick men." This imagery creates a powerful picture of the prison in the reader's mind.

Other imagery present in the text include; Young Aksionov (Visual Imagery) - Tolstoy initially describes Aksionov as a "handsome, fair-haired, curly-headed fellow, full of fun, and very fond of singing."This vivid description will prove essential as a contrast to Aksionov's rapid transformation into an old man, which results from his wrongful imprisonment.

Trembled With Fear (Visual Imagery) - After the official discovers a knife among Aksionov's possessions, Aksionov is unable to respond: "... his voice was broken, his face pale, and he trembled with fear as though he were guilty." 

Revision questions for God Sees the Truth, but Waits

  1. How relevant is the title of the story, God Sees the Truth, but Waits?
  2. Why do you think Aksionov refuses to tell the truth about the prison incident?
  3. Do you think the Governor is to blame for Aksionov’s prolonged imprisonment?


  1. What is the impact of Ivan Aksionov’s faith in God on his life?
  2. Why is Ivan reticent to go back home?
  3. Explore and analyze the existence of the following themes in God Sees the Truth, but Waits.
    • Mistaken identity
    • Crime and Confession
    • Wrongful conviction and imprisonment
    • The concept and context of truth
    • Justice delayed is justice
    • Betrayal and Tolerance
    • Coincidence
      End of the explain questions
  4. Describe the character traits of the following characters.
    • Aksionov
    • Makar
    • The Governor
  5. Focusing on their prominent character traits, compare and contrast the protagonist, Ivan Aksionov, and the Makar.
  6. Citing evidence from the text, describe the character traits of the following characters.
    • The Governor
    • Aksionov’s wife
  7. How is symbolism employed in Leo Tolstoy’s God Sees the Truth, but Waits?
  8. Examine the use of irony and paradox God Sees the Truth, but Waits.
  9. What does Siberia represent in this story?

Additional questions with answers

  1. Answer the following questions in a sentence or two each, based on your understanding of the story.
    1. Why did Aksionov’s wife stop him from going to the fair?
      Ans: Aksionov’s wife saw a bad dream. It was a premonition of some impending harm coming to him. So, she dissuaded him from going to the fair.
    2. Why was Aksionov’s wife disturbed to see the dream?
      Ans: In the dream Aksionov’s wife saw him returning from the town with grey hair in place of his normal hair. This unusual sight made her perplexed.
    3. What made Aksionov leave the inn before dawn?
      Ans: Aksionov wanted to reach the town before the sun got hot. So, he decided to eave the in rather early.
    4. What were the circumstances that led to Aksionov’s imprisonment?
      Ans: The merchant with whom Aksionov spent the previous night had been found with his throat slit. Aksionov was the prime suspect for the crime, because circumstantial evidence went against him. He had left the inn unusually early, and more importantly, the blood-stained knife allegedly used in the murder was found hidden in his bag. With these two, the police assumed Aksionov to be the perpetrator of the crime.
    5. Why did Aksionov give up sending petitions?
      Ans: After a few of his fervent appeals proved to be futile, Aksionov gave up writing any more applications.
    6. Why didn’t Makar disclose that he had killed the merchant?
      Ans: Makar was secretive about his past deeds as he was immoral and timid by nature. So he did not disclose that he had killed the merchant.
    7. Did Makar feel guilty when he heard Aksionov’s story?
      Ans: Yes, Makar felt guilty when he heard Askionov’s story.
    8. What made Aksionov think that Makar was the real murderer?
      Ans: After hearing Aksionov’s account, Makkar began to be evasive and aloof. When Aksionov asked whether he knew the murderer, he replied rather emphatically that the person from whose bag the weapon was retrieved must be the culprit. He even argued that the innocence of the accused could only be upheld only if the placing of the knife in the baggage by the real murderer could be conclusively established. Makkar was speaking like the prosector rather than an ordinary listener of the story. Such stridency of Makkaer made Aksionov think that Makar was the real murderer.
    9. What was Aksionov’s realization by the end of the story?
      Ans: Aksinov’s faith in the God was bolstered many times after the story ended with the change of heart of Makar. He concluded that ‘God sees the truth, but waits.’
    10. Why did Aksionov’s wife suspect him of involvement in the murder?
      Ans: Aksionov’s wife discovered that the police had built a strong case against her husband. In exasperation, and overtaken by anguish, she confronted her husband with the awkward question about he being the murderer.
  2. Answer the following questions in three or four sentences each.
    1. Did the police officer have sufficient evidence to convict Aksionov?
      Ans: Yes, the police officer had sufficient evidence to convict Aksionov. The fact that Aksionov left the inn too early, and the murder weapon was found to be in his possession pinned him to the crime.
    2. What impact did the book “The Lives of Saints” have on Aksionov?
      Ans: The book “The Lives of Saints” made him calm and sagacious. His fellow-prisoners respected him, and adoringly called him “Grandfather,” and “The Saint.” When they found themselves mired in rancor, they came to the ‘Saint’ for resolution of their differences.
    3. Pick out the clues that convey that Makar Semeyonich recognized Aksionov.
      Ans: At first, Semeyonich said that he once really had done something utterly wrong, but on that occasion, no one probed him further and he escaped detection. Later, when Semyonich got to know about Aksionov’s unfortunate past from other inmates, he slapped his own knee as a mark of rejoicing. Quite mockingly, he exclaimed that that was really wonderful. When Aksionov asked him whether he knew the murderer, he replied that it must have been the sameperson, in whose bag the knife was found. He argued that if the police has to be proved wrong, the real perpetrator would have to be caught. Such one-sided assertion are the clues that convey that Makar Semeyonich recognized Aksionov.
  3. Answer the following questions in a paragraph of about 150 words each.
    1. Compare and contrast the main characters, Aksionov and Makar Semeyonich, in the story.
      Ans: Ivan Dmitrich Aksionov, the character around whom the story revolves, was an embodiment of simplicity, honesty, equanimity, and forgiveness. He bore his misfortune with grace and forbearance. He put his trust in God, and that enabled him to stay clear of bitterness and vengeance. Long years of his life were spent in jail, and his family was ravaged due to no fault of his. When the time came to exact a revenge from the man who had caused him so much of suffering, he became passive, and demonstrated rare forgiveness towards Semeyonich, his tormentor. In a nutshell, Aksinov was saintly person of outstanding moral character.
      Makar Semeyonich, the devil of this story, was truly a hideous character. He was wicked in both mind and body. Althiugh he had committed a murder and sent an innocent person to jail, he suffered no remorse or regret. Towards Aksinov, he was both mischievous and arrogant. He planned to dig his way out of the jail, and was caught. Aksinov could have told the guards about it, and seen him beaten to pulp by them. But, Aksinov pardoned him. Markar escaped a calamity, but had no way to pay Aksinov back for his compassion.
    2. How did Aksionov react when his wife suspected him?
      Ans: When his wife confronted him with the question about his committing the murder, Aksinov was overwhelmed with grief, shame, and bewilderment. He had never expected that his dear and loving wife would ever suspect him of committing such a grievous offence. His wife’s question broke his heart and hurt him badly. He asserted his innocence fervently.
    3. Describe the life of Aksionov in prison.
      Aksionov was imprisoned, since he was suspected for killing a merchant. But the actual murderer of the merchant was Semeyonich. Even his wife suspected him for the murder. This thought made him even sadder. He gave up all hope and told himself that God only knew the truth. For twenty-six years as a convict in Siberia, he grew old. In prison, Aksionov learnt to make boots, and earned a little money with which he bought the book ‘The Lives of the Saints’. He used to read this book. On Sundays, in the prison-church he read the lessons and sang on the choir. The prison authorities liked him for his meekness. His fellow-prisoners respected and called him “Grandfather” and “The Saint.” He was the spokesman among the prisoners. After 26 years, Semeyonich was imprisoned for his sin. Even if Aksionov realized Semeyonich was the real murderer, he saved Semeyonich from the Governer in an incident. Semeyonich realized his mistake and confessed his guilt. But when the order of his release came, Aksionov was already dead.
    4. Why did Aksionov decide not to reveal the truth about Makar Semeyonich?
      Ans: Aksionov was imprisoned, since he was suspected for killing a merchant. For twenty-six years as a convict in Siberia, he grew old. He felt that he had suffered twenty six years in the prison without committing any murder. Most of his life was spent in the prison. He had lost all his hope and his family. His wife was dead and his children had forgotten him. He thought where he could go and he had nowhere to go. He no longer had any desire to leave the prison. But he only hoped for his last hours to come. He believed in God alone. His wife misunderstood and suspected him. In the prison, a new prisoner introduced himself and he was Makar Semeyonich. Besides, Makar Semeyonich confessed his guilt. He forgave him for revealing the truth. He did not want to take revenge the murderer. He thought that forgiveness is the best form of revenge.
    5. Discuss the meaning and importance of the saying “God sees the truth but waits”.
      Ans: This story was all about Aksionov who lost hope and just trusted God. Though he didn’t commit any crime, he was imprisoned for 26 years in the prison. Makar revealed the truth that he was the real murderer. Aksionov forgave him for accepting the truth and attained self-realization. But when the order of his release came, Aksionov was already dead. Our weakness can only make the problem stronger. Being hopeful can make all things possible. The title means that every decisions of God needs enough time.This story is for all the people who loses hope and don’t believe in God. We should wait for the truth to win with a faith in God gives us the answer to all our problems, as the title says GOD SEES THE TRUTH BUT WAITS. At the end of the story there is a shift from materialism to spiritualism.
    6. Forgiveness is the best form of revenge. Substantiate the statement with reference to the story.
      Ans: Aksionov lived with his wife and children in Vladimir. He decided to make a trip to the fair. His wife tried to stop him because she had a bad dream. On his way, Aksionov met a merchant. But the merchant was killed. So the local police officer arrested and charged against Aksionov. He was sent to work in the mines of Siberia. He grew old there. Aksionov frequently prayed to God. Aksionov was respected by all the inmates due to his gentle behaviour. One day he met Makar Semeyonich. Aksionov found out the truth that Makar was the real killer. He saved Makar from the officials, when he tried to escape. Eventually Makar admitted his crime. Aksionov forgave Makar. Thus forgiving Makar, Aksionov accepted the truth, attained self-realization and died in peace. Really Forgiveness is the best form of revenge.

Essay Questions

  1. The average human attribute is evile. Discuss this assertion using illustrations from Leo Tolstoy’s God Sees the Truth, but Waits. (20 marks),
    1. After Ivan leaves the inn, how does his behaviour reveal that he is an honest man?
    2. After Ivan leaves the inn, how does his behaviour reveal that he is a guilty man?
    1. What is the significance of Aksionov's wife's dream?
    2. What forms of justice are depicted in "God Sees the Truth, But Waits"?
    3. What role does acceptance play in "God Sees the Truth, But Waits"?
    4. What does the story teach us about forgiveness?


  1. What is the significance of Aksionov's wife's dream?
    Before Aksionov sets off on his journey to Nizhy Fair, his wife asks him not to leave, as she has dreamt about him returning from the fair with grey hair. While she interprets the grey hair as symbolic of some terrible fate befalling her husband, Aksionov dismisses her concern, saying that it must be good luck. However, the wife's premonition proves significant, as it foreshadows how Aksionov prematurely ages due to the stress of being wrongfully imprisoned. Over his twenty-six years in Siberia, Aksionov grows a grey beard and his hair turns white as snow.
  2. What forms of justice are depicted in "God Sees the Truth, But Waits"?
    In "God Sees the Truth, But Waits," Tolstoy uses dramatic irony to instill in the reader sympathy for Aksionov, whom the reader knows to be innocent. As Aksionov is put through the tribulations of being punished for a crime he didn't commit, the reader watches Aksionov calmly accept his fate as the victim of a flawed criminal justice system composed of people eager to see the crime pinned on him. Tolstoy also depicts the inverted and private justice that Aksionov practices in relation to Semyonich: even though he knows Semyonich to be guilty, Aksionov doesn't repeat the cruelty used against himself, choosing instead to spare Semyonich any punishment. The leniency and mercy Aksionov demonstrates so profoundly shake Semyonich's sense of morality that he confesses to Aksionov and begs forgiveness. Aksionov says that God will forgive him, which points to Aksionov's faith in God's justice.
  3. What role does acceptance play in "God Sees the Truth, But Waits"?
    As one of the story's major themes, acceptance plays a central role in "God Sees the Truth, But Waits." Even though Aksionov is subjected to profound injustice, he tries to accept his fate as a wrongfully imprisoned person, putting his life in God's hands. Although Aksionov develops a new personality in prison as a devout Christian and peacemaker, his calm demeanor is rattled when Semyonich arrives and inflames in Aksionov feelings of misery at his unjust treatment. Aksionov's response to Semyonich reveals how he has never truly accepted his fate. But once Aksionov grants God's forgiveness to Semyonich, Aksionov finds that a lightness enters his heart. He is free of carrying the burden of never accepting his life, and once he accepts his life, he no longer needs to live it, dying soon after.


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