“The Death Of Ivan Ilyich”: The Connection Between Life And Death
Distinguish between living authentically and living inauthentically. Give one example of a character who lives authentically and one who lives inauthentically in the book. Use specific examples to back up your answer. Living authentically means living by being your true self and owning up to it while living inauthentically means living in a socially conformist way, where you do not take responsibility for your own life and self. Living authentically also means that you are aware of your existence and you admit to it, while when living inauthentically, you don’t have those deep thoughts about your life and existence, you are more superficial and unthoughtful. Living authentically relates a lot to existentialism and requires self-awareness. It requires someone to live genuinely and deeply, to accept their strengths and weaknesses. It also is someone whose words and actions honestly describe their values and beliefs. Being inauthentic requires to somehow seek the identity of someone else, to seek perfection.
In The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Tolstoy demonstrates that living inauthentically resembles a more artificial life, more disconnected from nature, while authenticity is the opposite. It requires a deep and true connection with nature and human life. In the novel, Gerasim is a clear example of someone who is living authentically. Gerasim is a peasant who stays true to himself, where he accepts who he is and transcends his values through his actions. Gerasim is a truthful, honest person with such strength and energy, that it is recognized by his surroundings, in this case, by Ivan. (63) On the other side, Ivan’s life is not a life of authenticity. His life consists of conforming to society instead of being his true self. He is also very self-interested. For example, Tolstoy wrote that Ivan Ilyich’s main reason that he married his wife, Praskovya Fyodorovna, was because of society’s view of what was right, which was to marry a woman with a good social and financial status. (21) This proves how dishonest Ivan was to himself and what he truly wanted.
According to Tolstoy’s depiction of Ivan Ilyich, what did he do wrong in his life? Give specific examples to back up your answer. In your response, include what you also think about the life Ivan Ilyich lived. (Do you agree or disagree with Tolstoy?) Always say why you believe something to be the case. In other words, justify your response with reasons. According to Tolstoy’s depiction of Ivan Ilyich, Ivan did not value his existence while he was actually living. He never took some time to pause and deeply think about it. He was only able to recognize that when he was now dying. It’s like his life ended before it ever really began. For example, Tolstoy states, “The past history of Ivan Ilyich’s life had been straightforward, ordinary and dreadful in the extreme. ” (14) This demonstrates that Ivan’s life with no meaning was terrible. I also think Ivan Ilyich did miss out on the more in-depth, analyzation of his own life. I feel like he was living too much according to society’s standards that he forgot to appreciate himself and his surroundings for who he truly was. Ivan also thought that by associating with people of high social class, he would be able to find the worth to his life. This makes me agree with what Tolstoy expressed about Ivan’s life. I believe that because Tolstoy describes Ivan, at the beginning of the book, as having the most conformist life concerning his marital status and career path. Ivan filters out the thoughts he considers not being important to instead show his side of powerful success. I also believe Ivan lived a wrong life because even he, when dying, realized the mistakes he had done during his lifetime. It’s like his death cured him of this unmeaningful life because death forced him to be isolated and rethink his meaning to life.
What is the importance of the character Gerasim? What is his role and what does he teach both Ivan Ilyich and the reader? Again, use specific examples in answering your question. Gerasim is a very important and influential character in this book, especially for Ivan. He is a very spiritual, comforting, empathetic and compassionate man. His role is to acknowledge Ivan as being a sick man, being there for him physically and emotionally, and caring for him. He teaches Ivan & the reader about free kindness and support to the people in need of it. During the whole book, Ivan had no support and was dying almost alone. If it was not for Gerasim, Ivan’s end of life would have been different. He allowed Ivan to escape from isolation. Gerasim is completely different than any other character in the book. He deeply cares about others and is very reflective and accepting of life and death.
For example, when Ivan asks Gerasim to hold his legs, Gerasim accepts, and Ivan feels complete healing. (63) He teaches both Ivan and the readers the importance of life and its analyzation. Nobody ever could shake up Ivan the way Gerasim did. In the book, Tolstoy states, “Gerasim did all of this easily, willingly and with a kindliness that Ivan Ilych found moving. Health, strength, and vitality in all other people were offensive to Ivan Ilyich; only Gerasim’s strength and vitality gave him comfort rather than distressed him. ” (63) From this moment of a strong connection between Gerasim and Ivan, Ivan realizes the mistakes he has been doing throughout his life. Gerasim teaches Ivan to accept death, which Ivan eventually learns. He also teaches that high social standing is not the answer to happiness. While Ivan has been seeking this his whole life, it led him to have a sense of unfulfillment, and also difficulty accepting he was dying, which conflicts his relationship with death. On the other hand, Gerasim was a peasant with a fulfilling life, which helped him accept the fact he will also die one day himself, which helped him confront Ivan’s death with ease. He proves that seeking success and wealthiness can hinder the pursuit to happiness.
Before he got sick, Ivan Ilyich was perfectly content to do pleasant things like throw parties, spend money, rise up in the social ladder, and play bridge. After he got sick, none of those things seemed to be able to console him. Does that mean that Ivan Ilyich was never really happy all that time? What does it mean to be happy then? Although Ivan Ilyich thought he led a happy life before he was sick, he was never really. Death put stuff in perspective for him. It made him realize that the materialistic approach he used to have will not save him from death nor make him “happy anymore”. Ivan even admits, at the end of the book, that his childhood was the only time he was sincerely happy. Tolstoy stated, “And in his imagination he started to run through the best times of his happy life. But what was strange was that all the best times of his happy life no longer seemed anything like what they had been before. Nothing did — except the first recollections of his childhood.
There, in his childhood, there was something truly happy that he could have lived with if it returned. But the person living out the happiness no longer existed; it was like remembering someone quite different. ” (78-79) His suffering and impending death make him realize that he was never really happy back then. According to Tolstoy in The Death of Ivan Ilyich, not everybody knows what being happy is. Tolstoy uses Gerasim to demonstrate what being happy consists of. Being happy means being compassionate and loving. To live truthfully and appropriately brings people fulfillment and a satisfying life. Seeking for greed is not what will make us happy, and Ivan is proof of that.
What is the connection between life and death in the story? How does an understanding of death include an understanding of life? How is this theme revealed through Ivan Ilyich? In the story, life and death interplay to understand the worth and meaning of the other. For example, Ivan’s unauthentic life leads him to the fear of dying, while Gerasim’s authentic life leads him to an accepting perspective of death. Dying people tend to look back at their life and the meaning of it. How we perceive death will be affected by how we perceived our life to be. Someone who lived a fulfilling life will see death differently from someone who lived an unfulfilling life. When understanding death, we can better understand life, and when understanding life, we can better and more deeply understand death. This theme is revealed by showing the complete opposite. Tolstoy shows how Ivan does not understand death because he escapes it, which is also what he did throughout his life.
This theme is revealed through Ivan Ilyich because it shows that Ivan is unable to understand death because he never understood life in the first place. During the story, Ivan is forced to think about his meaning of life and death. He states, ‘And that’s the truth of it – I’ve lost my life her on this curtain, my battleground. Have I really? How terrible and how stupid! It can’t be! It can’t be, but it is. ‘ (59) This requires him to confront what his upcoming death means, which then makes him analyze his meaning of life. He suddenly, for the first time, finds himself intrigued to understand life and death because he realizes that these understandings come together. He needs to understand his life to understand his death. Ivan’s pain does not result from biology, but by his lack of understanding of the meaning of life, which led to his lack of understanding of death. In the end, Ivan realizes that living a life containing misery hinders our understanding of death while living altruistically, just like Gerasim, leads to the understanding and acceptance of death.
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