Death of Ivan Ilych Sum Essay

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He likes the power he is afforded with each new position and loves knowing he can crush others.

7. Does the narrator sympathize with Ivan's attachment to his possessions?

The tone of the passage (paragraph 104) is deeply empathetic. This entire portion of the story displays Tolstoy's sympathy and empathy for Ivan. Ivan is a reflection of every man who has placed all his interest in this world only to realize too late that he is not made for this world but for the other. Ivan's horrible attachment to his possessions is shown in order to illustrate for the reader the uselessness of forming such attachments -- yet it is not depicted satirically but with great insight, patience and understanding, even if it is at times critical.

8. What elements of a full life, what higher satisfactions, does Ivan's routine omit?

Ivan's routine consists solely of paying strict observance to formalities. There is no real spirit beneath any of his actions other than the spirit of pride, of feeling like a "virtuoso." He has no prayer life. He does not cultivate a sense of companionship, a sense of transcendence, or a sense of the good, the true and the beautiful. He cultivates only a sense of "pleasure" at doing things according to the status quo.

9. What caused Ivan's illness? How would it be diagnosed today? What is the narrator's attitude toward the doctors?

The cause of Ivan's illness is never precisely stated, but it might be suggested that it stems from his overall attitude towards life: he has no patience for quirks or human failings and this impatience affects his health to such a degree that his body begins to shut down. Today, it might be stated by doctors that Ivan has cancer of some kind or perhaps depression. Tolstoy's attitude towards doctors is that they are as superficial as Ivan is in his career: they listen, make suggestions, but do not really care or even know what is wrong.

10. In what successive stages does Tolstoy depict Ivan's isolation?

Ivan's isolation at first removes him from work then from society. He tries to combat his fear of death by visiting others and maintaining a pretense of life (by being social) but he cannot quiet his fears and wants everyone to focus on his illness. Tolstoy shows how Ivan attempts to keep up appearances at court but cannot and finally shows him alone in a room with Gerasim, who represents a kind of saving grace for Ivan.

11. What are we supposed to admire in Gerasim?

Gerasim is meant to be admired for his patience, docility and above all humility. He is Tolstoy's personification of true charity, which gives all for others. Gerasim tends to Ivan without any ill will and moves Ivan to really consider how selfish he has been with his whole life.

12. What do you understand from Ivan's justification of his life?

Ivan does not want to admit to himself that he has been a selfish and uncaring man. He is too used to thinking well of himself and being pleased with himself. To accuse himself of sin is to make a confession -- and such a confession would release him from his suffering, but he cannot summon the strength to do so; pride is a hurdle for him and to kill his pride, he thinks, will kill him.

13. What is memorable in the character of Ivan's schoolboy son?

The schoolboy is "pathetic" in Ivan's eyes and this is part of his charm: he is not puffed up or full of himself like everyone else (except Gerasim). He seems to truly pity his father and understand his suffering. He shows fear and when he kisses Ivan's hand, Ivan finally realizes that he is not the only one suffering, that his family is suffering too and he for the first time, through the child, feels empathy and sympathy for others.

14. What realization allows Ivan to triumph?

The realization that he is the cause of others' unhappiness. He is humbled by his child's love, Gerasim's devotion, and his wife's presence. He sees that he should ask forgiveness and in his seeking pardon is the light at the end of the tunnel and relief from pain.

15. Is it possible to identify with Ivan?

It is very possible to identify with Ivan, if only the…[continue]

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