Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements for “Resurrection” by Leo Tolstoy that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes found in the text and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of Resurrection by Tolstoy by explaining different elements that could be important in an essay. Of course, you are free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “Resurrection” at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: Religious Imagery
The title of this novel certainly seems to allude to Christian and religious images, yet there is something decidedly anti-religious about Tolstoy’s novel. Write an essay in which you examine religious imagery in its various forms in this novel. Move beyond facile interpretations and consider how common, recognizable symbols may take on meanings far more complicated than appearances might suggest. You may wish to focus on one image or on a cluster of images.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: Resurrection
It is the Prince who is going through the experience of reformation, which leads to a kind of resurrection. Focus on this character and render a thoughtful analysis of his process of resurrection. Identify the catalyst for his resurrection, and explain the steps that he must go through to be redeemed. Determine whether he is truly a changed man. Be sure to cite textual evidence. This can go beyond a simple character analysis and can form an argumentative essay where you argue that the resurrection does or does not happen, depending on scholarly or outside definitions of what a resurrection actually is.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: Notions of Justice
Justice, Tolstoy seems to suggest in this novel, is elusive, at best, and unfair, at worst. The trial of the prostitute mocks what contemporary readers expect in their legal system. Focus on the trial scene and analyze how the process of justice got miscarried. Explain whether this outcome was inevitable, as it also needed to provide the Prince with an impetus to change his life. Analyze the effects of the trial on its various participants.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: Tolstoy’s Philosophy of Man
At many points throughout this novel, Tolstoy seems to offer nuggets of wisdom that, together, might be considered his philosophy of man. Search for a few of these nuggets of wisdom (some are in the quotes, below) and write an essay in which you propose Tolstoy’s philosophy about humankind and society. Determine whether he is optimistic or pessimistic, and explain why. Finally, indicate whether the outcome of this particular novel supports his philosophy.
Thesis Statement/Essay Topic #5: Character Analysis
One of the trademark aspect of Tolstoy's writing is his penchant for creating complex characters. For this essay on “Resurrection” select one character, either the Prince or the prostitute, and conduct a thorough analysis of that person’s character in the context of they way he or she interacts with others and influences the character traits or decisions of others. Examine the person’s external and internal conditions thoroughly. Address their relationships with one another. Indicate whether they do or do not change over the course of the novel. Explain how Tolstoy develops character and whether his techniques are effective and believable.
This list of important quotations from “Resurrection” by Tolstoy will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from Resurrection listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements above, these quotes alone can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way. All quotes contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of the text by Leo Tolstoy they are referring to.
“In Nekhlyudov, as in all of us, there were two men. One was the spiritual being, seeking for himself only the kind of happiness that meant happiness for other people too; but there was also the animal man out only for his own happiness…." (80)
“But now this strange coincidence brought everything back and demanded that he should acknowledge the heartless cruelty and baseness which had made it possible for him to live peacefully for ten years with such a sin on his conscience." (96)
“The examination of the witnesses began: Name, religion, and so on." (97)
“Yes, I am doing what I ought to do, I am showing that I’m sorry." (195)
“I have come to ask you to forgive me, he shouted…like a lesson learned by heart." (195)
“It doesn’t matter, tell somebody, you can tell the authorities….We haven’t done anything, and here we’ve been up against it for nearly two months." (234)
“Yes, the authorities have mismanaged it." (235)
“One of the commonest and most generally accepted delusions is that every man can be qualified in some particular way—said to be kind, wicked, stupid, energetic, apathetic and so on. People are not like that." (252)
“Human beings are like rivers: the water is one and the same in all of them but every river is narrow in some places; flows swifter in others…." (252)
“In his imagination he beheld hundreds and thousands of degraded human beings locked up in noisome prisons by indifferent generals, prosecuting attorneys and superintendents…." (561)
Reference: Tolstoy, Leo. Resurrection. New York: Penguin, 1966.