Summary of "A Confession" by Leo Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy wrote novels, stories and essays that captivate the reader. One cannot do a quick read of his works because they were written to get a reaction and to question every aspect of life. Readers may agree or disagree with Tolstoy's points of view, but universally, they all think about his philosophies. In "A Confession," Tolstoy questions his own thoughts and explores the essence of life itself.

The Traveler

Using an old story to illustrate his thoughts, Tolstoy relates the story of a traveler. As he ventures through forests and farmlands, the traveler attracts the attention of a terrible beast who chases him. The traveler, fearful and exhausted, jumps into a well to hide, only to discover another beast -- a dragon -- sitting at the bottom of the well. He can move neither up or down, his life dangles hopelessly between two negative forces.

Difficult Questions

The traveler struggles to survive, holding onto a twig that is growing through the cracks in the well walls. Yet even that twig is not dependable for providing support. Two mice -- one black and one white -- nibble on the twig, making death a likely outcome of this adventure and making the traveler wonder, "What will become of my life? Why are we here?" Tolstoy questions his own motivations and suggests that coping with life's trials is impossible.

Finding Faith

The traveler also discovers that something that once gave him tremedous pleasure failed to provide any happiness. Within that well, a drip of honey made its way to the traveler, and he tasted it. But instead of finding joy, he felt nothing. The treat of the dragon below robbed him of any chance of joy. Tolstoy found his direction in faith, and says "In faith alone could we find the meaning and possibility of life...."

What's It All About?

Tolstoy concluded that "The meaning of life is to be found in the fact that God has a purpose for us," and "The meaning of this life is a matter of its being preparation for the next life." Tolstoy was know for showing the hardships of people, and exposing the cruelty of man against man. His extreme positions regarding morality transcend time and place, making him an inspiration for the great minds of our time. In his mid-life, Tolstoy -- author of "War and Peace" and "Anna Karenina" -- lost sight of his own accomplishments and, like all men, searched for answers.

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