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Literary works are how authors give presentations of the everyday life that we as human beings go through. Usually in such works, deeper meanings through development of themes are conveyed to the society in a way that it can understand better and easily. The themes differ from romance, power, greed and many others that reflect the varied aspects of human life. This paper will aim to discuss the book The Death of Ivan Ilych while presenting a summary of this literary work in regard to the author’s message.
The book The Death of Ivan Ilych is a literary work by Count Leo Tolstoy published in 1886 and has been hailed as a masterpiece both by critics and readers. The author has been reputed as one of the people who changed how the subject of death is treated in society.
In the novel, Leo Tolstoy presents the story of Ivan Ilych who lived a wasted life but who is not ready to imagine his own death. Tolstoy starts the novel with minor characters and Ivan’s acquaintances. According to Taylor, Tolstoy’s book has been acclaimed by literary critics as superb. This is because the book is notable for it explores fear as per human beings fear of death and what it means to exist. This is well shown from the dilemmas through Tolstoy’s struggles as an adult. Through Gerasim, the peasant servant associated with Ivan, we are able to see the simple and gentle approach manner to which he serves his master (who is almost dying). The care giving behaviors are what constitutes today’s the model of taking care of today’s terminally ill patients (Susan).
Born into the nobility, Tolstoy’s life meant that he lived the life of a “dissipated life of a man of his class…” (3), although it is reported that his inner self of moral justification meant that he led a different path altogether. One of the greatest influences on Tolstoy’s moral life was a French philosopher named Jean Jacques. Susan points out that Tolstoy was affected to a great extent by Jacques’s apparent resistance to the existing social structure and his proposal for moral purity and the need to develop new social developments. This made Tolstoy to long for that kind of life and follow Jacques teachings. This allowed him to live a natural and spontaneous kind of life. It is alleged that even the setting of the novel was in a way to emulate Jacques; alternating between a peasantry life and drafting the book The Death of Ivan Ilyich (Susan).
The main character of the novel is Ivan Ilyich. The novel begins in the year 1882 in Russia and Ivan is introduced as the attorney who rose through the ranks to become a judge. He believes that his life has been a success and prides himself by thinking that he can ruin whoever he chooses to. He sees his wife as objectionable due to her relentless questioning. But in truth, we meet a man who is unraveling after falling and does not recover fully. According to Susan, the disease he is suffering from is abdominal cancer and despite the wife’s efforts to bring the best doctors, he does not recover. It is interesting that Ivan can only count to turn to his servant. Due to class distinction, Ilyich still holds the formal power but as the relationship between the master and servant progresses, the balance of power shifts. The servant slowly becomes more important because of his willingness to serve the master and barriers associated with class and culture cease to exist between the two. Only one thing is noticeable; one man helping the other in the hour of need.
It is in chapter 8 that we get details of Ivan’s prolonged sickness. Tolstoy it is presented in an ideal way that Ivan spends his time with his visitors focusing on their obsession with schedules, watches and exact times. The mention of the above lets the reader get a feel of how people who surround Ivan spend their time while their relations are built on the false conception of life. This is a contrast to the way Ivan spends his time waiting his death with an exclamation, “What a bliss!” (Tolstoy, 113). In the film Problem, we have a Huston: [Final 1 Edition] adapted from The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Christopher points out in the New York Times that death may be the true subject of Ivan character. Christopher points out that “The loneliness of dealing with death is not something you can share…” (Christopher). According to John, the heart of the book is the story of a man who is going through a human condition; suffering, and the mistakes that we as human beings can make through life. In essence, we are shown how the mistakes may fail to protect us from loneliness while facing death.
Ivan’s sense of isolation is eased by his servant, Gerasim, who is described as a clean, bright and cheerful young peasant. Gerasim in a simple way willingly assists Ilyich and in a twist of things, Ilyich is shown to be disgusted by his ravaged body but Gerasim seems not to care about that at all. When Ilyich asks why he bothers taking care of him, Gerasim replies, “Why shouldn't I help you? You're a sick man” (Tolstoy, 100). This novel enables us to understand an intimate relationship that develops between the caregiver and the patient. We are given a preview of an effective therapeutic care where the patient is competing with his end journey. We develop a liking for Gerasim’s compassion and caring that’s sets the stage to free Ivan break from his fears of death and suffering while facing death (Susan).
The book therefore critically tries to present suffering and living a false life. At first, Ivan lives a life full of lies while thinking that his family and friends liked him. Yes, they liked him as they rise to take over whatever he leaves behind when he dies. Interestingly, they do not participate in taking care of Ivan. That is why when the story starts, Ivan’s story is shown to be the loneliness that is portrayed in his fear of death. I think that the author has a moral story that loneliness is a factor that determines our life with nature, even after death.
It is important to realize the power of the written word. Works of art are parables that guides one to his/her own personal reflection. The novel presents Ivan, who we are shown lived successfully and objectively but never found happiness until he was bedridden. It was during this time that Ivan found an outward appearance and an inner truth within himself and life. This shows us that the story is not subtle and that one day we will die. Everything may seem pleasant within our lives (sports, TV, video games, school, and computers) but we are nevertheless faced with death. Ivan realizes that his friends are not as real as he thought neither is his family and concludes that nothing that he has ever done means anything to him. This is a reflection of what life really means to use and the fact that we will face death, so it is safer to find meaning n life and know how to live life.