The Death of Ivan Ilych is one the greatest novels of the Russian author, Leo Tolstoy. The novel focuses on Ivan, a high court judge that is deeply immerse in the values and beliefs of the aristocratic society and by which, he permits the dictation of the important decisions in his life. At one point, Ivan falls from a ladder and becomes aware of an inner pain that later on develops into a disease that is diagnosed as fatal. Because of the previously stated, Ivan stays at the sofa of his home where not only his family starts to resent him, but he grows incredibly intolerant.
Now, different critics state that this novel portrays a work of moral fiction that is primarily designed to provide moral instruction to its audience, and because of that, in this publication I will discuss whether the above is true by giving my personal opinion and also a small review.
My personal opinion is that in itself, the book has a slow pace; not to say that it is boring but, the use of very superficial characters with names that are hard to remember doesn’t help to make it enjoyable.
At the same time, the family of Ivan is unbearable, his wife is selfish and beyond tolerable, which starts to makes sense when you understand that Ivan’s most important decisions in life are directly oriented to follow the standards of society and to avoid any social prejudices; it can be said that the marriage backfires because Ivan decided to marry a materialist and dull person.
In the other hand, the book does well at developing a “prodigal son” like main character and how his wrong decisions in life lead to face an inevitable and frustrating death. Also, the novel is good in terms ofexposing how everyone keeps the thought of dying deeply hidden but latent.
That being said, we can continue with the morality of the book but it isprimordial to state that Leo Tolstoy profoundly believed that art should be a supplement to our spirituality in terms of developing our kindness and morality, even though, modern critics put aside the moralistic side of Tolstoy (The School of Life, 2016).
First, Ivan is surprised to discover that he is going to die; this shock of coming up to his mortality is something that astonishes him, some may say that he knew it all along but, in another level it comes as a surprise. In the novel, Tolstoy creates a believable example of what someone may experience when acknowledging that death is near, the character, follows this denial and violent scream tendencies, in order to make the audience feel identified (mostly pity), but, more deeply Tolstoy presents this as an average case, designed to make us understand that this may be us and also to question the way we live in terms of our behavior.
By pointing this out, it can be said that throughout the novel, Ivan’s behavior provides a representation of the lack of awareness regarding death in everyone of us, because, it is not only until you hit rock bottom or have a brush with death, that you start to change your behavior and actions within your life.
The novel does a great job in awakening the reader, precisely in terms of determining the real priorities by making him aware that death is near or present. By creating this acknowledge of a “vivid mortality” and describing Ivan’s incorrect life decisions and consequent rebirth, Tolstoy paves a path to wake up the audience in order to make them realize what is fundamental in life.
Ivan Ilych's life had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible.
— Leo Tolstoy
The School of Life. (2016). LITERATURE: Leo Tolstoy. [Video File]. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lr6DYLBkyG0
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