The story follows the life of a nobleman named Dmitri Ivanovich Nekhlyudov. He wants to repent and seeks forgiveness for a sin he had committed many years before. In the past, he had a relation with a maid because of which she lost her job. In order to survive, she became a prostitute. In this book are described his efforts to help her and save her from the misery in which she lives now. It also shows his moral and mental struggle. One day, he goes to visit the maid in prison. She is imprisoned by mistake and sent to Siberia. When he goes there, he realises that there is much more than aristocratic life in this world. He sees that there is too much suffering, misery and oppression.
This story is about forgiveness, feeling of guilt, redemption. But it is also a reflection of the Russian social life at the end of the 19th century.