One of the key messages Tolstoy attempts to convey in his novel is how unbelievably strong in spirit a man can be, and how such man's love of life outlives death itself. There is no single place in the novel when the reader sees Hadji Murat give up or surrender to difficulties or grief. Despite having passed trough numerous trials and being forced to survive in almost unhuman situation, Hadji Murat is still able to demonstrate the qualities that inspire respect and sympathy in other people. He has seen death and killed many people himself; some of his victims might deserve death but many were innocent. Yet, Tolstoy unambiguously demonstrates throughout the novel that despite the controversy surrounding his past and present his hero managed to preserve some intangible quality that appeals for understanding and sympathy of peaceful and sensitive people even despite their awareness of his notorious deeds.
In his turn, Hadji Murat returns his respect and sympathy to those who show these feelings toward him (princess Vorontsova and Maria Dimitriyevna), who possess the same view of honor and dignity (prince Vorontsov), who share the same yearning after adventures (young officer Butler) and who has the same unsophisticated but mentally strong kind of personality (Poltoratsky). Despite the good relationships with these people Hadji Murat is pressed hardly by the circumstances that do not give him a single chance for success or survival. Nonetheless, he continues his hopeless struggle for the lives of his family and his own life: perhaps precisely his failure to give up despite any adversities makes Hadji Murat a kind of person whom is impossible not to feel sympathy with.
Thus, the reader deals with a highly controversial hero impossible to treat in any single way because Hadji Murat seems to possess the whole spectrum of human qualities, positive and negative. Some readers are likely to view him as a cruel and cunning pragmatic, while others may see a high-spirited honest man who does not want to accept the reality. Perhaps either point of view is correct, but the key question is whether Hadji Murat deserves a better fate than the terrible one he suffered This seems to be the most essential ethical dilemma the author presents to the reader in this novel: can a person, even such an outstanding person as Hadji Murat, avoid punishment for the deeds he committed in the past Does his distinct personality outweigh the lives of his victims
Evidently, it is impossible to find a clear answer to these extremely difficult questions, and readers are likely to resolve this ethical dilemma in variety of ways. However, Tolstoy clearly expresses his own vision of the solution: anyone who dares to neglect the notion that human life is a sacred gift that should not be taken away by human being will inevitably pay for this, and Hadji Murat with his winsome smile, politeness, intelligence, justice, catching manners, and unbelievable love for life is no exception. This may be one of the key hidden meanings of the novel.
Tolstoy, L. (2003). Hadji Murat (Hesperus Classics). Hesperus