Nikolayevich Tolstoy's The Death Of Ivan Ilych

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The Death of Ivan Ilych is a cautionary tale to refrain from wallowing in one’s own abyss of self-satisfaction. Ivan Ilych is the protagonist who seems to himself to have everything he could (mostly) ever want; a well-paying job, high social standing and influence, and a dream home. Through his actualization of realizing his dream of this lavishly decorated home, he ultimately meets his death. In his story, author Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy ultimately examines the age old adage “you can’t take it with you,” and causes the reader to reflect, in all their own accomplishments and acquisitions throughout life, can anyone ever be ready or prepared to face their own mortality? Tolstoy’s story opens at the close of Ivan Ilych’s life in the courts St.…show more content…
In the very first chapter, we see the deception in Ivan Ilych’s world. When speaking of the death of their friend, we see his contemporaries speak of him in a distant manner. His wife puts on a show of sadness at his funeral as she attempts to squeeze any extra money she can out of Ivan’s death. This display shows us clearly the falsity of the relationships in Ivan’s life, and how little his supposed loved ones seemed to care for him. In the story, Ivan Ilych proclaims "death is finished" (pg. 58). This is in relation to the life of spiritual death he has cultivated for himself for his entire adult life. Death is connected to life, both in Tolstoy’s tale and in our waking lives in its ability to force one revisit and account for themselves before God. Ivan’s only source of comfort in his misery is Gerasim, the only character that understands Ivan Ilych’s plight. He accepts his own mortality as well as Ivan’s. A recurring motif is the imagery of the black sack. The sack, long, narrow, and terrifying for Ivan to fall through represents not only Ivan’s sickness but the way in which he has lived his life. Besides the fall, he is also afraid of what lies at the bottom of the sack. It is through his decent into the black sack that Ivan begins to listen to his soul. In this, Ivan Ilych’s life has not been in vein, and upon his death as he is surrounded by light he feels he is still able to make things

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