The Death of Ivan Ilych focuses on the story of a high-court judge who died at the age of 45. According to the story, the judge lived in Russia, in the 19th century and seemed to have a good life despite a dreadful relationship with his wife. One day, in a new apartment, Ivan injured his side while attempting to hang curtains that were supposed to signify their family's stature. Eventually, this injury developed into a chronic disease that doctors could not cure; soon afterward; Ivan died.
However, before his death, Ivan was terrorized with the imminence of his death; he was oppressed by the duration of his death as his wife, daughter, and physicians stopped talking about it and preferred encouraging that he will be all right in the nearest future. Despite the fact that the man considered himself to be happy, he was disappointed as he still did not live his life fully.
Moreover, he felt sorry for the people that he was losing while still anticipating that death would soon set him free. Ivan eventually died leaving behind his family.
Ivan's wife Praskovya Fedorovna Golovin was an extremely unsympathetic person. Even when her husband Ivan was dying, the woman was neither remorseful nor worried about it. Instead, she chose to ignore the whole fact and act as if life was normal. It can be easily asserted that she was hypocritical to Ivan since she did nothing to reassure or console him.
Additionally, it is evident from the story that Praskovya had a violent temper because she always gave her husband a hard time despite the fact that he was suffered pain from his injuries. It deducts from the following passage "said that he had queer taste some discomfort in his left side" (Tolstoy 31).
Another instance of the woman's hypocrisy was revealed when she asked for her husband's pension dissolving in insincere tears. Notably, after it had become evident that her husband was going to die, she did not seem moved, and all she did was anticipating his death.
From the story, it is evident that Ivan questioned why he had to die. He considered himself to have led a good life as a respectful and influential high-court judge. There are numerous considerations on the repressions of dying in the story, for example, Ivan's conversations with his servant Gerasim. Notably, only Gerasim could acknowledge the fact that the judge was going to die, and this fact made Ivan spend most of his time with the servant.
Moreover, Gerasim showed him genuine compassion. One night, Ivan started to ponder about his life; it was another vivid instance when the man questioned the reasons for his death. It becomes obvious that he was not happy to continue his life path, but at the same time, he was afraid of death. At this very moment, Ivan understood that only his childhood was truly happy.
Aside from that short period, there was nothing good and he had lived his life in the wrong way. Consequently, he could not reconcile with himself and dismiss the idea.
It can also be asserted that Ivan reflected on the nihilism questions. When Ivan understood that he was going to die, he began to question his life experiences unendingly. For instance, the man tried to decide whether he had led a good life or not. Eventually, he realized that childhood was the only good part of his life. This idea left him with many questions; he questioned whether the life he led at the top of the Judiciary gave him full happiness or not.
For instance, it is asserted in the book, "spent his mornings at the court and came home to dinner" (Tolstoy 27). Notably, it seems that, despite all the riches that he had plus marrying a beautiful wife who bore him a daughter, did not amount to anything in his life. Therefore, Ivan seemed to question the value of all the things that he treasured while still being in a good health.
Different types of deaths are described in the novel. Firstly, Ivan died intellectually when he was not in a position to go to work anymore. This fact explains why he had to find solace in communication with his servant, with whom he could not spend so much time when being still in a good health. Spiritual death reveals in the fact that Ivan questioned God of why he had to die despite he had led a good life.
In the book, the writer asserts, "Ivan was in continual despair" and "knew he was going to die" and "could not grasp it" (Tolstoy 43). Eventually, he gave up any hope that God would heal him and believed that He was also waiting for his death. Emotional dying is also depicted in the story; it is evident in Ivan's wife and daughter.
They became detached from the ill man after having realized that he was going to die, and all they could do was wait for his death. Finally, physical death appears in the story when Ivan finally rested in peace. The man could not move any part of his body, and this state resembled the natural death.
Ivan called to God at the end of his life; he had questioned why he was dying despite he had led a good life many times. Additionally, the man was crying and screaming throughout his illness; probably, it was an attempt to redeem himself from death. It can also be assumed that he was asking God for forgiveness since he had discovered that his life was not so good.
For instance, "The screaming began and continued for three days" terrible that "two closed doors without horror" (Tolstoy 67). Finally, the writer depicts Ivan's calling to God at the moment of his death as he finally realized that he had not led his life in the right way. At last, when he gave up the last hope, God offered him one more chance to bid farewell to his family before he died.
The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy puts the life of the main character, Ivan Ilyich in the spotlight. Ivan lived up to the expectations of the society both socially and economically. However, his conformity with the system sends his life in a downward spiral up to his eventual death. His death takes place in a systematic sequence. It begins with Ivan's assertion of a good life. It is presented in the form of an incurable illness, which began as a small bruise sustained in a minor fall.
Firstly, the man began to question the pain caused by such a minor fall. It was the initial stage of denial. As the pain increased, he passed to the phase of curiosity; Ivan analyzed his body for clues to the intensity of the pain. He began to consider the possibility that he might be dying but at the same time, he reconsidered the real meaning of life, beyond his initial superficial outlook. Ivan descended into the frustration phase and could not comprehend why a man of his status should be dying from such an unremarkable incident.
Nevertheless, his denial persisted, and any efforts to get the answers from the equally helpless physicians became a source of further frustration. Ivan, therefore, projected his frustration on other people (Tolstoy 65). On looking around, the man noticed that, while he was dying, other people were seemingly self-centered and going about their business oblivious of his suffering. Ivan realized that death did not protect people of status from the pain that came with it. He, therefore, felt liberated by the realization that he was mortal.
Tolstoy is passing the message that all mortals are equal despite their social and economic status; in death, all human beings are equal. Describing the life and death of Ivan, Tolstoy brings the argument on the two parts of a mortal man's life: the body and the soul, both of which must be nourished. In the novel, Ivan is only capable of supplying his physical body with all the nourishment and superficial and material sense of importance.
In the book, Tolstoy communicates that regardless of man's opulence and a sense of self-importance, he just like Ivan must be in reconciliation with his soul that he is mortal. Tolstoy's point also highlights the real wealth in life, apart from the material belongings (Tolstoy 26).
These aspects of real wealth include character, integrity, love, and relationships, of which the main character, Ivan fell short. For example, he avoided being close to his family by inviting guests while he was at home or staying up late at the work. Ivan's embracing of these facts of true wealth eventually helps him reconcile with death and eases the pain.
Ivan had many truths to cope with. Firstly, he had to bow to the reality that death was the ultimate fate of every man. He managed to realize that, though his world was shaped according to his idea of an ideal life surrounded by material belongings and the appearance of wealth, he had to let it go and surrender to death. Ivan coped with the truth that, throughout his life, he was laying the foundation for a shallow life.
In truth, he had been feeding his mortal self on expectations of the society while starving his soul; it led to his denial and frustration at the only thought that he was dying. Ivan had managed to accomplish the appearance of all good things in life in the form of a good family, a respectable position in society, as well as wealth, but he still had to cope with the quiet voice in his mind. At last, he conversed with death, knowing that it was inevitable and that his soul also required fulfillment.
The friends and family of Ivan were not deeply touched by the news of the man's death and coped easily. Only Peter Ivanovich who, upon reading the news of Ivan's death, felt touched and informed Ivan Egorovich Shebek and Fedor Vasilievich. "Gentlemen," he said, "Ivan Ilych has died!" (Tolstoy 3).
Peter paid Ivan's family a visit at their house and soon discovered that the man's friends were not really interested in their friend's death. For example, Schwartz, Ivan's friend informed Peter that he considered the funeral service dreary and would rather leave the service, go and do something better like playing bridge.
Moreover, Ivan's widow simply put on a barely convincing show of tears and sorrow and asked Peter how to milk her husband's pension money. Consequently, Peter realized that he could be the next Ivan (Tolstoy 7). He noticed the similarities between his and Ivan's lives. Eventually, he also decided to flee from Ivan's funeral to go play the bridges.
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Ivan felt his body deteriorating. He had been observing it right from the small bruise, the increasing pain right and up to the point of calling the physicians and realizing the inefficiency of medications and their helplessness (Tolstoy 26). For instance, in the book, the author states, "the bruised place was painful, but the pain soon passed" (Tolstoy 26).
While the doctor wondered whether Ivan's condition could be appendicitis or catarrh, he ignored Ivan's question of whether the condition was terminal or not. He asked the doctor for something to alleviate his pain, but the doctor interrupted him and said, "You sick folk are all the same." Nevertheless, Ivan had cried for hours because of the pain.
In conclusion, The Death of Ivan Ilych is a good read that considers a number of burning issues of human society. Notably, the author concentrates on Ivan, who had led a good life until he was injured while trying to hang a curtain. The rest of the story is concentrated on the last bit of the man's life as he was betrayed by his wife and daughter; he understood that living good comprises of dwelling on others and not-self.
Several facts arising from the book have been discussed above, and they include the hypocrisy of Ivan's wife, repression of dying, nihilism questions, different aspects of dying, and the stages of dying. Additionally, the essay has explored the meaning of the novel from the author's perspective.
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