The Death Of Ivan Ilych

This essay has a total of 1268 words and 6 pages.

The Death Of Ivan Ilych


In life we often think about death and what our life has become. We never suspect that we
will become ill and die, and we very rarely agonize over weather our life is what it
should be until its too late, as demonstrated in Tolstoy's "The Death of Ivan Ilych."
Throughout Tolstoy's life he was religious and enjoyed life, but then as he reached the
height of his fame and fourteen he began to question everything he had once believed in.
Some people think that "The Death of Ivan Ilych" holds a lot of symbolism between the
story and Tolstoy's life. In "The Death of Ivan Ilych" there is a lot of symbolism of life
and death as compared to Tolstoy's life.


Ivan Ilych was a man of success. He set out to achieve his goals, and make his money. He
married the women he loved and had two beautiful children, living the good life with money
and accomplishment. He didn't have normal worries like most working class people did, he
just did what he set out to do and succeeded at that. It is noted that "Ivan Ilych's life
had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible." (Arp, 512) Until one
day he became sick. For months he laid in bed in agonizing pain, and the doctors were left
without agreeing knowledge on what he had. Close to the end of his life he began to wonder
if his life was really what it should have been and whether or not he achieved all he was
supposed to. He questioned death as if to ask "What is this? Can it be death?......Why
these sufferings?"


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(Arp, 553) The reader is now left with the question did he die from physical pain or from
mental anguish also? It could be said that when he was dealing with his impending death he
went through five psychological stages. First he went through denial and ignored the fact
that he might be dying. He ignored his pain until it got to bad to cure. Second he went
through anger. He became angry at his condition and took it out on his family, friends and
servants. Then he went through a short period of bargaining, when he took communion for
his wife he thought to himself "To live! I want to live!" (Arp, 556) All he wanted was to
live his life like he knew he should have. The fourth stage was depression. This is the
period he went through right before he realized he was going to die. He felt that it would
just be better if he died when he realized "Yes, I am making them wretched,' he thought.
'They are sorry, but it will be better for them when I die." The fifth stage is
acceptance. He began to realize that death was near and all of sudden the pain went away.
He accepted that death was there but it was OK because in the end there would be no more
pain. So then "He drew in a breath, stopped in the midst of a sigh, stretched out, and
died." With that he died peacefully and full of joy. His entire struggle with mental
suffering took a toll on him and at the same time made his physical pain worse.




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Tolstoy was close to the same. As he became more famous and achieved more he began to
question his own life and well-being. He wondered what the point of life was and what his
purpose in life was; he often thought about suicide. He turned to science but nothing lead
him to the answers he needed. Tolstoy didn't like the idea that if we die we realize that
we don't have forever and that we should take life more seriously. So many peoples lives
were superficial and filled with falsehood. This is why his life seemed to almost mirror
"The Death of Ivan Ilych." It is understood by John Donnellly that " [Both] Tolstoy and
Ilych (that is the Ilych in the last two hours of his drawn-out dying period) were much to
sanguine about the human condition and the prospects for attaining moral integrity in this
life." (Twetieth-Century Literary Criticism, 476) Tolstoy's faith in religion became
lost. He believed in God but wasn't sure where he would lead him. Ivan Ilych also
questioned this when he "wept on account of his helplessness, his terrible loneliness, the
cruelty of man, the cruelty of God and the absence of God." (Arp, 551) He felt that God
wasn't there and that he caused him all the pain. Instead of realizing that maybe there
was a purpose to his suffering. Tolstoy's view was that he knew about religion but "He
came to see his restless search as a search for God--as a longing for someone out there
who could love

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