Transcendence and Mythic Vision in Leo Tolstoy’s Resurrection and Denise Chavez’s Face of an Angel
Hurst, Mary Jane
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Though separated by a hundred years and vastly different geographic, linguistic, cultural, and social influences, writers Leo Tolstoy and Denise Chávez nevertheless share a fundamental concern for the relationship between spirituality and physicality. In Tolstoy’s novel Resurrection and in Chávez’s novel Face of an Angel, characters and readers alike are shocked by the juxtaposition of the holy and the unholy, the sublime and the degraded, the physical and spiritual. In these two fictions, each one a magnum opus, the protagonists would seem to be total reversals of each other: Dmitry Nekhlyudov is a Russian man, a wealthy prince, and a person with access to the highest social networks, while Soveida Dosamantes is a Mexican-American woman, a poor waitress, and a person with minimal social power. Yet both face similar conflicts within themselves and with others as they seek to balance the spiritual and the physical aspects of human life. Both characters find moments of grace and transcendence when the physical and the spiritual are not at war with each other but rather are experienced together and welcomed as integral parts of each other and of the human experience.