Essay Sample on the Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy

2021-07-06 02:48:12
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Sewanee University of the South
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In narrating the story of Ivan Ilyich, Leo Tolstoy introduces the reader to a story of a man that he claims will describe why Ivan lives such a terrible life. Tolstoy has utilized the narrative style of a story with an intention to create tensions as well as uneasiness which is later relieved at the end of the narrative. Tolstoy utilizes the better part of the story to convince the reader why he considers such a story terrible (Moseley) The author also provides insight on how Ivan eventually reconciled himself and found peace at the end after realizing that his life and decisions were not right. Hence, the author allows the reader to release the tension built up earlier in the story, which is very satisfying ("The Death Of Ivan Ilych - Dictionary Definition Of The Death Of Ivan Ilych | Encyclopedia.Com: FREE Online Dictionary"). The current analysis will discuss how the Ivan Ilyich comes to realize that he lived a most simple, most ordinary, and thus, most terrible life. The analysis will also discuss how Ivan Ilyich comes to achieve redemption in the end.

The second part of the narrative describes the life of Ivan while he was healthy. The narrator begins by saying that the life of Ivan Ilyich was most simple, most ordinary, and therefore, most terrible (Tolstoy, Lodge and Tolstoy). This line sums up the life of Ivan when he was healthy. Ivan, his father, and his oldest brother were all officials. Ivan was praised for creating a balance between his two brothers since the oldest brother was too serious whereas the younger one was wild. Ivan Ilyich had a pleasant childhood and retained memories of his enjoyable and easy youth. Ivan Ilyich secures a job in the tenth rank of civil service after completing his studies at the School of Law. He is later promoted; meets, Praskovya Fedorovna and marries her.

At first, marriage is pleasant and does not interfere with the social life of Ivan. However, his wife becomes more disagreeable after having children which causes scenes that give Ivan much grief (Tolstoy, Lodge and Tolstoy). Ivan opts to adjust his conjugal pressures by committing to his official work and playing vint. Later, Ivan Ilyich is promoted to the rank of an Assistant Public Prosecutor where he earns a respectable salary. However, he does not have enough money. Ivan and his wife lost three children at birth. However, their two children, Lisa and Vladimir survive.

The third section narrates the hardest year of Ivan Ilyich in the peaceful seventeen years of his marriage. After establishing himself as a Public Prosecutor, he is disappointed when a promotion is granted to someone else. Ivan Ilyich and his family live with the wife of his brother during the summer to save money ("The Death Of Ivan Ilych - Dictionary Definition Of The Death Of Ivan Ilych | Encyclopedia.Com: FREE Online Dictionary"). Depression torments Ivan Ilyich until he decides to return to the city and search for a new job. Luckily, he meets an acquaintance who helps him attain a new position with better pay.

Upon receiving a better pay, Ivan Ilyich gloats over people who had to refuse to grant him a promotion. Ivan buys a new home and decorates it meticulously. The interior design of the new house embodies the social class that Ivan has striven to personify. Also, the injury incurred while fixing a detail on the curtains signifies the fall from which he dies. Indeed, the decor of the house creates a pleasant superficial unity in the family of Ivan. He does not argue much with his wife and enjoys his new job.

In the fourth sections, Ivan Ilyich begins to feel pain on his side as well as a strange taste in his mouth. Ivan quarrels with his wife who believes she is being abused despite tolerating the temper of her husband. Ivan Ilyich is left bleak and worried after the doctor is unable to give him a thorough diagnosis. Ivan Ilyich takes his medicine as his wife scolds him of how he should take his pills regularly and get enough sleep. Despite visiting several specialists, he does not find relief and feels that the people at his office treat him differently. Ivan Ilyich even loses interest from his official duties as well as playing bridge. Eventually, the pain becomes a pervasive force in his life.

Throughout the story, Tolstoy portrays Ivan Ilyich as a man who chose to rely on the fleeting whims of the society to determine good and proper behavior. As a young man, Ivan is naturally attracted to people of high station and assimilates their ways as well as their views of life. Ivan Ilyich allows people in authority to dictate what was right and wrong (Tolstoy, Lodge and Tolstoy). The author continues to narrate how Ivan did things as a young man that made him disappointed. Nevertheless, Ivan realized that such actions were done by individuals of good position and that such individuals did not consider the actions as wrong. For this reason, he chooses to forget them completely. Ivan Ilyich lives his days by doing what is perceived right by the society.

The reader sees Ivan grasping for wealth and arranging in a way that would be approved by the society. He then put on pretense and attempts to escape from the responsibilities of marriage. Ivan Ilyich escapes the responsibilities of marriage by displaying a non-committal attitude towards his marriage and hides in his official duties as a judge. This type of hypocrisy and disregard for an outright truth helps in creating tension in the reader.

Tension is relieved when Ivan Ilyich experiences spiritual renewal during his last hours of life. Tolstoy describes the face of Ivan in his coffin to foreshadow the deathbed rebirth. He says that the face of Ivan had an expression that said that what was necessary was accomplished ad accomplished rightly (Tolstoy, Lodge and Tolstoy). Before letting the reader know much about the life of Ivan, the narrator gives the reader a sense that everything works in the end. Nevertheless, the reader realizes that such peace comes with a great price when Ivan reviews his life. Here, he comes to terms with his self-deception and carries out key functions to embrace death. The struggles of Ivan are confined in his conviction that he had lived a good life. Despite believing that e had lived rightly, Ivan cries to God asking why He had tormented him terribly.

The narrator is keen to inform the reader that the suffering of Ivan Ilyich is due to his failure to live as he ought to have lived (Tolstoy) The narrator takes the reader through the suffering of Ivan through the final chapters of the story, as he seeks some resolution. Relief is eventually achieved when the small son caught the hand of Ivan and began to kiss it. Here, Ivan realizes that he could rectify the fact that he had not lived the way he was supposed to live.

Ivan decides to talk to his family, asks for forgiveness and gets some relief from the oppression. The decision to think and do something for his family allows Ivan Ilyich to understand the true meaning of life (Tolstoy, Lodge and Tolstoy). Additionally, he changes his perception that death is the end to pleasure. In fact, death is a welcome way to relieve his family of suffering. In the end, Ivan embraces death without fear. The narrator ends the story with the words it is finished as Jesus said upon the cross. The tension built up in the entire story is relieved in the end. Ivan understands what the readers wanted to tell him throughout the story. The relationship with his wife and son was partially healed when he asked for their forgiveness.


Conclusively, the narrator creates a believable as well as a satisfying end to his story using narrative omniscience. The tactic is effective in revealing the inner tension of Ivan Ilyich and allows readers to participate with him as he confronts death and feels the anguish of realizing that he had lived wrongly. He is keen to inform the reader that the suffering of Ivan Ilyich is due to his failure to live as he ought to have lived. The current analysis has discussed Ivan Ilyich comes to realize that he lived a most simple, most ordinary, and therefore, most terrible life. The analysis also discussed how Ivan Ilyich comes to achieve redemption in the end.

Works cited"The Death Of Ivan Ilych - Dictionary Definition Of The Death Of Ivan Ilych | Encyclopedia.Com: FREE Online Dictionary". N.p., 2017. Web. 17 June 2017.

Moseley, Merritt. "THE DEATH OF IVAN ILYCH." Bloom's Literary Themes f: 27.

Tolstoy, Leo, Kirsten Lodge, and Leo Tolstoy. The Death Of Ivan Ilyich And Other Stories. Print.

Tolstoy, Leo. "The Death of Ivan Ilyich." ACADEMIC MEDICINE-PHILADELPHIA- 80.9 (2005): 856.


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