The Repentant Sinner by Leo Tolstoy
In The Repentant Sinner by Leo Tolstoy we have the theme of mercy, weakness, sin, connection, faith, hope and happiness. Taken from his Walk in the Light collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realizes that Tolstoy may be exploring the theme of mercy and weakness. Despite being denied entry to Paradise by Peter and David due to the old man’s weaknesses or sins. The old man makes a connection with John and is allowed entry into Paradise despite being a sinner. What is also interesting is the fact that the old man only repents on his last breath. Such is his belief that he may not reach Paradise. A very real place for the old man. Some critics might also suggest that Peter and David, both sinners, are being too strict on the old man. They after all have disobeyed Jesus and God at times in their lives but nonetheless they reached Paradise.
What is also interesting about the story is the act that the old man goes from being unhappy in life and sinning to a place of happiness when he dies. He has faith despite being a sinner. However some critics might suggest that the old man is afraid and desperate to get into Paradise. So he uses Peter, David and John’s actions in life against them. It is as though the old man is attacking all three men in order to defend his sins. He considers all three men to be no different to him. They as mentioned are all sinners and have offended God. However the important thing to remember is that the old man has repented his sinful ways but again he simply may have been desperate to get into Paradise.
There may be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The fact that all four men have sinned could represent people in general and how all or at least most people will sin at some stage of their lives. The gates of Paradise also could symbolize hope for mankind. That everybody should they genuinely repent can get into Paradise, no matter what they have done in life. The pedigree of Peter, David and John is also significant as they would be considered by others to be highly regarded by God and Jesus. Yet they too are sinners which again gives hope to people. Even the greatest of men have and can sin.
The end of the story is interesting as the old man despite his actions and sins in life gets to enter Paradise. He has used his knowledge of Peter, David and John to outwit them and highlight to them that he too has every right to enter into Paradise. All three men see the errors of their ways in refusing the old man entry into Paradise. The old man has been forgiven for his sins and is allowed entry to Paradise based solely on his knowledge of the three men’s sins and his ability to repent on his deathbed. If anything the old man gives hope to others who might not feel as though they can enter Paradise.