The Death of Ivan Ilych

Understanding the Mystery of Life As Depicted In, The Death Of Ivan IIyich

December 9, 2020 by Essay Writer

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.

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Separate and Alone: Alienation as a Central Theme in Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Kafka’s Metamorphosis

December 9, 2020 by Essay Writer

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.

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Leo Tolstoy’s View of Ethics as Described in His Book, The Death of Ivan Iiyich

December 9, 2020 by Essay Writer

Human Morality’s Presence Through Ivan Ilych’s Death

Leo Tolstoy eloquently weaves together the lackluster life tale of a dying man who lived for vanity in “The Death of Ivan Ilyich”. Tolstoy bluntly portrays the agonizing awareness of death growing within Ilyich, while Ilyich is recognizing his own mortality and lack of human morality; the amount of human morality is also missing from those around him. Morality can be seen in a variety of ways. However, George Gutsche from Northern Illinois University specifies that Tolstoy focuses on a specific few, “Tolstoi indicts society’s reigning values, personal pleasure and propriety, and advocates compassion and love as the best foundation for living…Tolstoi advances compassion as one of the highest human virtue,” (260). Instead of living through love and compassion, Ilyich and those around him dedicated their lives to vanity and self decorum. Leo Tolstoy’s exploration through Ivan Ilych’s death shows the effect of human morality on his peers and family. This is shown through his wife, Praskovya Fyodorovna, his peer, Pyotr Ivanovich, his servant, Gerasim, and Ivan Ilyich himself.

Using Gutsche’s moral frame of compassion and love as the focus of human morality, Praskovya Fyodorovna had an extreme lack of both through Ilyich’s death. Her underwhelming emotional presence caused a resentment from Ilyich towards her as he began to the realize the falsity of their relationship, “He hates her with every inch of his being. And her touch causes an agonizing well of hatred to surge up in him,” (Tolstoy 111). Fyodorovna is unable to empathize with him, instead she blames him for his sickliness. Their marriage was not one of love or mutual compassion, it was of social calling and the idea of a perfect match, “Even in the presence of death they still lived in accordance with decorum, the master he served all his life. His wife simulated sympathy and care for him because these belonged to that decorum,but now Ivan Ilyich was sick of falsity” (Pachmuss 331). Ilyich pined for love and the care, similar to that of a child, yet he was met with hostility and loneliness. His marriage displayed Fyodorovna’s lack of care for her husband. His death made her feel as if she suffered more than he did. She had to experience his screaming in agonizing pain and watch as her husband fell apart in front of her. Any show of affection or sympathy was an act for the doctors or peers around her. His dying was an inconvenience on her life and even more inconvenient because his death didn’t bring anything more to her.

Pyotr Ivanovich never actually considered death as a part of the life he faced. Ivanovich and Ilyich were apart of the same world. They only wanted what looked pleasing and made themselves look better socially and emotionally; any other aspect of life was unimportant, unnecessary to think about, “People in Ivan’s world are dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure and comfort and to the avoidance of what is discomforting: they cannot imagine their own deaths,” (Gutsche 262). Similar to Fyodorovna, Ivanovich feels no sympathy for Ilyich. Their entire friendship is a falsity. Ivanovich cared mostly about how Ilyich’s death unsettled him. But it was less of an inconvenience to him because he did not have to deal with it. Ivanovich showed no compassion for Ilyich in the first chapter or throughout the story. Ivanovich is concerned more so with the business of work, “And so the first thought that occured to each of the gentlemen in this office, learning of Ivan Ilyich’s death, was what effect it would have on their own transfers and promotions or those of their acquaintances.” (Tolstoy 36).

Compassion and love is the height of morality for a person in this story, to bestow to someone else. Gerasim was Ilyich’s only emphatic and human companion. Ilyich’s death only provoked a natural release of compassion from Gerasim to Ilyich. He showed no inconvenience from Ilyich, knowing he would face death one day as well. Gerasim is a servant who is in this false world of living and vanity, however he was not a part of it. Gerasim wasn’t living for vanity or what made him appear more sociable. He lived to serve and understood the needs of people, resulting in Ilyich being comfortable with only him[1] , “Gerasim did everything easily, willingly, simply, and with a goodness of heat that moved Ivan Ilyich,” (Tolstoy 102). Gerasim displayed a lot of compassion and care for Ilyich in his final moments, however this wasn’t from the emotions he felt specifically for Ilyich. Gerasim didn’t care for Ilyich because he genuinely loved and felt for him, he cared for Ilyich because that’s what morally human beings are supposed to do. He was acting out of the way he believes the world should work and they way he hopes someone cares for him when he is in his deathbed, “Even kind and understanding Gerasim acts out of a sense of moral duty rather than from real love,” (Pachmuss 332). This moral duty still provided compassion and love, but it is important to note that Gerasim acts out of human decency and moral code over a personal connection to Ilyich.

Ivan Ilyich displayed a drastic change in morality from the beginning to end. Ilyich’s pain throughout his death came more so from the question within himself of whether or not he lived how he was supposed to than from his actual event of dying. Ilyich lived for vanity and the purpose of appeasing the societal quo. He even dies from and for vanity. His death led him to an abrupt realization that his life was lived for nothing. He was agonizing over an empty shell that he created for himself, “It’s inconceivable, inconceivable that life was so senseless and disgusting, why should I have to die and die in agony? Something must be wrong. Perhaps I did not live as I should have,” (Tolstoy 120). Ilyich lived his life for himself, he didn’t care for those around him. Any problem was a burden to him and he was unable to feel for others or have humility. The kindness and happiness he portrayed was a falsity, even though he worried about others falsity around him. There was a change in him right before his death, instead of hatred and selfishness, he embraced compassion and love for his family. He asked for forgiveness and allowed their tears and somber embraces. “Without love, Ivan Ilyich’s life was empty and meaningless. With the discovery of love, Ivan Ilyich felt that his death was reduced to insignificance,” (Pachmuss 332), Ilyich no longer feared death because it was not discomforting or unpleasant anymore. Once he realized that his life was unpleasant, death became unimportant. His own death’s effect on himself clarified the importance of compassion and love instead of vanity, how he should not have pushed away those around them, and instead embraced them.

Life was all for social appearances and how good you appeared in Ilyich’s world, everything else was unimportant or discomforting. Leo Tolstoy’s exploration through Ivan Ilych’s death shows the effect of human morality on his peers and family. His wife, Praskovya Fyodorovna, lacks love for her husband and cannot empathize with him. His death served more difficult for her than for anyone else, in her eyes. His peer, Pyotr Ivanovich; claims to be close with Iylich, however has no compassion for him. Ilyich’s death serves nothing more than a discomforting thought. His servant, Gerasim, displays the utmost respect and compassionate care for Ilyich. He understand that a dying man deserves to be taken care of and looked after in hopes that when he is a dying man, someone will do the same. Ivan Ilyich’s death had the biggest effect on himself. Ilyich’s death transformed Ilyich from a lowly, egocentric man to a free and compassionate man. Even though, it was at the moment of his death, Ivan Ilyich faced a change that freed him from his own agony.

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Leo Tolstoy’s Portrayal of Wickedness as Illustrated in His Book, The Death of Ivan IIyich

December 9, 2020 by Essay Writer

There are many philosophical questions that humans have been trying to answer since the birth of our species. What is my purpose on earth? Is there divine beings? Who created me and this world? The short story The Death of Ivan Ilych tactfully incorporates two of these unanswered questions into the main theme. These questions evaluate the “problem of evil”, and how one should live their life on earth.

The “problem of evil” states that if god was good, almighty, and intelligent, then there wouldn’t be natural disasters that harm the innocent. This problem questions the supremacy of the divine and the origin of evil. There are diseases, storms, sickness, suffering, and death in this world that affects babies, the religious, the elderly, and the innocent. In the short story, Ivan lays on his bed and couch for weeks before his death and continually grapples with this problem and tries to conjure a solution as mortality begins to slip from his fingertips.

Ivan believes he has led a proper life full of decorative belongings and clothes, social gatherings, games, and general pleasantries. As he suffers from great pain in his side from an injury, he questions what he has done to deserve the long lasting pain and deterioration that he experiences. He led his life in a decorative, proper, and pleasant life. He was a social man, had a family whom he took care of, upheld the law, and had not committed any crimes or wronged anyone. Due to this, he did not believe that he deserved to have this natural ailment at the age of forty five that caused him months of pain, suffering, and eventually death.

The first point in which Ivan references the problem of evil is about a fortnight before he passes away. “He wept on account of his helplessness, his terrible loneliness, the cruelty of man, the cruelty of God, and the absence of God” (page 55). Ivan believed that God had abandoned him when he needed God most, and that God had intentionally let him suffer and created natural ailments. He begins to question god’s intentions of creating this ailment, why he was brought to earth, and god’s ultimate intentions for his destiny. He first begins to believe that the solution to the problem of evil is that God is cruel, inflicting him with the ailment because he was displeased with how Ivan lived his life. Ivan quickly rejects the idea since he has lived his life being proper, correct, and without crime or sin. He uses the logic that if you do good, then good should come back to you. Ivan admits that there is no reason for death and agony, since he has lived in accordance to his faith.

After a fortnight passes, Ivan realizes that he didn’t live his life correctly. He questioned the way he lived and realized that he didn’t lead an examined life. He only passed time with societal and civil duties and didn’t engage in social interactions to form bonds but only to uphold a reputation. Due to the circumstances, the justification that suffering builds character is the solution to the problem of evil in Ivan’s situation.“(Suffering) refines the individual’s emotional capacities, orders his will, and encourages a more reflective attitude of mind” (Problem of Evil essay). Ivan had to endure suffering to reflect on his life and realize the way he was living was wrong. However, he was not able to correctly convey this message to others and was not able to recover and live an examined life which makes this solution flawed.

As Ivan reflects more on the problem of evil, he finally realizes before the last few days of his life that he indeed lived his life wrong. “And his professional duties and the whole arrangement of his life and of his family and all his social and official interests, might all have been false” (page 60). Socrates, a philosopher, has stated that the unexamined life is not worth living and in Ivan’s moment of reflection and suffering he realized the truth of it. Ivans suffering emphasizes the importance of the philosopher’s principles on how one should live an examined life. One of Socrates’s principles that is relevant to the short story is that one should care more about the improvement of one’s soul than material or wealth. Ivan spent his adult life trying to get the highest paying job, have as much wealth as possible, and bought cheap antiques to try and appear wealthy. Ivan was obsessed with getting into the social circle of wealthy and spent much of his life in falsehood and deception. Not leading an examined life leads to a life that is not valuable or has depth, and Ivan makes a perfect example of this.

One should lead an examined life to avoid letting life slip by them, to have an impact on the world, and to add depth and value to their life and relationships. Ivan had not led an examined life as he had hid from mortality, eventually leading him to being unprepared for death and facing regret. There is no true solution for the problem of evil (if there are divine beings) and every person must face this as they encounter death or suffering.

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“Death of Ivan Ilyich” by Lev Tolstoy: first chapter analysis

December 9, 2020 by Essay Writer

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.

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Life Lessons in The Death of Ivan Ilyich

August 28, 2019 by Essay Writer

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.

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With Clean Hands, In Clean Linen: A Reflection of Nineteenth-Century Russian Society

July 16, 2019 by Essay Writer

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.

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Ivan Ilych: Redemption in Mere Minutes

July 5, 2019 by Essay Writer

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”.

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Separate and Alone: Alienation as a Central Theme in Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Kafka’s Metamorphosis

June 7, 2019 by Essay Writer

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.

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Tedium Extraordinaire

May 15, 2019 by Essay Writer

“It is as if I had been going downhill while I imagined I was going up. And that is really what it was. I was going up in public opinion, but to the same extent life was ebbing away from me. And now it is all done and there is only death.”–The Death of Ivan Ilych, Leo Tolstoy (144-145)In American society in particular, it is often difficult to fully register the moral point made by Bergman and Tolstoy about the true meaninglessness of public repute; but Ivan’s commentary on his life awakens that nagging awareness in the recesses of one’s conscience, that while basking only in the glory of “public opinion” we risk a moral regression of equal magnitude – the more terrible reality that a meaningful, thoughtful life is “ebbing away.” The Death of Ivan Ilych and Wild Strawberries each shed light on the danger of mechanical living. Isak Borg and Ivan Ilych undergo the ironic tragedy of social success. Ivan’s life tells the story of a typical bourgeouis social climber; focused on doing everything that is “expected” of him, his lack of attention to personal virtue renders him ultimately “le phenix de la famille” (Tolstoy, 102)- the phoenix to the failing. Comparably, Bergman’s professor Isak witnesses the ugly paradox of his academic nobility. While traveling forward in his car to receive his honorary degree – a seeming climax to his lifelong climb up the social ladder – we see Isak all the while riveted to the past as he becomes spiritually enlightened to the implied falsehood and deception of his life to date.The banal nature of the lives led by Isak and Ivan is portrayed as inexcusable; they cannot be regarded without horror and disgust, thanks to Tolstoy and Bergman’s powerful account of a disgraced life. The spiritual breakthroughs which come to pass in the aged lives of Ivan and Isak are imbued with a great sense of immediacy, and with the pain of lost opportunity. The issue at hand in these works can be identified, to a certain extent, with Pascal’s wager – one must make a choice for his life to bear any semblance of meaning. A particular scene in Wild Strawberries comes to mind, where an old man takes the “fifth” rather than offering any insights into a debate over God’s existence. He remains silent, but his silence has incredible impact. The two opposing characters freely discuss the magnanimous issue, while the old man’s silence reveals his lifelong failure to broach the all-important question. In this scene, the old man, aside from Isak, exemplifies le phenix de la famille, and his nonparticipation in the discussion, remaining silent, has a wholly saddening affect on the viewer.Furthermore, the damage falls in various corners of the existences of Isak and Ivan. While the lateness of their “resurrection” from a spiritually devoid lifestyle is certainly shameful, Tolstoy and Bergman show that even their character’s death may not be sufficient to end the consequences of his life’s sin of moral disregard. As the characters confront not only death but the foreboding question, “What if I have done everything all wrong?,” we see their shaky spiritual footing seeping into their children’s generation. Evald, no doubt resentful towards a pervasive sense of meaninglessness from his upbringing, has claimed to “hate” his father Isak, despite Isak’s belief that their relationship is strong. Specifically, it is Evald’s father’s refusal to submit to human sympathy or any sort of familial sentiment that remains with Evald. Isak’s son accordingly comes to believe, “It’s absurd to bring children into this world,” reflecting his father’s relentlessly practical reasoning. It is just as Ivan, after the birth of his child, responds only as if he is irritated by its presence, and what’s more refers to the baby primarily as “it.” In these moments of Bergman’s film and Tolstoy’s novella, the extensive dangers of an unexamined life are most unsettlingly palpable.Ironic timing makes Ivan Ilych’s reflective journey particularly brutal. Redemption from a life “most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible” (Tolstoy, 102) can release Ivan only unto death. Isak Borg’s spiritual crisis, beautifully rendered in Ingmar Bergman’s film, Wild Strawberries, resonates similarly to the realization of Tolstoy’s famous protagonist. The life-examination that faces each character is a redoubtable blessing, a process whereby Ivan and Isak undergo a vital enlightenment to the bleakest realities of the triteness of their lives; the brutality which complicates what might otherwise be cause for a healthy, conscientious transformation, we find, lies in the characters’ realizing each of their lives to have been mistakenly lived and to be, incidentally, nearly over. Tolstoy and Bergman each make the choice that his character’s epiphany should come to pass when death is imminent, thereby emphasizing how indispensable it is to evaluate one’s life while one is living it. The irreparable crime of a wasted life is left for Isak Borg and Ivan Ilych to remorsefully acknowledge, and left for us as a most pressing and cautionary message: take pause on the social ladder and reflect before it is too late.

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