“ [Like Ilyich], we all die, and if we only live to live, to create and carve our own meaning into the universe, then life itself becomes ultimately meaningless and painfully insignificant.” In The Death of Ivan Ilyich Tolstoy combines a savage satire on futility and hypocrisy of conventional life with a powerful symbolic presentation of isolation in the struggle with death and hope for a final resurrection; “[my life] had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible”. In analyzing this description of Ivan’s life, we see that Ivan has always done what is expected of him in the eyes of others. While Ivan believes his life has run easily, pleasantly, and decorously like it should, we see that in reality it is an unfulfilled life. Ivan’s closest associates are more worried about who will be next in line for promotion now that he is gone, and at his funeral they are more concerned over a bridge game than grieving for the loss; his friends and even his wife are incapable in feeling true grief. They are all completely consumed by themselves.
Realism is a “school of thought which greatly promoted the individual’s own thoughts and feelings, as well as idealistic ideas of a perfect world”. Realism is the way in which a person views the world through the imagination of the individual who determine the form and content of an artistic creation. Realism deals with the emotions, and it also discovers what is mysterious and meaningful in life as observed in Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Realism calls for an objective and detached assessment of everyday life.
Depression snuck up on me like old age will, forty times quicker. Ilyich manages to cover his depression by compartmentalizing his feelings from his thoughts and by becoming a workaholic. Obsessed with becoming successful Ivan overlooked reality in the fact that he was an ordinary person who has a job, a family, and friends. Ivan Ilyich did not notice his depression and lack of spirituality until three days prior to his death. It is not until Ilyich asks himself, “What if my whole life has really been wrong?” and comes up with an favorable answer that Ilyich tries to find a way to rectify his situation. As Ivan continues to get sick he becomes isolated and is left to debate his thoughts he slowly awakens to self-consciousness and realization of falsity of his life and ambitions. He begins to flashback to the start of his illness, which comes about by a frivolous accident while trying to fix the curtains.
The title The Death of Ivan Ilyich is both extremely befitting and purposefully beguiling: it fools the reader into thinking, like Ivan himself, that the narrative is chiefly concerned with death, however, at the conclusion the reader, again like Ivan, realizes that death is irrelevant. As illustrated in the short story, death is the ultimate reality that every human must confront and accept. For Ivan, the inevitability of his death inspires a spiritual crisis and renunciation of his life. In accordance with Tolstoy’s personal beliefs, Ivan rejects the shallowness of his old existence and embraces more numinous values, particularly a sense of love and acceptance.
While Tolstoyis so robust, has his feet so firmly on the ground, present what he sees with such clarity and objectivity, that one can be easily deluded into considering his dominating quality to be physical, sesual, antithetical to Dostoevsky’s spirituality.The contrast between the two greastest Russian novelists are indeed obvious. Tolstoy’s view of hummanity is elevating, while Dostoevsky’s stresses the fall; Tolstoy reject history and status, and Dostoevsky welcomes the past and desires a hierarchical society and the cycle repeats in comparison. Nonetheless, both writers rejected materialism and the conception of truth propounded by modern science and theorists of realism.
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