What Pushes Someone to Give up on their Life
The short story “The Confessed Crimes” by Leo Tolstoi is about a man named Askenoff who has an internal conflict. The author uses characterization to illustrate the main character’s internal conflict. Tolstoi is asking the reader how far can a man be pushed until he realizes his life is worthless. Askenoff was known as a dedicated family man by everyone in his town. When he was younger he struggled with bad drinking habits and getting into drunken bar fights.
Once Askenoff got married he immediately stopped all of his immature acts and only drank occasionally. When he drank he would not drink too much; “From his youth upward he had been given to drinking habits, and, when drunk, to brawling; yet, as soon as ever he married, he foreswore liquor, and only occasionally broke out in that direction” (1). As a young adult Askenoff did dumb and irresponsible things, but as he got older and married he stopped his bad habits and getting in to fights at the bars. The quote relates to the thesis because he sacrificed things he used to like to do and he matured for the sake of his family. Askenoff was put in prison for murdering a merchant while on a business trip. He did not commit the crime though, he was framed and has been in prison for twenty-six years and more to go.
While in prison he became known as the wise one and the most respected man there and the guards respected him as well; “The authorities liked him for his quiet demeanor, while his prison comrades respected him so much that they called him “Diediushka” and “the man of God.” Whenever petitions were being drawn up in the prison his comrades always sent Askenoff with them to the authorities, and whenever quarrels were afoot among the convicts they al- ways appealed to him to settle them” (7). He was respected in prison, he caused no trouble and was looked at as an old wise man who people go to for advice or if they needed to speak with the authorities he would be their speaker. His character changed throughout the story because at first he is a family man who worked as a merchant and now he is in prison for murder but while in prison he is known as a wise man who is a philosopher. While in prison Askenoff would be the man to welcome the new prisoners and help them be accustomed to their new home. While welcoming the new comers, he discovered a man from his home village, Makar, who informed him that Askenoff’s wife past away and his kids are all grown up.
Askenoff realizes though that this man was the murder of the crime he was convicted for. The man later on admits it to Askenoff and also informs Askenoff that he was going to kill him to but Askenoff left the place before Makar was able to kill him. This left him unsure of his life and he will never be able to be at peace with himself because he does not know whether it would have been better for him to just die or to be in prison. “It were easy enough for you to speak, yet what could I suffer more? Moreover, where could I go? My wife is dead, and my children will have forgotten me. I should have nowhere for the sole of my foot to rest” (12).
Makar has ruined his life, there is nothing to do to fix it. Even if Makar admits he was the murderer it would not do Askenoff any good. He has no family, his wife is dead and his children do not even know who he is. His character changed throughout the story because he now knows that he can never be at peace because he has spent most of his life in prison for a crime he did not commit. No one can give him back the years of his life he missed while he was in prison nor can they give him back his family.
Tolstoi hopes his readers can learn that internal conflict changed Askenoff’s character throughout the story. As Askenoff experiences more things in his life he learns and becomes smarter and a much wiser man. At the end his life really becomes known as worthless after finding out he was supposed to be murdered twenty-six years ago.