I share optimistic & constructive books from writers committed to excellence in litterature. My favorites books leave me with a sense of lightness and freedom in my heart. "To love is to act" (Victor Hugo)
What moved me the most in this novel is: how true is what Tolstoy says about the judicial system, even in our world of today. And this is not just in France, but all over the world. When I read those sections on judicial errors, imprisonment for lack of official papers, inhuman treatment of prisoners, and the fallacy of the 'correctional system', I really had the impression that very little has changed since his time.
But, before I get carried out, here are some more points that also moved me deeply, as I could relate to all them personally:
Nekhludoff’s internal void, when he feels he has not really done anything useful so far, to give a meaning to his life. Then he is called into the jury duty, where he sees how his former recklessness has ruined the life of a woman and her child. And, he decides to act.
His transformation is not a linear process. At every instant, he is struggling with two internal forces, equally valid and equally strong, and it’s hard to tell which one is going to win. Tolstoy does a great job in unravelling this process, this severe inner conflict in depth, and the gradual change in the lifestyle of Nekhludoff.
Maslova, over whom Nekhludoff has this conflict, doesn’t make his job easy either. In a less experienced writer’s hand, she would have fallen for Nekhludoff's offer immediately, but that would have been unrealistic, and the story would have lost its challenge. In fact, at the end, just the opposite of what’s expected happens! Yet, what happens also appeases the heart of Nekhludoff, and we see his true sacrifice. Isn't this how life is really?
Nekhludoff had stopped believing in himself and started believing in others. This gave him a serious conflict between his conscience and animal instincts; unconsciously, he started to hate himself, thus others as well. When he starts to believe himself again, he feels tender toward himself, experiences a freedom and joy he has never known before. This is something I can relate to, both in my professional and personal world; it gave me the courage to be like him even more.
Nekhludoff had become so obsessed with the 'social mirrors' that, even when he started to act for Maslova, he kept asking himself if he was really doing all that for his conscience, or to look good in the eyes of others. This is so true! No matter how hard I try, my old habit of looking into the social mirrors always comes back.
I loved Tolstoy’s insight where he shows how Maslove reasons in favor of her ‘profession’, to give a meaning to her life. This is something I've always done about my job of a business consultant, although I know how wrong I am. Yet, I have to keep this job to feed mouths.
Then Maslova starts to transform during her travel across Siberia, under the influence of those two fellow prisoners, whose opinions become important to her. She changes, to live up to their eyes, because she feels they care for her. This happened to me too, when I met someone who cared for me.
In fact, in one novel, Tolstoy has enacted two great resurrections: one of Nekhludoff and one of Maslova!!!
Now, coming back to the judicial system. I absolutely agree with the paragraph where Tolstoy says that those who are the most nervous, strongest, talented, yet the least careful and lacking cunning, fall victim to the judicial systems. And, the ‘correctional methods’ are total misnomers, because they correct nothing; only destroy the individual. This is a universal phenomenon, as I've seen.
How can we 'correct' people, by confining them behind bars, by humiliating them? Why call these methods 'correctional' at all? Can't we think of better means? Let's hope.