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Author Study: Leo Tolstoy Curated by Grace Xu '19

Theme: There will always exist a tension between the desire for vengeance and the spiritual duties of forgiveness and compassion.


1) Kitty and Levin

Growing their relationship through forgiveness and reconciliation 

“Their quarrels were another disenchantment and enchantment. Levin never imagined that there could be any other relations between himself and his wife than tender, respectful, loving ones, and suddenly, in the very first days, they quarreled, and she told him he did not love her, loved only himself, wept and waved her hands...They made peace. Realizing that she was wrong, but not saying so, she became more tender towards him, and they experienced a new, redoubled happiness in their love.” (Part V, Chp. XIV, pg. 482)

2) Anna and Vronsky

Vengeance causing division in relationship

“And remembering all the cruel words he had said, Anna also invented the words he obviously had wished to say and might have said to her, and she grew more and more irritated...And death presented itself to her clearly and vividly as the only way to restore the love for her in his heart, to punish him and to be victorious in the struggle that the evil spirit lodged in her heart was waging with him” (Part VII, Chp. XXVI, pg. 751)

“Vengeance is mine; I will repay.”

(Romans 12:19)








3) Alexei Alexandrovich 



Internal conflict over how to respond to Anna's actions




“Involuntarily going over in his memory the impressions of the conversations during and after dinner, Alexei Alexandrovich went back to his lonely hotel room. Darya Alexandrovna’s words about forgiveness produced nothing in him but vexation.” (Part IV, Chp. XVII, pg. 408)




“Alexei Alexandrovich’s inner disturbance kept growing and now reached such a degree that he ceased to struggle with it; he suddenly felt that what he had considered an inner disturbance was, on the contrary, a blissful state of soul, which suddenly gave him a new, previously unknown happiness. He was not thinking that the Christian law which he had wanted to follow all his life prescribed that he forgive and love his enemies; but the joyful feeling of love and forgiveness of his enemies filled his soul...‘Give him your hand. Forgive him.’ Alexei Alexandrovich gave him his hand, not holding back the tears that poured from his eyes.” (Part. IV, Chp. XVII, 413)


Constant struggle


“He forgave his wife and pitied her for her sufferings and repentance. He forgave Vronsky and pitied him, especially after rumors reached him of his desperate act...But the more time passed, the more clearly he saw that, natural as this situation was for him now, he would not be allowed to remain in it. He felt that, besides the good spiritual force that guided his soul, there was another force, crude and equally powerful, if not more so, that guided his life, and that this force would not give him the humble peace he desired. He felt that everybody looked at him with questioning surprise, not understanding him and expecting something from him.” (Part IV, Chp. XIX, pg. 419)