The Death of Ivan Ilych
The story “The Death of Ivan Ilych” by Leo Tolstoy is based on the meaning of life.
In analyzing this theme, Tolstoy makes it evident that there are two types of life: the artificial life, represented by Ivan, Praskovya, Peter, and basically all of his society- and the authentic life, represented by Gerasim. This artificial life in the story is based around shallow relationships, self-interest, and materialism. The poem by Auden is also based on the theme of artificial life, which describes an average citizen in a government controlled state. Auden gives us the impression that the government sees us as just a number and we are expected to just work like robots with no emotions. You get this impression when Auden quotes, “The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day, And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way” (Auden). As for Tolstoy, he shows the artificial life of Ivan when he quotes, “Ivan Ilych’s life had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible” (1120). His values of life are based around the opinions and expectations of his social superiors. Ivan is blinded by the true meaning of life which leaves him alone and terrified when it comes to his death. The authentic life, which is represented by Gerasim shows compassion and pity. It affirms that we can have feelings, thoughts, desires and personal involvement. Gerasim in the story seems to have self-sacrificing love for Ivan, which gives him meaning to his life. He shows this when he tells Ivan, “Don’t you worry, Ivan Ilych. I’ll get sleep enough later on,” or when he exclaimed, “If you weren’t sick it would be another matter, but as it is, why should I grudge a little trouble?” (Tolstoy 1143).
Another analyzes of this theme is the inevitability of death; Tolstoy brings this to our attention when Ivan recognizes death and how he learns to accept it. Ivan tries to understand the end of one’s life, his...