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The Death Of Ivan Ilych Essay, Research Paper

Literature and Life


Caitlin Humphries

ENGL 2303

Dr. Marian Crum-Mack

June 27, 2000

Leo Tolstoy, born in Russia in 1828, wrote The Death of Ivan Ilych. The story was written eight years after Tolstoy?s spiritual conversion and was inspired by his own brother?s death. The Death of Ivan Ilych has several ironies expressed in the story. Ilych expressed his denial, anger, depression and acceptance towards dying very visibly.

Ilych expressed denial of his condition when he laughed about his accident. Ilych was explaining to the upholsterer how he wanted the drapes to hand and he slipped off the ladder. He hit his side against the knob of the window frame. He told his wife it was only a bruise. Since he was fairly athletic, he said he did not get seriously hurt, but if it had been any other man they might have been killed from the accident. Within a short time, Ilych?s condition became more intense and it was decided that he needed a second opinion because he was not getting any better. He thought the doctor did not know what he was doing, but this was not the case. He needed an excuse for his failing health. His celebrated doctor diagnosed him basically with the same symptoms his first doctor had. This did not make Ilych very happy.

Ilych was expressing more and more anger because of hid declining health. While in his home, Ilych was always blaming Praskovya, his wife for everything. At the dinner table, he complained about the food not being prepared correctly, he did not like the way his daughter?s hair was styled, and he even blamed her if their son put his elbows on the dinner table. His wife suggested getting a famous specialist to come see him, regardless of the cost. Ilych said no. She kissed his forehead and said? ?Good-night. Please God you?ll sleep.? As she kissed him, Ilych hated her so much he wanted to push her away but did not. On another occasion, Ilych was angry with everyone about everything and was upset because they did not pity him. He overheard them enjoying themselves and not including him. He was so angry and began choking with unbearable misery. He was even angry with himself and thought no man should have to suffer in this manner. He tried to calm himself and find a way to rationalize the whole situation.

Ilych?s condition caused him to express a great deal of depression. Deep in his heart he knew he was dying but could not get used to the fact. He began to sleep less and less and was given Opium and hypodermic shots of Morphine; the drugs did little to calm him. The special food fixed for him became tasteless and was sickening. The butler, Geraim?s assistance, would make Ilych as comfortable as possible. One evening Ilych moved his legs from Gerasim?s shoulders, turned on his side and felt sorry for himself. He wept like a child because of his helplessness, loneliness and anger with God. He felt God had forsaken him. Ilych lost all hope on life and was so depressed he questioned God as to why was he doing this to him.

Ivan finally expressed the acceptance of his condition. He would no longer lie in bed but instead he would lie on the sofa all the time. He began to ask himself the same question over and over, ?what is this? Can this be death?? His conscience, or inner voice said to him ?yes, it is death.? His wife began to remind him about taking his medicine. He became upset and told her, ?for Christ?s sake, let me die in peace!? The doctor came to visit him as scheduled and one day he told the doctor, ?you know you can do nothing for me, so leave me alone.? Ilych told him that he could not even ease his pain so let him be. He struggled and suffered with severe pain for three days and would scream hopelessly. Suddenly he knew what was happening to him and wanted to release himself from suffering.

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