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Understanding Lev Tolstoy's God Sees the Truth but Waits through Historical and Gender Criticism

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This study analyzes the short story of God sees the truth, but waits by Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoi with the use of five literary Criticism; as well as it seeks for meaning and understanding of the said story, as it deduces by the Historical Criticism, Marxist Criticism, Deconstruction Criticism, Symbolic Criticism, and Gender Criticism. It also used the qualitative descriptive method in determining the five literary criticism in relation to the literary piece. This research makes use of the given story as the main source of information proved by different reliable resources like articles., other studies about it, other comments, biographies of the said author, the beliefs, tradition, and the history during the year it was published plus the history before it was published that may affect the authors writing. In analyzing the story, different approaches to literary criticism were used especially the chosen five literary criticism. As it analyzes, the story might be formed through the symbolic meaning of things used to describe what the story is all about, the time when the story was influenced, the different beliefs that the story wanted to reject, the things used to do that time, even the policies you like or disapprove, religion, to show off how life is, to give hope, to provoke the readers to have faith, how things work, how life is fair or unfair, how the truth of sins be tell or just go over the years and how the author’s place culture affects the information of the said story of God sees the truth but waits.

Keywords- Truth, tsar, troika, justice, merchant, faith


Literature is a word used to describe a written and spoken that promotes imaginative creation (Lombardi, 2019). It also depicts the culture, religion, and tradition of one’s writer and his or her place. By means of the God sees the truth, but waits written by Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoi, it made a goal that readers might realize how devotion should be valued and we should also give didactic lessons and be at least a good model to the people around us (Nabi, 2014). Different analyses were put in it by personal opinion or reader’s response theory or by its deep meaning through critical thinking and by other literary approaches of people in different countries. It was also said in the study website (2019) that the story of it symbolizes temporary objects and those were like the things we can see that cannot be compared to the things we cannot see just like our God which is eternal that He cannot fade over thing such as money, shops, house and more did. According to Agung Suhadi and Sulistina Agustin (2019), this literary work made by Tolstoi is not simply to get the attention of the reader but it is also intended to give moral to the readers. As in this story God sees the truth, but waits, it is explicit a lesson that we can make in life; first will be we do now either it is good or bad have its own consequence. Another one is to inform readers to be patient when we are put into trouble and always wait for the right time. At last, is to have connected with God. Though it is still a worldwide issue about the real meaning behind that story title either Tolstoi implying that one must have faith that God will eventually bring justice to every situation or he is pointing out how justice turns up too late (eNotes Editorial, 2009).

Furthermore, the Philippines also come with great literature from the first newspaper La Esperanza (Hepolito, 2016) to Literature written by Dr. Jose Rizal to different heroes up to the literature of today’s generation. From these, it already proved that its content change from one to another based on the history, culture, and the time when the author belongs. This literature are also tackled in classes but still lets the learners learn different literatures that has influenced over decades. Like how God sees the truth but waits brought to the students and gave impact. Domingo (2008), says that maybe Tolstoi want the readers to have thinking that when there is a challenge given to us, it is just a test to bring us all closer to God resembling how the protagonist in the story suffered yet got himself to God and a peaceful mind before he dies. Domingo also says that this is an inspiring work of art that has several morals that could help guide future generations of students. It could also help others and the one who sins to tell the truth because someone might suffer. Moreover, Gonzales (2016) finds that God sees the truth, but waits to the tragedy that happened on “Abadilla 5” men who were blamed of killing former colonel Rolando Abadilla last 1996. Gonzales only proved how this one really happened in real life that someone will die for having a late justice. Yet Maguelang (2014) tells that even it is a tragic misfortune, this story will still imply how truth sets everyone free.

On the other hand, this study entitled Understanding the Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoi’s God Sees the Truth, But Waits through Deconstructionist Criticism analyzes how it does not follow the universal meaning of being in prison for the mistake a person does not even commit especially how the Philippines people thinks about it that someone who will suffer will do anything to get out, to prove something, and to get revenge.

Elements of the Short Story

Background of the story

God sees the truth, but waits written by Leo Tolstoy is a story about the faith, guilt, forgiveness, and acceptance of Ivan Dmitrich Aksionov despite of being in imprisoned for 26 years; for the murder, he did not even commit. Makar Semyonich, who really killed his colleague was forgiven and just put his faith in God while he is nowhere to go.


  • Town of Vladimir- It is where Ivan Dmitrich Aksionov
  • Inn- it is where Aksionov and other merchants adjoining rooms and where the place of murder.
  • Fair- It is where a merchant sells their goods.
  • Siberia- It is where Ivan Dmitrich Aksionov together with his family lived.


  • Ivan Dmitrich Aksionov- the protagonist who got into jail for 26 years for the sin he did not done.
  • Makar Semyonich- The one who really kills the other merchant.
  • Vanya- She is the wife of Aksionov.
  • Children- The 13 children of Aksionov.
  • Soldiers- The two who asked, suspected, found the knife with blood in Aksiono’s bag and who got him to jail.
  • Co-prisoner
  • Tsar- The ruler of the Russian empire.

Plot Diagram


Aksionov there was a young merchant who live in Vladimir. He had two shops and his own house written in line 1. He was also described as a handsome, fair-haired, curly-headed fellow, full of fun, and very fond of singing and it was also mentioned that he is a married man from line 2.

Insights incident

It happened when the soldiers found out that there is someone who dig a hole in the prison, then they asked Aksionov who was the one who did it because is the one who earned respect from those people. Yet, he just said that it is not God’s will to tell in lines 50-52.

Rising Action:

When Aksionov met a merchant and drank tea together and later went to the same rooms and they decided to check in an Inn with connected rooms. Then Aksionov go out and as he was on the way, an official as well as the two soldiers approached and questioned him about the things which is leading to the murder and he found out that the merchant he met the night before has been murdered, and the officials accuse him of killing him since there was a knife covers with blood on it in his bag then he was imprisoned first to the nearby town from line 7-18 before he was moved to Siberia for 26 years in line 26-27.


It was when Makar was seated on the bed where Aksionov was lying on then he confessed his mistakes as he felt guilty of what the latter did for not telling the truth despite of his bad doings in him and just say that he was really the one who killed the merchant but the latter feels like it was already useless because he was nowhere to go. Yet Makar still asked for forgiveness from lines 58 to 61.

Falling Action

When Makar continues Aksionov just tells him that God will do it and still the former confessed of killing the merchant and he put the knife inside Aksionov’s bag even though the other one did not request for it and it was from line 62 to 63.


Aksionov was ordered to go back home, but before that happened, he died in line 64.

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Place Order


  • Man vs. Man- The story depicts this kind of conflict because it is all about the suffering of the mistakes that the other person did and it is the problem in which Aksionov vs Makar have.
  • Man vs. Himself- It is simply about how someone should fight for himself and justify what he deserves not to be in jail for things he did not commit but it is still a battle of self that were you go on with life and give up or you go on in life, do things that make your challenges be as it is; then prove not only just to yourself but to others that you can be a good model for them and do it with your trust in God.


  • This story goes around faith, guilt, forgiveness, and acceptance even though there is a challenge and someone do bad things at you.

Point of view

  • It is in a third-person point of view because the voice in it was telling the story about the character and not the self-description. It is also Omniscient when the one who are narrating this story tells all the character’s emotions and thoughts.


  • It is in tone tragic because it is serious and formal.


  • It is in a form of a narrative story.

Result and Discussion

(1.) Historical Criticism

Furthermore, Russian culture during 1872 has an impact in writing a story in which authors like Orthodox writers and rural priest Maslovskii made their stories about churches (Kivelson & Greene, n.d) may also affect Tolstoi’s perspective to come up with a story as God plays a meaning to the truth and decision of one another.

The timeline of the story was 1872 where their society surrounds with a military setting. As well as the author also joined the military same with his brother, it helped him to produce a piece that is connected to military, action, mystery situations, or law wherein the story has officials with two soldiers from line

(2.) Marxist Criticism

Another thing is that it is already known that Aksionov is a merchant, but he is in the middle of the society and he was overpowered by the officials who has the right to question him about the merchant who died and he use his position as an officer of the district in line 12. It was also the year when the Tsar-the ruler of the Russian Empire should be the one whom you sent a petition to prove your innocence in line 21 and it shows how the higher rank has the right in their hand either to set you free or to let you suffer.

(3.) Deconstructionist Criticism

This story does not come up in the ordinary meaning in which not all in prison are bad ones. It also introduced how people in the prison show respect just like in line 29 and not all person who suffered from the things he did not commit will do revenge instead the protagonist keeps all his prayers to God from lines 26-27.

This story also stops the common thinking of religious ones that if you have faith and put all yourself in God to tell or show the truth from line 52; you should feel contented and do not get mad at all but the protagonist here feel that emotion in line 46 because it just shows how a person be like a human who also do sins not just in action but in the emotional aspect.

It was also said here in the story that Aksionov learned to create boots in return of money to buy the book in line 28 and that made people understood that jail is not just about bad people, drugs, and tattoos.

(4.) Symbolic Criticism

The two shops and the own house of Aksionov symbolize tangible things that a middle family have in line 1 while the prison symbolizes the limitations of the said things because those are useless. All you can do is to put God with you as He is the one you will expect to have mercy in line 25.

The tea in which the two merchants joined together for line 7 symbolizes the spirituality that this story talks about Faith in God.

The knife with blood in line 14 symbolizes that it is not only about the merchant who died. It also symbolizes that blood as your family and knife with blood depicts the death of a family because the family that the protagonist have can no longer communicate mentioned in line 30 and it means with just one judgment, it ruins everything. It can also mean that it also cuts the thing that will let you to continue live and that is happiness. From being full of fun man in line 2 to never laughed in line 27, that knife where things start really kills lives.

(5.) Gender Criticism

It promotes gender differences that a man or a husband should do the work and leave the house instead of a woman in lines 3 to 7 like what Aksionov did bidding his goodbye to his wife or family leaving them at home.

Aksionov being a man in the story that has been convicted instead of having a woman protagonist, it just means how man in Russian society- the place of the author got the biggest crime during Russian 1834-1913 (Frank, 1996) when 1872- the date of God sees the truth, but waits published was in between of those years; and that time it influenced the piece written by Tolstoi.

Conclusion and recommendation

In this study, five criticisms were presented and these are the Historical Criticism wherein the place of author’s culture influenced to the literary piece then the religious beliefs during that time that adds to the focus of the story which is forgiveness and faith. Another one will be the Marxist Criticism which shows how rank or level in society affects the decision of where should one belong like to be free or to stay imprisoned. Also in Deconstructionist Criticism signifies that what you think of that group of people will all be the same like the people who are religious and the group of inmates. Then for Symbolic Criticism implies that everything is connected. It does not mean that only one or two circumstances it might affect because everything we do are all interconnected just like blood and the knife to the death of a person to the end of happiness and family. For the last one will be the Gender Criticism that a man and woman have its own role in society and each has man and women judged by a whole similar to why is it a man that should go to the fair or is it a man act as an inmate. These were the criticism that may be the reason why there is a story that comes up like this also.

Additionally, it was named as God sees the truth but waits because it was stated in line 52 that Aksionov believes that if is not his place to tell so it can’t be tell. It only means that the truth comes up naturally whether you hide it or not. It is always God’s right timing. Through this story I learned to believe that all things that happened has its reason, we just have to learn to wait. It is a bit sad not to get free from that place where you can do nothing but it teaches us that there is one thing we need; to be with Him and how we should evoke ourselves to Him in order for us to fully accomplish our desire/s and that is to be in peace.


  1. eNotes Editorial, 2009. Leo Tolstoy means by ‘God sees the truth but waits. Retrieved from
  2. Frank, 1996. Narratives within Numbers: Women, Crime and Judicial Statistics in Imperial Russia, 1834-1913. Retrieved from
  3. Gonzales (2016). ‘Abadilla 5’: A quest for justice. Retrieved from
  4. Hepolito, 2016. Philippine Literature. Retrieved from
  5. Kerry Gray, n.d & Study, 2019. Retrieved from
  6. Kivelson & Greene, n.d. Orthodox Russia: Belief and Practice Under the Tsars. Retrieved from
  7. Lombardi, 2019. Literature. Retrieved from
  8. Maguelang, 2014. God sees the truth but waits. Retrieved from
  9. Nabi, 2014. Literary_Analysis_of_God_Sees_the_Truth_but_Waits. Retrived from
  10. Suhadi &Agustin, 2019. Analysis of Social Injustice in “God Sees The Truth, But Waits”. Retrieved from
  11. Tambo, n.d. God sees the truth but waits. Retrieved from

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Understanding Lev Tolstoy’s God Sees the Truth but Waits through Historical and Gender Criticism. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 2, 2023, from
“Understanding Lev Tolstoy’s God Sees the Truth but Waits through Historical and Gender Criticism.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022,
Understanding Lev Tolstoy’s God Sees the Truth but Waits through Historical and Gender Criticism. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 2 Feb. 2023].
Understanding Lev Tolstoy’s God Sees the Truth but Waits through Historical and Gender Criticism [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 27 [cited 2023 Feb 2]. Available from:
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