Foreshadowing in What Men Live by

Foreshadowing in What Men Live by.

What Men Live Past” is a short story written past Russian author Leo Tolstoy in 1885. It is one of the short stories included in his collection
What Men Live By, and Other Tales, published in 1885. The compilation besides included the written pieces “The Three Questions”, “The Coffee-House of Surat”, and “How Much Land Does a Man Demand?”.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn refers to the story in
Cancer Ward.



– A humble and poor shoemaker.

– Simon’south wife.

– An affections punished by God for his disobedience and turned into a mortal.



A kind, humble and poor shoemaker named Simon goes out one day to purchase sheep-skins in order to sew a winter coat for his wife and himself to share. Usually, the little money which Simon earns would be spent to purchase food for anybody. Simon decides that in social club to beget the skins he must go on a collection to receive the five rubles and 20 kopeks owed to him past his customers. Equally he heads out to collect the money he as well borrows a three-rouble note from his married woman’south money box. While going on his collection he only manages to collect the twenty kopeks rather than the total amount. Feeling disheartened by this, Simon rashly spends the xx kopeks on vodka and starts to head dorsum habitation drunkenly, stumbling and talking to himself, blasphemous the coat dealer. He states that he is warm without the vodka and that he won’t get in through the wintertime without a fur coat.

While approaching the chapel at the cease of the road, Simon stops and notices something stake-looking leaning against it. He looks harder and notices that it is a naked human who appears poor of wellness. Initially, he is suspicious and fears that the man may have bad intentions if he is in such a country, bold Simon to be a boozer. He proceeds to laissez passer the homo until he sees that the man has lifted his head and is looking towards him. Later some contemplation, Simon feels ashamed for his disregard and heads dorsum to assist the man.

Simon takes off his material coat and wraps it around the stranger. He likewise gives him the actress pair of boots he was carrying. He aids him equally they both walk toward Simon’s dwelling house. Though they walk together adjacent, the stranger barely speaks and when Simon asks how he was left in that situation the only answers the human would requite are: “I cannot tell” and “God has punished me.” Meanwhile, Simon’s wife Matryona contemplates whether or non to broil more than bread for the nighttime’south meal and then that in that location is enough for the post-obit forenoon’s breakfast. She decides that the loaf of breadstuff that they have left would be aplenty plenty to last until the next morning. As she sees Simon approaching the door she is angered to see him with a strange human being who is wrapped in Simon’south vesture.

Matryona immediately expresses her displeasure with Simon, accusing them both to be drunkards and harassing Simon for not returning with the sheep-pare needed to make a new glaze. Once the tension settles downwards, she bids that the stranger sit down downwardly and have dinner with them. After seeing the stranger take bites at the bread she placed for him on his plate, she begins to feel pity and shows so in her face. When the stranger notices this, his grim expression lights up immediately and he smiles for i cursory moment. After hearing the stranger’south story of Simon’due south kind beliefs towards him, Matryona grabs more than of Simon’southward old clothing and gives it to the stranger.

The post-obit morning Simon addresses the stranger and asks his proper name. The stranger reveals his proper noun to be Michael. Simon explains to Michael that he tin can stay in his household as long as he can earn his keep by working as an assistant for Simon in his shoemaking concern. Michael agrees to these terms and for a few years he remains a very faithful assistant.

1 wintertime day a nobleman comes in their store. The nobleman outlines strict conditions for the construction of a pair of thick leather boots: they should not lose shape nor get loose at the seams for a year, or else he would accept Simon arrested. When Simon gives to Michael the leather that the nobleman had given them to employ, Michael appears to stare beyond the nobleman’s shoulder and smiles for the second time since he has been there. Every bit Michael cuts and sews the leather, instead of making thick leather boots, he makes a pair of soft leather slippers. Simon is as well late when he notices this and cries to Michael asking why he would do such a foolish thing. Earlier Michael can answer, a messenger arrives at their door and gives the news that the nobleman has died and asks if they could change the order to slippers for him to vesture on his death bed. Simon is astounded past this and watches equally Michael gives the messenger the already-made leather slippers. Time continues to go by and Simon is very grateful for Michael’southward faithful assistance.

In the sixth twelvemonth, another client comes in who happens to be a woman with 2 girls, ane of which is crippled. The woman requests if she could order a pair of leather shoes for each of the girls — three shoes of the aforementioned size, since they both share the same shoe size, and some other shoe for the crippled girl’s lame foot. As they are preparing to fill up the lodge Michael stares intently at the girls and Simon wonders why he is doing then. As Simon takes the girls’ measurements he asks the adult female if they are her own children and how was the girl with the lame foot bedridden. The adult female explains that she has no relation to them and that the bodily female parent on her deathbed accidentally crushed the leg of the crippled girl. She expresses that she could not find it in her heart to leave them in a rubber dwelling house or orphanage and adopted them every bit her own. When Michael hears this, he smiles for the third fourth dimension since he has been in that location.

After the woman and the two children finally left, Michael approaches Simon and bids him farewell explaining that God has finally forgiven him. As Michael does this he begins to exist surrounded by a heavenly glow and Simon acknowledges that he is not an ordinary human being. Simon asks him why calorie-free emits from him and why did he smile but those iii times. Michael explains that he is an affections who was given the task to take away a woman’south life then she could pass on to the next life. He allowed the adult female to live because she begged that she must take care of her children for no 1 other than their female parent could care for them. When he did this God punished him for his disobedience and commanded that he must notice the answers to the following questions in club to be an affections over again:
What dwells in man?,
What is not given to homo?, and
What do men live by?
After Michael returned to earth to take the woman’due south soul, the woman’south lifeless body rolled over and crushed the leg of the now crippled girl. Then Michael’s wings left him and he became a naked and mortal man. When Simon rescued him he knew that he must offset finding the answers to those questions. He learned the answer to the first question when Matryona felt compassion for him, thus smiling and realizing that what dwells in homo is “honey”. The respond to the second question came to him when he realized that the angel of death was looming over the nobleman who was making preparations for a year though he would not alive till sunset; thus Michael smiled, realizing that what is non given to man is “to know his own needs.” Lastly, he comprehended the reply to the terminal question when he saw the woman with the ii girls from the female parent, whose soul he previously did not take, thus smiling and realizing that regardless of being a stranger or a relation to each other, “all men alive not by treat themselves but by dearest.” Michael concludes, saying, “I have now understood that though it seems to men that they live by treat themselves, in truth information technology is honey solitary past which they live. He who has dear, is in God, and God is in him, for God is honey.” When Michael finishes, he sings praises to God as wings appear on his back and he rises to return to heaven.

See also


  • Bibliography of Leo Tolstoy
  • Twenty-Three Tales

External links


  • English Text
    • What Men Live By, at
    • What Men Live By, at
    • What Men Live By, at
    • What Men Live By, at
  • English Audio

    • What Men Live By
      public domain audiobook at LibriVox

Foreshadowing in What Men Live by