This is a book review of Confession by Leo Tolstoy. The story starts with Tolstoy writing to make money and take care of his family. He wanted to distract himself from the philosophical question about the meaning of life. He would die from illnesses someday and everyone else would forget what he had accomplished.
The author believed that there was no point in living. This led to him questioning why should he worry about all these things. Tolstoy started regarding his literary works as worthless. He wanted to kill himself. Hence, in Confession, he uses an old story of a traveler to illustrate his thoughts.
Confession by Leo Tolstoy begins with a story, The Eastern fable of the dragon in the well. The traveler encounters a terrifying beast as he passes through farms and forests that draws his attention and chases him. In a fit of fright, the traveler dives into a well to escape the beast. At the bottom of the well, he discovers a dragon, another beast. Holding on to a branch, he was.
He was clinging onto a branch, which he discovered was being eaten by two mice, one black and one white. He was unable to climb where a terrifying beast resides, or descend where a dragon resides. In fact, the mice prevented him from hanging out on the branch for a very long.
The traveler struggles to survive holding onto the branch that has brought cracks in the good walls now. Leo Tolstoy was wondering what will become of his life now and why was he there. Amongst all that the only pleasure he was getting was honey on the branch. He was able to lick two drops of honey but soon he felt nothing. He started to think that something that once provided him immense pleasure now failed to provide any happiness at all.
Analysis of the Author’s Thoughts
Leo Tolstoy analyzes his own techniques and motives and believes that overcoming the challenges we encounter in life is crucial. He is aware that everything points to the ultimate reality, which is death, and that death is unavoidable. It ruins every moment of happiness we experience. Hence, Tolstoy believed there is no reason to live. He started looking for solutions and discovered that people react and behave differently in various circumstances.
He listed four different attitudes in Confession: ignorance, Epicureanism, suicide, and last, simply hang on or keep trying. Knowing that death is imminent makes life more difficult for the individual.
People come to realize that they cannot return to the past at the moment of death. He is not stupid either, but he is devastated by the knowledge that he will soon pass away. However, he can enjoy the time he has left since he is conscious of how brief his life is. Leo Tolstoy concludes that this reasoning is only effective for those who lead a fulfilling life. And, have money to spend and the freedom to do whatever they like in their final moments.
Tolstoy felt that even contemplating suicide is a great evil. What is the point of existing and waiting if there is no God that provides purpose for us and guides us in discovering the meaning of life? In this circumstance, the idea of suicide appears preferable over going through all of these difficulties. Tolstoy acknowledges that he is too frightened to act on this obvious conclusion.
Last but not least in Confession by Leo Tolstoy, Tolstoy asserts that enjoying life even if it is irrational would be a better option than having faith and giving up. He starts to doubt the existence of God and begins to develop certain religious beliefs as a result of not being able to discover the solutions to those existential problems. God is life, which implies that life has a purpose. Life is more monistic when God is present. Rational arguments and inquiries ultimately find their answers in the existence of God.
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Conclusion on Author’s Thoughts
Leo Tolstoy claims that regardless of the absurdity and repulsiveness of the answers of faith, an advantage of introducing the relation of the finite to the infinite into each answer is present. And one could discover the purpose of life by accepting these absurd things. Therefore, one needs trust.
Tolstoy discovered this faith among the poor and illiterate, not the wealthy and educated. He learned that life has a purpose when people live simply and have faith in God. By finding his purpose in faith, he had a profound personal and spiritual transformation. He held the view that only faith can offer us meaning and the possibilities of life.
Symbols Used in Confession
While writing the book review of Confession, I found a few symbols Leo Tolstoy used in the short autobiography. They are two mice, two drops of honey, and faith.
- Two Mice: One black mouse represented the night time and the other white mouse represented the daytime. It also represented the relentless march of time.
- Two drops of honey: Two drops of honey represented the small happiness and joy we get in our life during all the hardships. It also represents the love Tolstoy received from his family and his writing.
- Faith: Faith represents the power of life. It tells us that a man lives if he believes in something.
Concluding Remarks of Leo Tolstoy
Leo Tolstoy concludes that he does not have any doubts now. He believes that the teachings of all the faith he had earlier in life were not all true. All the lies and the truth were coming from the Church, traditions, and Scriptures. After studying theology he previously rejected, he discovered that he was surrounded by clear, meaningful facts in everyday life.
The one meaning of life he discovered is firmly rooted in that religious doctrine, or at the very least closely related to it. The author wanted to learn whether what he did was falsehood or the truth in order to conclude it in a later section and make it beneficial to someone, somewhere, someday.
He came to the conclusion that “the purpose of life is to be found in the idea that God has a purpose for us” and “the aim of this life is to be prepared for the next life.” Leo Tolstoy agreed that a modest existence and religious faith are the keys to finding significance.
My Thoughts on Confession
Therefore, in my opinion, Confession is a masterpiece that everyone who seeks to understand the meaning of life should read. It provides solutions to all philosophical and irrational objections and examines the validity of what we have been taught. It educates us about life’s challenges and how to address them while taking all potential outcomes into account effectively.
Last but not least, Ernest J. Simmons called the Confession “one of the noblest and most courageous expressions of man,” the expression of a mind “very confused by life’s grand problem—the relation by man to the infinite—yet done with total sincerity and high art.” Enjoy reading the book review of Confession!
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