Even though the book has a cast of about 50 characters, only two are really important. The main character, a prince in the Russian aristocracy, seduced a young servant girl years before. Many years later, he is on a jury that is hearing a murder case against this same woman who has managed to survive in one of the few ways available to a woman-as a prostitute. Through a series of mistakes, she is convicted and sentenced to hard labor in Siberia. The prince realizes that the young pure girl that he seduced began her fall into degradation by his selfish act years before. This changes his viewpoint toward her, and leads him to probe into the problems of Russian society, politics, religion, and crime and punishment.This book by Tolstoy was written about 20 years before the Russian Revolution. He is prophetic about the future course of Russian. He writes this book as a warning to the aristocracy to change the economic and political conditions of the country. He portrays most revolutionaries in a positive light, but wrote about some revolutionaries who were only interested in power. This last portrayal was so accurate that I was waiting for him to start naming names.The book started out fantastic, especially the trial. However, the other characters were introduced as a way for Tolstoy to vent his philosophy. We never find out what happens to the many minor characters; we are left hanging. I found this frustrating after a while.