A Confession | Study Guide

Leo Tolstoy

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Leo Tolstoy

Year Published





Memoir, Religion

At a Glance

In his 1882 memoir A Confession, Russian author Leo Tolstoy reflects on his personal battle with depression brought about by the realization of his own mortality and his subsequent conclusion that life is futile if it must end in death. Tolstoy then relates his exploration of science, philosophy, and religion in search of life's meaning. He wrote this memoir to explain his various discoveries regarding science's limitations, the flaws of the upper class, and the internal contradictions found in most religions. A Confession provides context for Tolstoy's other works while also demonstrating one man's journey from disillusionment to faith.

Perspective and Narrator

A Confession is told by a first-person narrator who relates various events of his life and their cumulative effect on his psyche. Occasionally he breaks from his self-contemplation to directly address the reader.

About the Title

A Confession refers to the confessional nature of Tolstoy's memoir. Tolstoy was previously more or less silent about his conflicting views on philosophy and religion, but A Confession sees him finally open up about his personal struggle with depression and the overwhelming fear of life's futility.


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