Resurrection, by Leo Tolstoy

Chapter IV.

Simonson.

Mary Pavlovna’s influence was one that Maslova submitted to because she loved Mary Pavlovna. Simonson influenced her because he loved her.

Everybody lives and acts partly according to his own, partly according to other people’s, ideas. This is what constitutes one of the great differences among men. To some, thinking is a kind of mental game; they treat their reason as if it were a fly-wheel without a connecting strap, and are guided in their actions by other people’s ideas, by custom or laws; while others look upon their own ideas as the chief motive power of all their actions, and always listen to the dictates of their own reason and submit to it, accepting other people’s opinions only on rare occasions and after weighing them critically. Simonson was a man of the latter sort; he settled and verified everything according to his own reason and acted on the decisions he arrived at. When a schoolboy he made up his mind that his father’s income, made as a paymaster in government office was dishonestly gained, and he told his father that it ought to be given to the people. When his father, instead of listening to him, gave him a scolding, he left his father’s house and would not make use of his father’s means. Having come to the conclusion that all the existing misery was a result of the people’s ignorance, he joined the socialists, who carried on propaganda among the people, as soon as he left the university and got a place as a village schoolmaster. He taught and explained to his pupils and to the peasants what he considered to be just, and openly blamed what he thought unjust. He was arrested and tried. During his trial he determined to tell his judges that his was a just cause, for which he ought not to be tried or punished. When the judges paid no heed to his words, but went on with the trial, he decided not to answer them and kept resolutely silent when they questioned him. He was exiled to the Government of Archangel. There he formulated a religious teaching which was founded on the theory that everything in the world was alive, that nothing is lifeless, and that all the objects we consider to be without life or inorganic are only parts of an enormous organic body which we cannot compass. A man’s task is to sustain the life of that huge organism and all its animate parts. Therefore he was against war, capital punishment and every kind of killing, not only of human beings, but also of animals. Concerning marriage, too, he had a peculiar idea of his own; he thought that increase was a lower function of man, the highest function being to serve the already existing lives. He found a confirmation of his theory in the fact that there were phacocytes in the blood. Celibates, according to his opinion, were the same as phacocytes, their function being to help the weak and the sickly particles of the organism. From the moment he came to this conclusion he began to consider himself as well as Mary Pavlovna as phacocytes, and to live accordingly, though as a youth he had been addicted to vice. His love for Katusha did not infringe this conception, because he loved her platonically, and such love he considered could not hinder his activity as a phacocytes, but acted, on the contrary, as an inspiration.

Not only moral, but also most practical questions he decided in his own way. He applied a theory of his own to all practical business, had rules relating to the number of hours for rest and for work, to the kind of food to eat, the way to dress, to heat and light up the rooms. With all this Simonson was very shy and modest; and yet when he had once made up his mind nothing could make him waver. And this man had a decided influence on Maslova through his love for her. With a woman’s instinct Maslova very soon found out that he loved her. And the fact that she could awaken love in a man of that kind raised her in her own estimation. It was Nekhludoff’s magnanimity and what had been in the past that made him offer to marry her, but Simonson loved her such as she was now, loved her simply because of the love he bore her. And she felt that Simonson considered her to be an exceptional woman, having peculiarly high moral qualities. She did not quite know what the qualities he attributed to her were, but in order to be on the safe side and that he should not be disappointed in her, she tried with all her might to awaken in herself all the highest qualities she could conceive, and she tried to be as good as possible. This had begun while they were still in prison, when on a common visiting day she had noticed his kindly dark blue eyes gazing fixedly at her from under his projecting brow. Even then she had noticed that this was a peculiar man, and that he was looking at her in a peculiar manner, and had also noticed the striking combination of sternness — the unruly hair and the frowning forehead gave him this appearance — with the child-like kindness and innocence of his look. She saw him again in Tomsk, where she joined the political prisoners. Though they had not uttered a word, their looks told plainly that they had understood one another. Even after that they had had no serious conversation with each other, but Maslova felt that when he spoke in her presence his words were addressed to her, and that he spoke for her sake, trying to express himself as plainly as he could; but it was when he started walking with the criminal prisoners that they grew specially near to one another.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 20:04