Death Of Ivan Illych By Tolstoi
Leo Tolstoi the author of the short story "The Death of Ivan Ilych"
was born into wealthy family in Russia. Tolstoi became tired of going to school
and bettering himself so he dropped out of Kazan University. Despite societies
pressures he opened up a school for lower class children. Leo Tolstoi became
very successful in his profession as a novelist but was for some reason unhappy
with his life. He then gave away all his land and book royalties and started
living a peasants life. "The Death of Ivan Ilych" is about a man\'s
realization of the meaninglessness of his existence in light of his impending
death. By all external definitions, Ivan\'s life was the picture of success. He
had risen to the top of his profession; he had married an attractive and
well-thought of woman; and he seemed to be satisfied with the pleasantness of it
all. Yet under this exterior, his life was empty, hollow, and completely
motivated by worldly trappings. Other people\'s expectations dominated Ivan\'s
life. He had to do what was proper. He went into the law, took a good job, and
could even rationalize his carousing because everybody said that that was what
young people did. It is also interesting to note that many of Ivan\'s
rationalizations come in the form of French phrases. He needs to be part of that
upper class, regardless of the personal cost. He continually seeks out higher
wages and better jobs to keep pace with his cost of living. Paring down his
living expenses is not a viable option. In addition to this driving need to
"be somebody" in the social and financial world, Ivan has a propensity
to run away from his problems at home. It is unclear in the story what brings on
his wife\'s change of heart and mood, but she starts to nag and complain. It
starts during her pregnancy and never stops. She was quite the catch when Ivan
married her, although Ivan may never have really been in love with her. Rather,
he seems to marry her out of some social convenience and a careless "why
not?" attitude. But to her defense, how could you not turn into her after
living with the coldness and emptiness of Ivan for so long? In any case, she
emerges from the birth and subsequent births a nagging, self-centered, and
spoiled bitch. This new negative force in Ivan\'s life disrupts his quietude, so
he retreats further back into his work and his petty life of cards and false
friends. It would destroy him to confront his problems at home because that
would lead him to a detestable re-evaluation of the self. Ivan is not the only
one with the identity problems, however; his co-workers seem to be no better
off. They are represented by Peter who has been a life long "friend"
of Ivan\'s. The story opens with Ivan\'s former colleagues who read about the news
of his death in the paper. Although they all knew him well, they can barely
muster a word of shock or remorse at his passing. "Besides considerations
as to the possible transfers and promotions likely to result from Ivan Ilych\'s
death, the mere fact of the death of a near acquaintance aroused, as usual, in
all who heard of it the complacent feeling that "it is he who is dead and
not I."" Their thoughts turn to promotions and the fact that they are
glad that it is Ivan who is dead and not them. In a mere three lines, the
conversation steers away from Ivan to banter about living outside of town. Peter
is the only one who decides to go to the funeral -- solely because he feels
"obligated" to go. Tolstoi makes a point of reminding us that Peter
would have to forgo his afternoon nap to attend the services. None of these
people give a damn about Ivan, presumably as Ivan didn\'t give a damn about them.

This opening scene lays down a powerful and provocative framework for the story.

The scene at the funeral is equally telling. Instead of mourning, Peter concerns
himself only with the gestures of mourning: what signs he should be making, when
he should bow, and what he should say. He is not the only one guilty of this
crime, though. Ivan\'s wife is more concerned with financial matters than the
grief over her husband. In a darkly comic scene, she confronts Peter about ways
she can get more money from the government, while absurdly faking like she is
choking back