The Death of Ivan Illych

The short story, "The Death of Ivan Ilych", written by Leo Tolstoy, is about the reactions of a man and his friends to his suffering and death. Everyone who knows Ivan including Ivan himself has led a life of total disconcern for the feelings and sufferings of others. They all lead shallow lives not daring to probe into the feelings deep down inside for fear of stepping outside the lines of propriety. That is the biggest rule that people of that society follow. Do not say or show what you are thinking.

Ivan Ilych's attitude toward life is the same all the way up to his death. He was as the author put it, "...a capable, good-natured, and social man, though strict in the fulfillment of what he considered his duty: and he considered his duty to be what was so considered by those in authority." (p. 1088) That quote states that Ivan was solely concerned with his duties and his advancement in position by following the orders of his authorities.

Ivan was son of a successful man who held many positions in many departments. That man, Ilya Epimovich Golovin, had three sons. The oldest followed his father's example and was a success. The youngest son was a total failure. He had blown many opportunities and was the shame of the family. Ivan the middle son was the better of the two. Ivan was a mix of his two brothers. He had the hard-working spirit of the older brother but also appreciates the value of a good time like the younger brother.

Ivan's career grew steadily. In a short time, he eventually obtained the position of examining magistrate. Ivan did very well in this position. He excelled in the separation of the personal duties in his life and the official duties to which he was totally dedicated. This taste of power which came with his new position was very appealing to Ivan. The idea that writing a few words or giving a simple command sent people into motion made Ivan very happy.

Upon moving to a new town to take up the position of examining magistrate, Ivan met his future wife, Praskovya Fedorovna Mikhel. Ivan saw her as a "...well connected, and was a sweet, pretty, and thoroughly correct young woman." The view that she was so within the lines of propriety was the most attractive feature which this young woman possessed in Ivan's view. At first the marriage which Ivan thought couldn't hurt his pleasure-seeking life didn't, then according to Ivan she began to disturb the pleasure and propriety of his life. This ordeal only worsened when his wife became pregnant. She became unbearable to him, overly jealous and coarse, becoming an obstacle to his pursuit of happiness and properness. When the child was born, Ivan realized that a life totally separate his family life would be necessary to fulfill the goals he set for himself. He also came to the realization that to keep his marriage in order that he was going to have to adopt the same attitude to his family that he has to his official duties. Ivan developed an attitude towards his family of complete indifference as stated in the story, "He only required of it those conveniences---dinner at home, housewife, and bed---which it could give him." (p. 1092) More children arrived and his wife's attitude only worsened.

After three years and becoming a highly looked upon official he received a promotion to the position of Assistant Public Prosecutor. This new promotion made Ivan like his job even more. Meanwhile, more children were born which made Ivan's life even more difficult. After getting another promotion and moving to another province, the marriage was getting increasingly difficult. To try and overcome this Ivan decided to spend some time in the country with his wife. This move turns out to be a very bad one. Ivan falls into deep depression and decides that some drastic measures are needed. He returns from the country heading towards St. Petersburg with the objective of obtaining a salary of 5,000 rubles a year. Things worked out very much in his favor. He got a promotion two steps above his former position. After obtaining this position, he returned to the country and his marriage life improved immensely. Ivan then proceeded to the province to which they were moving to attempt to