"God Sees the Truth, But Waits," Vocabulary from the short story

March 31, 2014
Leo Tolstoy examines the complex issues of fate and justice in this masterful short story "God Sees the Truth, But Waits" (etext found here).
The Old French "rioter" means "to quarrel" and "ruire" means "to roar"--these roots connect to another definition of "riotous" that could describe a drunken young man: "characterized by unrest or disorder or insubordination."
When quite a young man he had been given to drink, and was riotous when he had had too much; but after he married he gave up drinking, except now and then.
Aksionov laughed, and said, "You are afraid that when I get to the fair I shall go on a spree."
They had some tea together, and then went to bed in adjoining rooms.
In this scene, the samovar is supposed to help set the mood of relaxation. But it could also symbolize Aksionov, and its literal heating foreshadows the figurative heat of the police investigation.
Aksionov rested awhile in the passage of the inn, then he stepped out into the porch, and, ordering a samovar to be heated, got out his guitar and began to play.
Suddenly a troika drove up with tinkling bells and an official alighted, followed by two soldiers.
Aksionov tried to answer, but could hardly utter a word, and only stammered: "I--don't know--not mine."
"Betray" also means "deliver to an enemy by treachery"--this would not fit the example sentence, since the speaker is a police officer who would not see himself as an enemy and who sees Aksionov as the only criminal involved in this case. However, because Aksionov did not kill the merchant, he has been betrayed by the actual murderer and by his own face, manner, and riotous past.
Here is this blood-stained knife in your bag and your face and manner betray you!
Enquiries as to his character were made in Vladimir.
His wife was in despair, and did not know what to believe.
At first she was not allowed to see him; but after much begging, she obtained permission from the officials, and was taken to him.
"We must petition the Czar not to let an innocent man perish."
Aksionov did not reply, but only looked downcast.
Compare with "petition"--both connect to requests that can be used in courts of law, but as seen in the example sentences, an appeal has a more urgent, direct, and personal tone, while a petition has a more formal tone that could take more time and steps.
When they were gone, Aksionov recalled what had been said, and when he remembered that his wife also had suspected him, he said to himself, "It seems that only God can know the truth; it is to Him alone we must appeal, and from Him alone expect mercy."
So he was flogged with a knot, and when the wounds made by the knot were healed, he was driven to Siberia with other convicts.
All his mirth went; he stooped; he walked slowly, spoke little, and never laughed, but he often prayed.
The prison authorities liked Aksionov for his meekness, and his fellow-prisoners respected him: they called him "Grandfather," and "The Saint."
When they wanted to petition the prison authorities about anything, they always made Aksionov their spokesman, and when there were quarrels among the prisoners they came to him to put things right, and to judge the matter.
Aksionov did not like to speak of his misfortune.
The Latin "damnare" means "to sentence" or "inflict loss upon"--both describe what happened to Aksionov. Despite being unjustly condemned, Aksionov does not damn himself ("to condemn to eternal punishment") through suicide or despair; instead, he continues to have faith that God will see the truth.
He would have said no more, but his companions told the newcomers how Aksionov came to be in Siberia; how some one had killed a merchant, and had put the knife among Aksionov's things, and Aksionov had been unjustly condemned.
Semyonich does not use the adjective to express great joy. Rather, he is full of wonder at how strange and surprising life can be: he is sent to Siberia for doing something that's not really a crime, only to meet the man who's serving the sentence for a crime that he had actually committed twenty-six years ago.
When Makar Semyonich heard this, he looked at Aksionov, slapped his own knee, and exclaimed, "Well, this is wonderful! Really wonderful! But how old you've grown, Gran'dad!"
He saw, in his mind, the place where he was flogged, the executioner, and the people standing around; the chains, the convicts, all the twenty-six years of his prison life, and his premature old age.
The thought of it all made him so wretched that he was ready to kill himself.
Anger is one of the deadly sins that could lead to vengeance. Aksionov feels this great anger against the man who had framed him. This makes him human. But Aksionov fights against this anger, by repeating prayers, avoiding Semyonich, and choosing to protect his enemy rather than taking his vengeance. This shows why he fits his nickname of "The Saint."
And his anger was so great against Makar Semyonich that he longed for vengeance, even if he himself should perish for it.
Aksionov tried to pass without looking at him, but Makar seized his hand and told him that he had dug a hole under the wall, getting rid of the earth by putting it into his high-boots, and emptying it out every day on the road when the prisoners were driven to their work.
Next day, when the convicts were led out to work, the convoy soldiers noticed that one or other of the prisoners emptied some earth out of his boots.
The Governor came and questioned all the prisoners to find out who had dug the hole.They all denied any knowledge of it.
Makar Semyonich stood as if he were quite unconcerned, looking at the Governor and not so much as glancing at Aksionov.
He thought, "Why should I screen him who ruined my life? Let him pay for what I have suffered. But if I tell, they will probably flog the life out of him, and maybe I suspect him wrongly. And, after all, what good would it be to me?"
When they flogged me with the knot it was not so hard to bear as it is to see you now...yet you had pity on me, and did not tell.
The given definition describes the opposite of what Aksionov felt and said. Having lost the last twenty-six years of his life, Aksionov has nothing to return to. So instead of encouraging Semyonich to confess so that he could be released, he tells him that God will forgive him. But in spite of (which means "despite" or "regardless") Aksionov's reluctance to be released, Semyonich confesses. This emphasizes the power of pity over spite.
In spite of what Aksionov had said, Makar Semyonich confessed his guilt.

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Thursday April 3rd 2014, 8:35 AM
Comment by: Chan Y.
Monday April 7th 2014, 12:00 PM
Comment by: juan C. (FL)
cool but i dont know much about religion

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