The Death of Ivan Ilych
The False Life of Ivan Ilyich
What would be your reaction if you live an entire life with false friends and a false wife? This is the reality of the bourgeoisie represented in the story, they are oppressive, self-interest, egotistical, distanced from their family, superficial and shallow. Ivan was like this, but in the final, he discovers how to live better, improve his defects and live the end of a life well.
At the beginning of the text, we see the futility of Ivan before society, friends, and wife. ‘Each one thought or felt: Well, he’s dead but I’m alive!”. This stretch shows us that the society does not care to Ivan’s death, it is just a daily incident, they just care to themselves, and for power, once they see in Ivan’s death an opportunity to get his job. “Praskovya Fedorovna recognizing Peter Ivanovich sighed, went close up to him, took his hand, and said: ‘I know you were a true friend to Ivan Ilyich…’ and looked at him awaiting some suitable response.” Now, we see they two are just acting out because both of them do not like Ivan, they just want power and status. Peter was happy with his death, because the job of judge was empty, and his wife does not like him. ‘Oh, terribly! He screamed unceasingly, not for minutes but for hours. For the last three days he screamed incessantly. It was unendurable. I cannot understand how I bore it; you could hear him three rooms off. Oh, what I have suffered!’ Praskovya Fedorovna does not love her partner, rather than helps her husband when he was suffering, she just stays away because he screams of pain were “unendurable”. It shows us, again, how the bourgeois society does not have feelings and are shallow. By these parts from the text, we see the real face of the bourgeoisie and how nobody cares to him and his life.
In the course of the text, the reader knows how bad Ivan was. ‘Praskovya Fedorovna came of a good family, was not bad looking, and had some little property. Ivan Ilyich might have aspired to a more brilliant match, but even this was good.” Ivan chooses his wife by the status, he did not ever love her, just married with Praskovya because she was from a good family, had some little property, etc. His decisions in life are exactly the bourgeois way of life (do not care for feelings and other persons, they just care to themselves and to status, financial gain). “But this discomfort increased and, though not exactly painful, grew into a sense of pressure in his side accompanied by ill humor. And his irritability became worse and worse and began to mar the agreeable, easy, and correct life that had established itself in the Golovin family. Quarrels between husband and wife became more and more frequent, and soon the ease and amenity disappeared and even the decorum was barely maintained.” Ivan was not prepared for his disease, he was not prepared for die, so, when it starts to begin in his life, he got desperate. For him, ‘Caius is a man, men are mortal, therefore Caius is mortal,’ had always seemed to him correct as applied to Caius, but certainly not as applied to himself.” He was really desperate when death comes near. “Ivan Ilyich saw that he was dying, and he was in continual despair.” This stretch just confirms what we have seen in the previous chapter, Ivan desperate with death and it affects all the people around him, his wife, friends, etc. So, he was not prepared for an illness and death, but he needs to improve this and learn to deal with it.
In the other hand, not everyone is evil and selfishness, one example of this is Gerasim, his servant, is the only that cares for him, he has compassion for his boss and really cares him. ‘It’s God will. We shall all come to it someday,’ said Gerasim. Gerasim, his serve, is the only person that told him the true, because everybody, his friends, his wife, were lying and saying that, if he takes care, he will live, but Gerasim was the only person that said that he gonna die, everybody gonna die and he is not the exception. “Gerasim was a clean, fresh peasant lad, grown stout on town food and always cheerful and bright. At first the sight of him, in his clean Russian peasant costume, engaged on that disgusting task embarrassed Ivan Ilyich.” It shows us that he was sheer, he was not a rich and bourgeois guy, he did not want status, power, and money, like Ivan. He represents the proletarian in the text, because he is a worker, an honest guy, that has compassion, empathy and cares for the others, his relationships are real, not like Ivan’s and bourgeois relationships. “His son had always seemed pathetic to him, and now it was dreadful to see the boy’s frightened look of pity. It seemed to Ivan Ilyich that Vasya was the only one besides Gerasim who understood and pitied him.
They all sat down and again asked how he was.” Now, Ivan finally improves his defect, his selfishness, and learn to have feelings, to love the others and does not care just for him.
Summing up, the society does not care to Ivan’s ill and the society, like him, cares to the power, the money, the status, as every bourgeois. But, Gerasim is honest and good, and then, Ivan can see how to live better, without his false friend and his false wife, and finally feels the love, from his son, Vladimir.
The Thoughts on Living Happily in the Death of Ivan Ilyich
As said from the physicist Albert Einstein, “A quiet and modest life brings more joy than a pursuit of success bound with constant unrest.” By that, Einstein meant that to live well, we need to preserve and valorize the simple things of life; which is the main theme of the book The Death of Ivan Ilyich. This book explores the theme of living happily with the criticism to the bourgeoisie and to its false values by comparing this social group to falseness, superficiality, artificiality, and hypocrisy. Therefore; the main theme of the text is the thoughts on living well and happily. This criticism to the bourgeois society is made to show the readers the main intention of Leo Tolstoy, that was to show them how to live a happy and balanced life based on the description of Ivan’s one; so we can use the example of his miserable life, based on status, wealth and lies, to prevent ourselves from making the same mistakes.
The protagonist, Ivan Ilyich, based his relationships all over his life on interest; and the biggest example of that is his marriage with Praskovya Fedorovna, and that is one of the main reasons why Ilyich’s life was miserable and it’s one of the teachings given by Tolstoy to live a happy life. What firstly caused their conflict is the fact that their relationship was based on pleasing society, they didn’t love each other. The motives that the marriage failed are explicit in the excerpt: ‘To say that Ivan Ilyich married because he fell in love with Praskovya Fedorovna and found that she sympathized with his views of life would be as incorrect as to say that he married because his social circle approved of the match.” The beginning of their life together was enjoyable, but, as Tolstoy intention was to show that relationships based on status and interest don’t work, their marriage wore out at some point. The part of the text that illustrates that is: “The preparations for marriage and the beginning of married life […] were very pleasant until his wife became pregnant […] from the first months of his wife’s pregnancy, something new, unpleasant, depressing, and unseemly, and from which there was no way of escape, unexpectedly showed itself.” As the marriage was going downhill, Ivan tried to run away from the suffering, and he regretted the decision to marry Praskovya to please the bourgeoisie. This fact is evident in the part: “He now realized that matrimony — at any rate with Praskovya Fedorovna — was not always conducive to the pleasures and amenities of life, but on the contrary often infringed both comfort and propriety, and that he must, therefore, entrench himself against such infringement.” In conclusion, we can say that the author taught us that having authentic, honest and true relationships is one of the conditions to live a well-lived life. When he describes Ivan’s relations based on interests, status and wealth, as unpleasant, disastrous and disturbing; we can infer that the opposite type of relationship leads to great things.
As well as Ivan’s life teaches living lessons using his actions and consequences as the opposite that we should do to be happy, Leo Tolstoy hasn’t just shown the way to be happy through the example of a poor life; he used Gerasim to personify true, happiness, and empathy and, by that, he evidenced a peaceful way to live. The reader can first perceive the prosperity of Gerasim life through the criticizes to the bourgeois social circle: as Tolstoy portrayed the bourgeoisie as superficial, false, and almost soulless, the proletarian is characterized by the example of Gerasim as compassionate, sensitive, and sympathetic. The fact that Gerasim is a proletarian, and consequently, had all those characteristics can be perceived in the excerpt: “Ivan Ilyich had been particularly fond of him and he was performing the duty of a sick nurse.” As we know his job, we can infer that Gerasim’s position in society is proletarian. Also, unlike the bourgeois characters, Gerasim really cares about others and interact with others in an authentic and reflexive way, he has a connection with people because of the well-being of everyone matters for him. The reader feels that positivity from Gerasim firstly in the part: ‘That must be very unpleasant for you. You must forgive me. I am helpless.’ ‘Oh, why, sir,’ and Gerasim’s eyes beamed and he showed his glistening white teeth, ‘what’s a little trouble? It’s a case of illness with you, sir.’ It is explicit in this excerpt the compassion, warmth, and honesty of Gerasim, as he makes Ivan know that he is actually dying and that he will help him until the end. Gerasim is also the only one who could make Ivan accept death, as he believed that death is not the end. That occurs because Gerasim accepted death and all the bad things that happen to humans as inevitable parts of life. We can understand that by reading: “Once when Ivan Ilyich was sending him away he even said straight out: ‘We shall all of us die, so why should I grudge a little trouble?’ To conclude, Gerasim was a character made to be the right example of how to live well and happy because he could encourage Ivan to face death and he did it himself. Also, his relationships with others were harmonic, honest, and he did the best he could to console Ivan and make him know the truth that others were hiding.
As we can think of the book The Death of Ivan Ilyich as a “guide” to a positive, wonderful, and fantastic life, Tolstoy gives us a space to interpret the book as a big criticism to the bourgeois society, since he gives us Peter Ivanovich point of view in the first chapter to analyze how the bourgeoisie thinks, he also gives us Gerasim participation to show how the proletariat is a worker, sincere, virtuous, and honorable class. Peter’s point of view is the most powerful artifice that Tolstoy uses to criticize the bourgeoisie since he is portrayed as an only self-interested man who didn’t have real relationships and that was shallow and false. The greatest example of how he represented the bad characteristics of the bourgeoisie is the part: “Having told his wife at dinnertime of Ivan Ilyich’s death, and of his conjecture that it might be possible to get her brother transferred to their circuit, Peter Ivanovich sacrificed his usual nap, put on his evening clothes and drove to Ivan Ilyich’s house.” As said before, Gerasim was the example of the proletarian in the novella, and, as the book could be considered a social criticism, he had positive characteristics and represented the class in the best way possible, since there was a contrast with the bourgeoisie emptiness. He emanated positivity in all his appearances, and that’s exemplified in: “Health, strength, and vitality in other people were offensive to him, but Gerasim’s strength and vitality did not mortify but soothed him.” Lastly, Ivan’s life based on work, status, and money, just like most of the bourgeois criticized this class, since it shows how bad it can make a person. This is exemplified in the excerpt: “The whole interest of his life now centered in the official world and that interest absorbed him.”, in which we can infer that his focus on work put him apart of his family and “friends”. Taking everything into account, we can say that the book could have been a great criticism to society and the bourgeois class, since we can see all the bourgeoisie’s bad characteristics in Peter’s point of view and the narration of Ivan’s life, and the good characteristics of the proletariat are exalted through the character of Gerasim and all the help and empathy that he offers.
Finally, it may be concluded that the book The Death of Ivan Ilyich was a way of Leo Tolstoy to teach the readers in all epochs how to live a pleasant life, since he explicited to us the examples of a suffering life (Ivan’s one) and an admirable life (Gerasim’s one). So, the main objective of the author was to show the readers the best way to live, to live without the need and desire to have material things and wealthy and to be a human being who thinks not only in his personal interests but in the other’s welfare. Make a connection and show the greater significance of the subject you have written about: Making a relation between the story of Ivan Ilyich and of Tolstoy, we can say that they both had unhappy lives and, as they were members of the bourgeoisie which perceived that living for status and wealthy wasn’t a good way to live and tried to change that: Ivan by accepting death and the eternal life that goes after it and Tolstoy by writing this book to make sure everyone who reads it doesn’t have a bad experience with noticing the really important values.
Gender Roles in a Doll’s House and the Death of Ivan Ilyich
Concerning the institution of marriage, Dr. Samuel Johnson once opined: “Sir, it is so far from being natural for a man and a woman to live in the state of marriage that we find all the motives which they have for remaining in that connection, and the restraints which civilized society imposes to prevent separation, are hardly sufficient to keep them together.” Choose any two couples in Tolstoy and/or Ibsen, and consider the centrifugal forces at work in their marriages. What kinds of power relations govern these marriages? What can we learn about patterns of class and gender in the nineteenth century from these portraits of unhappy families?
The 19th century public of modern Europe was not ready to address the harsh realities of their matrimonial conventions. The industrial revolution had triggered the advancement of communication and transportation systems, connecting people and places. Liberalism had swept through and Imperialism was in the air. In areas of theatre arts and literature, the audience did not like to be reminded of reality. Nevertheless, several thinkers of the arts and literature, Henrik Ibsen and Leo Tolstoy in particular, produced work that would probe the social belief system and reveal its realistic imperfections through their works A Doll’s House and The Death of Ivan Ilyich respectively.
In the texts, one can make general observations of the fact that the male counter parts in marriage held dominant roles. They had the power of decision making in most important situations without having to consider the wife’s opinion. Monetary tasks were handled by the man where he controlled the amount of money his wife would receive to spend on household and family related expenses. When a man seeks to make independent decisions and closely control his wife’s spending, it questions her intelligence and authority. Since his wife spends most of her time on her children and homemaking, as assumed by society, she must have developed a better intuition to make decisions whether they are monetary or day to day. However, the husbands in the these texts still choose to control their wives’ area of expertise which they don’t seem invested in. This sort of dynamic between a husband and wife could lead to relationship issues of trust and freedom of individuality and these problems can inturn create distance between them in marriage. It is therefore ironic that although marriage was considered holy by society in the 19th century and couples in marriage were urged to stay together, the prevailing social issues, as illustrated in the works of Leo Tolstoy and Henrik Ibsen, instigated a separation within their marriage.
In Act I of A Doll’s House, Nora arrives home with christmas presents for her family. “Is that my lark twittering there?”, “Is that my squirrel skipping about?”, asks Torvald, her husband, from inside his study, addressing her like he would a child. Nora tells him, “Come here, see what I’ve bought,” and Torvald’s first reaction is“Don’t disturb me,” but is alarmed when he realises that she had gone shopping. He seems to keep his calm but is not happy that Nora spends like a “spendthrift,” a term used to describe birds (gamblers) always making the money fly. Upon noticing that she was sad, he hands her some money to cheer her up. When he finds out that she had not bought anything for herself, he urges her to tell him what she would like. She hesitates and denies but eventually asks him to give her some more money. This shows that Nora was, after all, dependent on Torvald for money for day to day spendings and he did not understand that homemaking demands spending. He was also disinterested in what she wanted to share with him and he only seemed to care when he heard that it had something to do with his money and her spending it.
Torvald’s disinterest follows from the social convention that a man should be invested in work and education and a woman must look after the children and keep the house presentable. This creates distance between the husband and wife and also suggests that the gender roles were very distinct which contradicts the fact that marriage means togetherness.
In the short story, The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy, the protagonist, Ivan Ilyich adopts a proprietous and aristocratic lifestyle. He focuses all of his energies on leading the ‘right’ life, complying to society’s rules. He finds himself a wife, Praskovya Fedorovna, because that is what a young righteous working man ought to do in that period of time, “He was swayed by both these considerations: the marriage gave him personal satisfaction, and at the same time it was considered the right thing by the most highly placed of his associates.” Their marriage starts off well but soon Praskovya starts to demand absolute attention from him and abuses him if he did not respect her needs. Although Ivan was highly discomforted by her behaviour, he submits but soon realises that matrimony infringed both his comfort and propriety. Thus, he seeks solace in his work. His determination to live a righteous life distances him from his wife over time and her demands start to feel like a nuisance to his self-interests, especially when she is pregnant and ill. Pregnancy is a key milestone in a marriage. It symbolises a sense of family between a married couple and is known to bring them closer but it drove Ivan Ilyich away from Praskovya. When getting married, it is socially common for a husband and wife to make oaths that promise to provide support in sickness and in health. This example, however, contradicts this social convention in the name of social righteousness.
Living a socially correct life is not the answer to happiness in marriage or life in general. In Tolstoy’s short story, Ivan is diagnosed of an incurable illness. He starts to introspect and question his life and school of thought, “’Maybe I did not live as I should have.”(Tolstoy, 85). Ivan had obligated to society’s rules all his life and was very successful at work but the consequence of this lead to a broad empty space between him and his wife. In fact, when Ivan was ill, Praskovya had been so detached from him over the years that she could not care less about his suffering. She would attend social events and seldom stay by his bed. This shows that she too had distanced herself from Ivan Ilyich.
Inevitable illness in general can be very difficult to understand and deal with. The issues that stir from having somebody diagnosed with an illness are grave and no social norms can prevent them from getting any worse. A lot of times, it is a feeling of helplessness and frustration that kindles in both the person diagnosed and the people who are trying to take care of him or her. These emotions result in people taking the illness and the sick person himself for granted which can change how people in a relationship feel about each other. In The Death of Ivan Ilyich, “it came about step by step, unnoticed, but in the third month of Ivan Ilych’s illness, his wife, his daughter, his son, his acquaintances, the doctors, the servants, and above all he himself, were aware that the whole interest he had for other people was whether he would soon vacate his place, and at last release the living from the discomfort caused by his presence and be himself released from his sufferings.” (Tolstoy, 73). Ivan felt neglected and unwanted, people had started to treat him differently. Moreover, Ivan Ilyich had started to hate his wife for her attitude towards him and his illness. So he kept to himself and only seemed to like his servant, Gerasim. His family too had strayed away from him. They had all drifted apart within the social bounds of their relationship.
In Ibsen’s play, in particular, Nora decides to leave her family too. She had been dominated by Torvald for a very long time making her feel like a child with no maturity. Her act of taking out a loan to protect Torvald suggests that she was trying to prove that she had done something intellectual and mature to protect her husband. She wanted to show that she too was capable of making independent and informed decisions. Nevertheless, when Torvald found out about her suspicious activities, he was furious and more worried about saving his reputation, as opposed to the gallant reaction she was expecting. It was socially unacceptable for women to take out loans and Torvald was a man who really cared about what society thought of him. At this point, Nora had realised that this marriage was nothing but an act where she played the role of a doll to Torvald just like she did to her father. She realised that her father and Torvald had stunted her development of individuality and maturity and sought to move away from her family in order to find herself. During her farewell, she says to him, “I release you from all duties. You must not feel yourself bound any more than I shall. There must be perfect freedom on both sides. There, there is your ring back. Give me mine.” (Ibsen, 121). Nora leaves Torvald and chooses to separate herself from her family to attain freedom and become the individual she could be. Similarly, in Tolstoy’s short story, Ivan Ilyich moves into a space of solidarity and introspects about life as his illness progresses. Both authors are trying to show this act of moving away from their marriage in light of the issues illustrated in their respective plots as a suggestion that social norms about marriage are too broad to hold a married couple together.
Marriage is associated with emotions of unconditional love and everything that comes with it, therefore it cannot be strictly bound by rational rules. These rules also prevent a couple from being involved with each other’s interests and thus prevents them from having discussions which help them develop strong communication skills. One can also feel like they have no freedom if they are monetarily dependent on their partners or have to seek their permission to make certain decisions at all times. Perhaps males were able to take on this dominant role because women were not allowed to pursue further education until the latter part of 19th century. Thus, it was easy to assume that a woman is not intellectual enough to make independent decisions. Upon marriage, all of a woman’s wealth would belong to her husband. Women were also not allowed to buy, own or sell property until this time, so they must feel physically dependent on their husbands. Therefore, it is justified that the social structure and law system would define the gender roles in the way Tolstoy and Ibsen portray them to be. However, the very fact that they choose to address these issues shows that there was something horribly wrong with these social norms and that they were not an answer to the space that marital issues created between a husband and a wife.
A Background for Writing of the Death of Ivan Ilyich
Leo Tolstoy, born in Russia in 1828, wrote The Death of Ivan Ilych. The story was written eight years after Tolstoys spiritual conversion and was inspired by his own brothers death. The Death of Ivan Ilych has several ironies expressed in the story. Ilych expressed his denial, anger, depression and acceptance towards dying very visibly. Ilych expressed denial of his condition when he laughed about his accident. Ilych was explaining to the upholsterer how he wanted the drapes to hand and he slipped off the ladder. He hit his side against the knob of the window frame. He told his wife it was only a bruise. Since he was fairly athletic, he said he did not get seriously hurt, but if it had been any other man they might have been killed from the accident. Within a short time, Ilychs condition became more intense and it was decided that he needed a second opinion because he was not getting any better. He thought the doctor did not know what he was doing, but this was not the case. He needed an excuse for his failing health. His celebrated doctor diagnosed him basically with the same symptoms his first doctor had. This did not make Ilych very happy.
Ilych was expressing more and more anger because of hid declining health. While in his home, Ilych was always blaming Praskovya, his wife for everything. At the dinner table, he complained about the food not being prepared correctly, he did not like the way his daughters hair was styled, and he even blamed her if their son put his elbows on the dinner table. His wife suggested getting a famous specialist to come see him, regardless of the cost. Ilych said no. She kissed his forehead and said Good-night. Please God youll sleep. As she kissed him, Ilych hated her so much he wanted to push her away but did not.
On another occasion, Ilych was angry with everyone about everything and was upset because they did not pity him. He overheard them enjoying themselves and not including him. He was so angry and began choking with unbearable misery. He was even angry with himself and thought no man should have to suffer in this manner. He tried to calm himself and find a way to rationalize the whole situation. Ilychs condition caused him to express a great deal of depression. Deep in his heart he knew he was dying but could not get used to the fact. He began to sleep less and less and was given Opium and hypodermic shots of Morphine; the drugs did little to calm him. The special food fixed for him became tasteless and was sickening. The butler, Geraims assistance, would make Ilych as comfortable as possible. One evening Ilych moved his legs from Gerasims shoulders, turned on his side and felt sorry for himself. He wept like a child because of his helplessness, loneliness and anger with God. He felt God had forsaken him.
Ilych lost all hope on life and was so depressed he questioned God as to why was he doing this to him. Ivan finally expressed the acceptance of his condition. He would no longer lie in bed but instead he would lie on the sofa all the time. He began to ask himself the same question over and over, what is this? Can this be death? His conscience, or inner voice said to him yes, it is death. His wife began to remind him about taking his medicine. He became upset and told her, for Christs sake, let me die in peace! The doctor came to visit him as scheduled and one day he told the doctor, you know you can do nothing for me, so leave me alone. Ilych told him that he could not even ease his pain so let him be. He struggled and suffered with severe pain for three days and would scream hopelessly. Suddenly he knew what was happening to him and wanted to release himself from suffering.
Understanding the Mystery of Life As Depicted In, The Death Of Ivan IIyich
Life is not always as it seems
In The Death of Evan Ilyich, the author Leo Tolstory is trying to instruct his reader about the life. Ivan didn t really know what marriage was all about until it was too late. Ivan s wife got revenge on her husband at the end of the book. Peter was not the friend Ivan thought her was. There is usually one person in the world that cares about someone the most.
Ivan is trying to tell his readers that marriage is not always what people think it is. When Ivan and Praskovya, his wife were going out he didn t really think about marrying her. When Praskovya fell in love with Ivan he thought, Really, why shouldn t I get married? So he decided to get married. Everything was going well at the start. Then his wife got pregnant, everything changed. She became angry at everything he did. She started saying that he was not paying enough attention to her. He tried to act normal and spend time with his friends. Then his wife got violent with him so he stayed at work more because he didn t want to be at home. They never got divorced but he did have affairs.
When death is upon Ivan his wife pays very little attention to him when he needs it the most. She remembers all the things he did to her when she was pregnant. Not only did his wife turned her back on him, his whole family did except his son. His family felt that he was not there when they needed him, so they are going to do the dame thing to him. It is sad that he could not be there for his wife so she could have been there for him. She really doesn t care about him that much because if she really loved him she would have taken care of him even though he didn t take care of her.
Peter is supposed to be Ivan s best friend. When he dies Peter doesn t even want to go to his funeral. All of Ivan s friends only cared about what they were going to get because if Ivan s death. The people who you think are really your friends don t really care about you. They only wanted the things Ivan had promised they would get when he died. At the end of his life he started to see who his real friends were.
Gerasim is Ivan s servant; he is really the only one that cares about him. Gerasim took care of him when no one else would. Ivan s son also cared about him. In Ivan s will he probably gave nothing to Gerasim and he was the one who really cared about Ivan. Gerasim thought that if he cared about Ivan, then someone would probably care about him. Sometimes the people who care about you the most are the ones you don t respect.
In this book there were a lot of things about life that people don t always think about. It make me think about if I am there for people when they really need me or do I ignore them. I hope when I die that people will care about me and not just wondering what I left them in my will.
Separate and Alone: Alienation as a Central Theme in Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Kafka’s Metamorphosis
Like death or abandonment, alienation is one of the deepest-rooted fears experienced by human beings. As social creatures, humans have the need to identify themselves as one of a group, whether that group is a family, a culture, or a religion. The experience of alienation is one of violation of a person’s need for acceptance. Both Leo Tolstoy in The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Franz Kafka in Metamorphosis use alienation as a central theme to comment on the human need to experience love and acceptance. Both Ivan Ilyich and Gregor Samsa experience in their respective tragedies a great deal of alienation, which separates them from the groups to which they have been comfortably attached for most of their lives. Both authors trace the theme of alienation by exposing the displacement experienced emotionally, psychologically, and physically by their central characters.
The physical changes that plagued both Ivan Ilyich and Gregor Samsa were the forces that perpetuated further alienation. These physical changes are important to note because not only did they change the appearances of the characters, but they also affected the way those around them viewed them, and deeply influenced the way both men viewed themselves and others. Though the physical changes may seem to be the least tragic part of both stories, by physically distinguishing the men as different from those around them, the authors are better able to comment on the mental isolation which becomes the worst part of both men’s misfortunes. The physical alienation felt by both characters is therefore an impetus for the other forms of alienation that later affect Gregor and Ivan.
Both men undergo disturbing physical transformations that change their lives. Gregor’s physical change is obvious immediately in the first sentence of Kafka’s Metamorphosis. As soon as he awakens, Gregor finds “himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous insect [. . .] lying on his hard shell-like back and [. . .] he could see his curved brown belly, divided by stiff arching ribs” (Kafka 76). This physical transformation begins a series of events in which Gregor is alienated from his family and acquaintances. Gregor’s transformation is all encompassing; not only does he look completely different, but his voice, his tastes, and his abilities have undergone serious alterations also. This complete physical change is only partially his physical alienation. Gregor is also physically distanced from those around him. He is physically isolated from his family as they lock him in a room and are unable to even look at his monstrous form. Gregor’s adjustment from being a daily traveler with his job to being a literal prisoner in his home is one way in which the reader can identify with the drastic alienation Gregor experiences as a result of his physical transformation. The door to his bedroom becomes a barrier rather than an opening to the world, and the reader witnesses the great difficulty that Gregor has: “he clenched his jaws desperately on the key” (Kafka 86).
Ivan physical alienation is less dramatic than Gregor’s, but also begins a series of alienations. Instead of a dramatic alteration of appearance, Ivan physical transformation is a slow deterioration of the body, which for most of the story is unnoticeable. Though the sickness causes pain for Ivan, the physical changes do not become apparent until almost two-thirds of the way through the story when his brother-in-law visits. Even Ivan is unaware of his physical transformation, as is shown when his brother-in-law “opened his mouth to gasp but checked himself,” and Ivan asks, “What is it?have I changed?” (Tolstoy 85). Ivan, like Gregor, is also physically isolated from his former life. He, too, was confined to his room after his sickness began to hinder his formerly sociable lifestyle, and is subjected to watching his loved ones go about “in a whirl of social activity” (Tolstoy 80). Tolstoy exposes the alienation his character feels through the long and solitary hours in which Ivan constantly questions his misfortunes and rages against death while his family goes about their daily lives.
The alienation experienced by both characters is also exposed through psychological methods. Ivan and Gregor both experience changes in how they are able to view themselves and their relationships with others. Though both constantly reach out to lessen the effects of the alienation they are experiencing, neither is able to maintain the psychology they had before misfortune struck. Ivan’s realization of his mortality is an extreme change in his psychology and allows him to deepen his formerly shallow existence. For example, during a game of cards, which he used to enjoy greatly, Ivan watched and “he saw how upset Mikhail Mikhailovich was while he himself did not care. And it was dreadful to think why he did not care” (Tolstoy 82). This change in Ivan further alienates him from his acquaintances because they have not reached the same level of enlightenment as Ivan. This psychological alienation is yet another reminder of Ivan’s separation from others. He has matured through facing his mortality, and his growth has placed a barrier between him and his friends.
Gregor is psychologically alienated because although he is an insect, he still has the thought process of a human being. This dichotomy proves a difficult shift in Gregor’s psychological well-being. He is torn between hopes of returning to his human form, and his comfort as a monstrous insect. One scene that marks his psychological alienation occurs when his sister and mother are attempting to move the furniture out of the room to make Gregor’s movement easier. Despite the advantages of having less furniture to impede his movement, Gregor’s desire to keep his room like it was when he was human is overwhelming: “no doubt he would be free to crawl about unimpeded in all directions, but only at the price of rapidly and completely forgetting his human past” (Kafka 103). Another example of psychological alienation occurs at Gregor’s death. At this point in the story, the reader must realize all that has happened to Gregor: not only his physical form has been irrevocably changed, but his place as the caretaker of the household, and his place in society have been altered. Gregor’s last thoughts before his death point to the psychological alienation he feels. He no longer is concerned with his own well-being, but that of his family and “his own opinion that he must disappear was if anything even firmer than his sister’s” (Kafka122). This psychological alienation forces Gregor to change his ideas of his own importance.
Both of the authors reveal their main characters to be emotionally alienated from others also. For example, Ivan’s emotions are most often kept hidden from those around him. Several times in the text, Tolstoy hints to the reader that Ivan desires an emotional connection to those around him, but he is unable to connect because he wishes to keep a strong appearance in front of his colleagues. Even before Ivan learns of his impending death, he is emotionally isolated from others, as is revealed in his relationship with his wife and family. Ivan is emotionally alienated and has “the need to fence off a world for himself outside the family” (Tolstoy 57). After his illness begins, Ivan realizes the dangers in this emotional alienation and tries to reach out, but finds himself unable to do so because of social conventions. Ivan longs for human affection:
He knew that he was an important functionary with a graying beard, and so this was impossible; yet all the same he longed for it [. . .] Ivan Ilyich wanted to cry, wanted to be caressed and cried over, yet his colleague Shebek, a member of the court, would come and instead of crying and getting affection, Ivan Ilyich would assume a serious, stern, profound expression [. . . ] Nothing did so much poison the last days of Ivan Ilyich’s life as this falseness in himself and in those around him. (Tolstoy 105)
Gregor also suffers from emotional alienation. As the main source of income for the family, he has an emotional attachment to them as dependents. His love for his family, particularly his mother and sister, is shown through Gregor’s thoughts after his transformation. His desire to remain emotionally connected with his family, particularly his younger sister, is presented during the scene in which Gregor listens to his sister playing the violin: “It seemed to him as if the way were opening towards the unknown nourishment he craved” (Kafka 117). Kafka uses this scene to show the effects of the emotional alienation that Gregor experiences, and how he, like Ivan yearns for love and acceptance, despite his monstrous form.
Both Tolstoy and Kafka use the theme of alienation to show the deepest emotions of those who have suddenly experienced a great change. Because both Gregor and Ivan experience a life-changing event, they are forced, through alienation, to question their own worth. By analyzing the psychological, emotional and physical aspects of alienation is The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Metamorphosis, the reader sees the similarities in the two characters’ positions as they are suddenly forced to reflect on their own importance and question their autonomy.
“Death of Ivan Ilyich” by Lev Tolstoy: first chapter analysis
In the first chapter, Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy gives the reader almost all the problems of society and human nature, which it hurt in those days, is sick now, and we will not disassemble – it will continue to hurt. Indifference – the first human problem from which there is no, and never will be a panacea, is determined from the very first lines of the story. His characters learn about the death of his comrade, not personally, not from friends, but from the morning newspaper. For example, Peter Ivanovich was, you might say, a childhood friend and afterward was a schoolmate, and also learned about the death of a loved one from the newspaper. Indifference is not the best indicator of the human essence? Hypocrisy is insolent, disgusting hypocrisy.
Tolstoy preferred to declare about human hypocrisy, not hiding anything, but directly without extra modesty and veils: “What is, what has died; but I’m not here, “though everyone, or trusted, while close friends, the so-called friends of Ivan Ilyich, at the same time think that now they need to fulfill very boring duties of decency and a train for a funeral service and a widow with a condolence visit.”
The situation in which Tolstoy sets Ivan Ilyich is not exceptional … From the point of view of Tolstoy, the crisis of views and the crisis of conscience, whatever it is, is not exceptional, but rather a morally normal state of a person. This is what a person needs to open his eyes to the world around him and to himself, that allows him to know what is the truth and lies.
In the exposition part of the story, the author shows a special interest in the knowledge of human destiny “under the sign of death” and resorts to receiving composite inversion, depending on the situation. From the very beginning, conveying different views on what happened, Tolstoy confronts the mysterious significance of man’s departure from the earthly world – and the ordinary-pragmatic perception of this event. Through commentary behind speeches, thoughts, incompletely perceived mental movements of characters, there is captured the free and involuntary alienation of modern consciousness from the reality of death, what I think Tolstoy reflected on the author opinion at those times.
Life Lessons in The Death of Ivan Ilyich
Tolstoy uses The Death of Ivan Ilyich to show his readers the negative consequences of living as Ilyich did. Ivan Ilyich made decisions based on what others thought and what would benefit him monetarily. As death approaches, Ilyich realizes that he squandered everything pure and meaningful in order to work and make money. His materialism and desire to conform made Ilyich’s life miserable and led to his demise.From the outset of the story it is clear that Ilyich did not live a full, rich life. When his friends hear of his death, they are more concerned with “what effect it would have on their own transfers and promotions or those of their acquaintances” (Tolstoy 32) than the loss of their friend. Ilyich failed to establish close relationships with them, and after learning of his death they seem almost indifferent: “There is, in fact, no reason to assume this incident can keep us from spending a pleasant evening” (36), one remarks. They attend the funeral only “to fulfill the tedious demands of propriety” (33). Even before the reader learns of the manner in which Ilyich lived his life, she sees that the consequences are grim. Geraism, Ilyich’s servant, serves as a foil. Even though Geraism is of a lower class than Ilyich, he is happy and knows what he wants; moreover, he is not burdened by the pressures of materialism. Ilyich admires Geraism because he “[does] everything easily, willingly, simply, and with a goodness of heart” (86) and, at the end, is the only person whose company he enjoys. Unlike Ilyich, who married Praskovya only because people of the “highest standing” thought she was a good choice (56), Geraism is free of societal expectations and can do as he pleases. While Ilyich dies at 45, Geraism lives well into old age, suggesting that an unhappy, burdensome life leads one to an early grave.One of Ivan’s main downfalls is his materialism and emphasis on work. As an example of his obsession with material things, he puts up drapes in his new apartment to make the place look like “the homes of all people who are not really rich but who want to look rich” (57). As for work, Tolstoy states that Ilyich strove for money and prominence “by spending less and less time with his family and, when obliged to be home, tried to safe-guard his position through the presence of outsiders” (52). Neglecting his family resulted ultimately in severe alienation. He recognizes his downfall on some level at the end of his life, admitting that “Perhaps I did not live as I should have,” but immediately returns to self-protective denial as “he immediately recall[s] how correct his whole life had been” (102). Tolstoy used The Death of Ivan Ilyitch to show that social conformity, materialism, and single-minded focus on work lead to unhappiness and isolation. While not an uplifting novel, Tolstoy’s work does benefit its readers – they conclude the story with greater appreciation for the need to live an honest, balanced life.
With Clean Hands, In Clean Linen: A Reflection of Nineteenth-Century Russian Society
In his novella The Death of Ivan Ilych, Count Leo Tolstoy offers readers a glimpse into the life and death of a socially ambitious Russian gentleman, Ivan Ilych. During the story, Ivan’s character is revealed in several different ways: firstly, oddly enough, at his funeral, where the actions of his friends serve to portray Russian society as a whole. Tolstoy then uses flashback technique to recount Ivan’s life and his attitudes toward his family, his job, and his friends. Ivan’s lifestyle only solidifies Tolstoy’s perception of 1880s Russian society. From observing Ivan’s thoughts and actions, it becomes obvious that he wants nothing more in life than to be approved of by others, and to do everything properly. Through Ivan Ilych’s life and death, Tolstoy criticizes the society around him – a society overly concerned with propriety, conformity, and social approval. Tolstoy immediately begins his attack on Russian society at Ivan’s funeral, through the actions of his “friends”; more specifically, he focuses on their preoccupation with seemly behavior and job promotions rather than genuine mourning. The assorted gentlemen actually show their selfish tendencies even before the funeral – as soon as they hear of Ivan’s death, “the first thought of each of the gentlemen…was of the changes and promotions it might occasion among themselves or their acquaintances” (96). They then acknowledge the extent to which Ivan’s death has burdened them when they realize that “they would now have to fulfill the very tiresome demands of propriety by attending the funeral service and paying a visit of condolence to the widow” (97). During the actual funeral, Peter Ivanovich – one of Ivan’s closest so-called friends – is consumed with doubt as to whether he should cross himself, when he should bow to the widow, and how he should offer his condolences (97-98). His focus on these petty social niceties – and the similar attitudes of the others at the funeral – underscores Tolstoy’s criticism of propriety and superficiality in Russian culture. After the funeral scene, Tolstoy flashes back to the life of Ivan Ilych, revealing that Ivan was just as much of a conformist as his friends are. Ivan was unconcerned with whether or not his behavior was morally right; he simply wanted to ensure that whatever he did was done “with clean hands, in clean linen…and above all among people of the best society and consequently with the approval of people of rank” (106). Falling into this category were courtship and marriage, which was “considered the right thing by the most highly placed of his associates” (109), as well as his behavior at work towards said associates, whom he treated in a cordial yet patronizing manner (107). Ivan was similarly preoccupied with appearances; he bedecked his house with “antiques which he considered particularly comme il faut” (115). In fact, this obsession with the appearance of his house would later contribute significantly to his emotional and physical downfall.Unfortunately, Ivan was so preoccupied with gaining social approval that he ultimately sacrificed his life in an attempt to climb the social ladder. This reality is vividly illustrated during an episode in which Ivan is busily decorating his new house in St. Petersburg. He climbs on a stepladder to hang some drapes and suddenly slips off the ladder; however, he manages to break his fall and only knocks his side against the window knob (116). The trauma to his side never completely heals, though, and the internal damage it causes eventually leads to Ivan’s final suffering and death. This is a striking parallel to the circumstances in Ivan’s personal life. Ivan had been attempting to scale the social ladder, winning approval of high-ranking individuals, yet in doing so he had been unwittingly sacrificing both his family life and his emotional health. Tolstoy uses both this unfortunate emotional deficiency and its physical symbol to expose the many moral sicknesses afflicting the Russian culture of his day. Through Ivan’s seemingly futile existence as a would-be socialite, Tolstoy implores his contemporaries to evaluate their priorities in life. Ivan fails to comprehend the emptiness and uselessness of his life until he is literally on his deathbed, but his story may prompt others living the same type of lifestyle to reflect and make some much-needed changes within themselves. Tolstoy’s tale also serves to demonstrate that the corrupt society in which he lived – late nineteenth-century Russia – is actually quite similar to today’s culture, and that the themes presented in the novella are applicable to nearly every society. Either way, The Death of Ivan Ilych is a sad testament to the perils of living a life based entirely on appearances and pretenses.
Ivan Ilych: Redemption in Mere Minutes
Ivan Ilych is dead. His death is hardly what one would call “mourned”, and his family and friends think only of how they can profit from his timely demise. He has led a terrible life, and suffered through a generally meaningless existence. One might wonder how the title character in Tolstoy’s “The Death of Ivan Ilych” manages to find redemption in the process of his death. And indeed, his death is a process, in which he denies the lack of meaning in his life, questions it, accepts it, and attempts to redeem himself for it. It may seem a bit ludicrous that Ivan, who has led a life not much different from that of a self-absorbed lemming, can be forgiven for all of his sins in a matter of hours. However, through the process of dying, Ivan is redeemed. While his death is certainly painful and he struggles “as a man condemned to death struggles in the hands of of the executioner, knowing that he cannot save himself” (166), it ends in revelation, forgiveness, and joy.Ivan Ilych leads a trite life, as do his peers: conventional in every sense of the word. It is only in death, however, that he realizes this. Ivan not only allows himself to follow societal standards, but follows them with such accuracy that he seems to lose any individuality that he may have had to begin with. His home is “just what is usually seen in the houses of people of moderate means that want to appear rich, and therefore succeed only in resembling others like themselves” (138). Though this may seem unintentional, it is not; he tries, sometimes with difficulty, to make himself fit in. When he begins to have marriage troubles, he compares his marriage to life, in which his duties are “to lead a decorous life approved of by society” (134). Only in the midst of his death does he begin to question his life. Ivan wonders for the first time ever if his life was for naught, and if perhaps he could have lived a better way. The question occurs to him, “what if my whole life has been wrong?” (164) At last, he realizes that just because society deems something correct, it does not necessarily make it “right”. He wonders whether he has spent his life as he should have, and comes to the conclusion that he has not. Though this is not the beginning of his death process, it is certainly the beginning of his revelation.Ivan evolves beyond merely realizing that he has lived his life inadequately. He sees that he has sucked his family into his petty world, and may have ruined their lives as well. The indifference with which he handles his family prior to his death is astounding. He simply wants to maintain the cover of a functional, normal family; even when he married his wife, his thoughts were not of love, but of himself and his image. He thought only, “Really, why shouldn’t I marry?” (133) knowing that he would eventually need to marry in order to properly “fit in”. He has even passed his air of indifference – one might even say callousness – onto his family. His wife falls in love with him before they are wed, then begins to hate him over the years. She wishes him dead, “yet she did not want him to die because then his salary would cease” (141). Ivan’s daughter, newly engaged, is annoyed with his illness because it brings with it a melancholy that dims the brightness she feels in light of her upcoming wedding. Even Ivan’s friends do not feel badly when he dies. Everyone connected to him feels only displeasure or annoyance that they now must perform the unpleasant duties associated with a death. On his deathbed, Ivan finally realizes the impact that he has had on his family, and attempts to reconcile with them. He knows that his life and death have been hard on them, whether their tears are sincere or not, and thinks to himself, “it’ll be better for them when I die” (166). This marks the first time in his life that Ivan thinks of somebody other than himself with genuine compassion and heartfelt sincerity. He does his best to apologize for the life into which he has submerged them, but manages only to get out, “sorry for him…sorry for you too” (166), and then fails at an attempt to say “forgive me.” Here, Ivan finally comes to understand what life should be about, and begins to be forgiven.In the final stages of his death, time stands still for Ivan, and he is able to find closure with himself, with his life, and with God. Throughout the process of his death, Ivan is in enormous pain. He screams constantly, and only ceases to feel pain when he realizes that his life was wrong. Immediately following his apology to his wife and son, he feels the pain “dropping away at once…from all sides” (167). He can no longer feel any pain at all, and asks himself where it has gone. Ivan finally moves past his fear of death. Previously, he did not believe that he could die, but he now realizes that death is not something to be afraid of. He asks himself where death has gone; his fear has disappeared because he has realized that he will be forgiven. Finally, Ivan has closure with God. In the beginning of his illness, Ivan blames God for his pain and suffering. He weeps because of “the cruelty of God, and the absence of God” (160). However, in the final stage of death, he is at peace with everything because he knows that “He whose understanding mattered would understand” (167). It is now, approaching death, that Ivan is finally redeemed. He understands that everything will be fine, and feels no fear or pain. Ivan Ilych dies, and in the moment of his death, he finds redemption.Ivan’s death is a slow, cruel process: he suffers for three long days in such terrible pain that everyone around him feels certain that his death is imminent. It is during this process, however, that Ivan is able to find redemption; any shorter period of time would be insufficient. He has led a meaningless life, a “wrong” life: he has made those around him suffer, and he has wronged himself, as well. Only when he realizes his mistakes and is filled with regret is his pain eased. Only when he sees the pain that he has caused and attempts reconciliation is he forgiven, and only when he is no longer fearful of death does he truly find redemption and joy. Ivan’s death is the result of his life, and it would have been very different had he paid heed to the inscription on his own watch chain: “respice finem” (130), or “look to the end”.