The Mother of a Traitor – Summary

The Mother of a Traitor is written by Maxim Gorky, the great figure in modern Russian literature.


The story ‘The Mother of a Traitor’ as the name suggests deals with Monna Marianna,the mother of a traitor. Her son was the leader of the enemy who had surrounded the city. The enemy had surrounded the city in the tight ring of steel; they had also cut off all the supplies of water and food. The people in the city knew that there was little hope of help. Their hope of salvation was waning day by day. Everything spoke to them of death.

Marianna moved about in the streets all alone hated by most people. She wandered from place to place by night. One day she saw a woman kneeling beside a corpse. It was the dead body of her son. Her husband had died thirteen days ago. Her son died that day. She said to Marianna.

“Now that he has died honourably fighting for his country I can say that I feared for him: he was light – hearted, too fond of revelry and I feared that he might betray his city, as did the son of Marianna, the enemy of God and Man, the leader of our foes, may he be so cursed and the womb that bore him!”

The old lady did not know that she was talking to Marianna herself. Marianna covered her face and went on her way. The next morning she went to the city’s defenders and said “My son has come to be your enemy. Either kill me or open the gates that I may go to him.” Thes oldiers took counsel with one another and decided that it was no use killing the lady for the sins of her son. They were certain that she could not have led her son to commit this terrible sin. Therefore they opened the gate and let her go. In the enemy’s camp, the soldiers enquired from her who she was and why she had come. She replied:

“Your leader is my son, she said”, Just then came her son. He kissed her hands and said” Mother! you have come to me. You are with me. Tomorrow I shall capture the city. I have spared this city for your sake, it has been like a thorn in my flesh. It has retarded my swift rise to fame. But now tomorrow I shall capture the city”. They conversed for a long time. Soon it was dark. The mother said to him “come my son, lay thy head on my breast and rest,remember how gay and kind you were as a child, and how everyone loved you”. He obeyed her, laid his head in her lap and closed his eyes. He dozed there on mother’s breast – like a child. Then, covering him with her black cloak, she plunged a knife into his heart and he died.

Merianna threw his corpse at the feet of the bewildered sentries. Addressing the countrymen she said,” As a citizen I have done for my country all I could; as a Mother I remain with my soul.” With a firm hand she plunged the knife into her own breast. She was soon dead.

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