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Stoic Death Themes Of In The Name Of The Father And Death Of Ivan Ilyitch Essay, Research Paper
There are themes in life that everyone goes through at one point or another. These universal themes, however, are experienced in different orders. As in In the Name of the Father, sometimes it takes the death of a loved one to bring meaning to one’s life. In the case of The Death of Ivan Ilyitch, though, it is his own death that is dealt with.
Ivan lived a pleasant life, attending law school, being in the company of high society. He did some things that he questioned at first, for the acts made him feel a bit disgraceful. He saw that the same acts did not bother other men, and therefore put them out of his mind. He never questioned himself why these acts were distasteful, or why these men weren’t hounded by their inner voices of shame. He went along in life not taking anything from it to learn and to prosper as a good person.
After graduating law school, he sowed “his wild oats”, as Tolstoy puts it, among an aristocratic society. He moved up in rank and earned a raise in salary. This new power, although not taken advantage of, was accessible in Ilyitch’s eyes, and hence the mere thought of corruption existed as a tool for possible future use. He married, not because of love, but because he felt it would be an asset to him. This lack of self value is an example of ignorance that produces a person with no meaning in life.
He had some children, and during his wife’s pregnancy there were times that she grew irritable. Ivan couldn’t deal with these times and instead of finding why she was in such a state he withdrew himself from his responsibility as a husband into his office life. He found married life to be more of a burden than an experience of life, and never tried to fix what was unbearable. He took life as it came, not causing any changes that could possibly make it more virtuous. He was more concerned for his acceptance by strangers than he was of having a happy family life. He felt that as long as his business life was fine, although he ignored his family life, he lived a good life.
Once an accident left him terminally ill, one could say he began to accept the role of death in his life. He didn’t accept it with open arms, however, for he was often disturbed and cried of death’s approach. As successful as he was in his career, he was a poor man in the sense that ignorance had caused him to fear death. It’s not that he didn’t experience death before — he had a few children who died at young ages. Those deaths seemed to him to be interferences and a blockade of enjoying life to the fullest. He should have realized that death is inevitable to all of us, and then he would at least be somewhat prepared to accept the role of his own death. He was prosperous in a business sense, but was an empty man in the moral sense of virtuosity.
Ivan expressed bad faith by blaming his condition on God. He asks why He has put him in this position, and what he ever did to deserve this agony. His own soul began to offer some answers by questioning his past life. He began to review the events in his life from childhood on. Now these memories held a different meaning to him, for they don’t seem as pleasant as he thought they were at the time. He began to realize how life just went by without contributing anything to it to make it important. He was merely an inactive participant in a game where nobody wins, for we all end up the same — dead. The way to make life virtuous and good is to participate in it to the fullest extent possible. The world is an oyster, and we must use all resources to our advantage within reasonability as to not to take for granted our short existence. Ivan is now aware of death’s inevitability and realizes perhaps he didn’t put as much into life as he had thought he did. Although he dismisses those thoughts shortly after, he cannot deny that he had those thought at all. This recognition of death scares him for he knows it is coming. In turn, the review of his life is the process of rectification.
Once near his last days, he holds onto a non-Stoic attitude by not wanting to die yet. His inner voice speaks to him and tells him how not only is he trying to hide from death, but he hid from life also. In this realization he is distraught, for he knows it is true. It is now his purpose in what life he has left to do something to rectify his wasted life. He admits to himself that all along he was defending the weakness in life as opposed to the strengths he had in his home life. He finally “sees the light” and accepts that it’s still possible to fix what was wrong. His woeful feelings towards his family were an apology for his lack of participation in their lives. Once he redeems himself in this manner, he is unburdened from ill thought of his past life. He is in a state of acknowledgment of death’s arrival and accepts it in a positive manner, transforming him into a Stoic at last.
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