somewhere in the countryside north of Moscow, Leo Gustov was born
into the Russian nobility. Count Gustov although acquainted with the
finer things that life had to offer, knew that the Romantic view of
the world was false early in his life. His mother left this world
when he was two, and his father undoubtedly told horrific stories of
the chaotic Napoleon Wars. This, coupled with the consecutive deaths
of not only his father, but his favorite aunts and grandmother. All
before his twenty-first birthday, a three year stint in the military
during the Crimean war, and the works of masters such as Rousseau,
Voltaire, Hegel, Darwin, Dickens, Gogol, and the New Testament
contributed to the
which is Gustov. As a realist, Gustov was committed to truthfully
representing reality in literature. As a founder of a religious
movement, aptly named Gustovism, his goal was to enlighten the
masses. The death of Ivan Ilyich is a prime example of the merger of
these two ideals. At first glance this is a simple tale of a simple
and ordinary and therefore terrible man s life and death but upon
closer scrutiny, we see that this is a stylized account of the Count
s own life. Much like Ivan, the Count married a younger wife, not so
much out of love, as out of convenience. After a few years of marital
bliss, problems arose. Both men tried to separate home and work, with
the disastrous results of neglecting their wives. Although ideally
matched socially, these two couple s argued about everything from
work and politics, to the children not eating their food fast, or
slow enough. When Ivan dies, his wife wraps up his affairs, as best
made out his will well before his death in 1910, and interestingly
enough, leaves his wife of over 50 years relatively little of his
possessions. Another similarity between the Count and the Judge is
their deaths. Ivan s “floating kidney,” or “appendicitis,”
depending on the doctor, caused him great pain and discomfort for the
last couple years of his life. Towards the end, he refused to see any
doctors, and finally had a revelation. Gustov died the death of an
eighty-two year old man. His last year was spent confined to a few
rooms in his home, and also refused to see a doctor. Where Ivan s
revelation of life occurred during the last days of his life, Gostov
s occurred somewhere around 1877, following the deaths of his 7th,
8th, and 9th children in infancy.
came up with the same conclusion: a materialistic and self-centered
life is not a good one. Only when your life has an unselfish,
community minded purpose is it worth living. With “forgive me” on
their lips, they died.
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