Alyosha the Pot by Leo Tolstoy

This morning I read Alyosha the Pot, a very short story by Leo Tolstoy. If you’ve got 15 minutes I encourage to take a break, jump over to google books and read the story. It’s beautiful and heart breaking, and would be great to discuss. I won’t say too much about the story because it is so short, but this if you’re interested in reading it don’t read what I’ve written below because it might tip off some of the story.

One quote that stands out to me is this:

Alyosha did not know any prayer and had forgotten what his mother had taught him But he prayed just the same every morning and every evening prayed with his hands crossing himself.

The whole story follows this young man, whose body, rather than his thoughts or savvy dialogue, develop for us a picture of what one is like who never becomes for himself an individual.

Two other aspects that stand out to me as important are his being named “the pot,” for this seems to signify taking on the name and expectation of others, rather than living into and creating his own story. Of course, a deeper question is why was he unable (or unwilling) to do this?

Secondly, I’m interested in what this might say about spirituality. In the same way that one could say Alyosha’s life was content-less, one could say that about his spirituality (he prayed with his hands). There is no content, only form. Yet, Tolstoy finds it important to mention that this was still his prayer, in the context of the story, it seems as though that was a true sign of faith. Even though he couldn’t express it in his own words, his body did it for him.

Another thing I read into this story concerning this idea of content and spirituality is that the love he is offered, which is in the palm of his hands, was the kind of love that breaks people free from bondage and liberates the self.

How about you, what are you thoughts and reflections on it?

If you’ve read the story: What do you like about the story? What do you think Tolstoy is underscoring in the narrative?