Characters[ edit ] Ivan Ilyich Ilyich is a patronymichis surname is Golovin is a highly regarded official of the Court of Justicedescribed by Tolstoy as, "neither as cold and formal as his elder brother nor as wild as the younger, but was a happy mean between them—an intelligent, polished, lively, and agreeable man. She is characterized as self-absorbed and uninterested in her husband's struggles, unless they directly affect her. Gerasim is the Golovins' young butler. He takes on the role of sole comforter and caretaker during Ivan's illness.
A group of judges are gathered together in a private room of the courthouse when Peter Ivanovich, a judge and close friend of Ivan Ilych, announces that Ivan has died.
Consoled by the thought that it is Ivan who has died and not them, the men in the room cannot help but think of the promotions and transfers that Ivan's death will occasion.
That evening, Peter drives to Ivan's house to attend his funeral. But while looking at Ivan's corpse, Peter is bothered by an expression of disapproval and warning on Ivan's face. Ivan's wife Praskovya quizzes Peter about possible strategies to maximize her dead husband's government pension. On his way out, Peter encounters Gerasim, Ivan's sick nurse.
Peter mentions that Ivan's death and funeral are a sad affair, and Gerasim surprises Peter with the observation that everyone dies some day. The story then shifts more than thirty years into the past and picks up with a description of Ivan's life. Ivan is the second of three sons, and in all respects is an average and commonplace person.
Around the age of thirteen he attends the School of Law where he assimilates the values and behavior of those with high social standing. Ivan becomes an examining magistrate in the reformed judicial institutions and moves to a new province.
Ivan marries and things progress smoothly until Praskovya becomes pregnant.
As Praskovya's behavior begins to disrupt the proper and decorous lifestyle cherished by Ivan and approved by society, Ivan increasingly absorbs himself in his official work and distances himself from his family. At work he prides himself on removing all personal concerns from his consideration, and at home he adopts a formal attitude toward his family.
Time passes and Ivan moves up in the ranks. He expects to be awarded the post of presiding judge in a University town, but is passed over for promotion. Infuriated and struck by a keen sense of injustice, Ivan obtains a leave of absence and moves with his family to his brother-in-law's house in the country.
Conscious that his salary cannot cover his family's living expenses, Ivan travels to St. Petersburg to look for a higher paying job. He learns that due to a change in the administration of the Ministry of Justice, a close friend has landed a position of great authority. Ivan is awarded a higher paying position in the city, and informing his family of the good news, Ivan departs alone to buy and furnish a house in preparation for the family's arrival.
One day as he is mounting a step-ladder to hang some drapes, he makes a false step and slips, banging his side against the window frame. The injury is not serious, however, and Ivan is quite pleased with the final appearance of the house.
He settles into his new life and acquires a love of bridge. Ivan begins to experience some discomfort in his left side and an unusual taste in his mouth. The discomfort gradually increases and soon Ivan is both irritable and quarrelsome. The doctors Ivan visits all disagree on the nature of the illness, and Ivan becomes depressed and fearful.
Even cards lose their appeal. Ivan's physical condition degenerates rapidly. One night while lying alone in the dark, he is visited by his first thoughts of mortality, and they terrify him. He realizes that his illness is not a question of health or disease, but of life or death.
Praskovya does not understand nor wish to understand her husband's plight, and Ivan can barely suppress his hatred for her. Ivan knows that he is dying, but he is unable to grasp the full implications of his mortality.
He tries to erect screens to block the thought of death from his mind, but death haunts him ceaselessly. In the midst of this suffering, Gerasim, Ivan's peasant servant, enters the scene. Assigned the task of helping Ivan with his excretions, Gerasim soon begins passing the entire night with the dying man.
To ease his pain, Gerasim supports Ivan's legs on his shoulders. More than any other living person, Gerasim provides Ivan with the compassion and honesty that he needs. Ivan's daily routine is monotonous and maddening. As those around him continue to pretend that he is only sick and not dying, Ivan feels that he is surrounded by artificiality.The Death of Ivan Ilych study guide contains a biography of Leo Tolstoy, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.
Rowe, William W. Leo Tolstoy. Boston: Twayne, Contains a chronology of Tolstoy’s life, bibliography, and index. Chapters include biographical information and treatments of several novels and stories. An excellent companion for the Tolstoy reader. Discusses the structure and main character of The Death of Ivan Ilyich.
A summary of Themes in Leo Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilych. Learn exactly what happened in this chapter, scene, or section of The Death of Ivan Ilych and what it means. Perfect for acing essays, tests, and quizzes, as well as for writing lesson plans.
Tolstoy’s The Death Of Ivan Ilych: A Critical Analysis Essay Sample. Write an analytical paper consisting of exegetical and critical analysis of Tolstoy’s ‘The Death of Ivan Ilyich’..
Focus on the notion of authenticity in life and in human relationships. Leo Tolstoy’s short novel, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, provides a great introduction to connection between death and the meaning of life. It tells the story of a forty-five year old lawyer who is self-interested, opportunistic, and busy with mundane affairs.
He has never considered his own death. The Death of Ivan Ilych study guide contains a biography of Leo Tolstoy, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis. About The Death of Ivan Ilych The Death of Ivan Ilych Summary.