Tolstoy

Analysis of Leo Tolstoy and his work, The Death of Ivan Ilyich

One’s own ani…

One’s own animalistic drives can lead them in one of two paths; one of clarity and enlightenment or one of destruction. Throughout his works, Tolstoy manages to portray himself through his characters. The majority of said characters are represented in a negative light. Never has Tolstoy denied his own wrong doings or his own grotesque instincts and negative qualities. In fact, he goes as far as to put them out for the world to see and criticize because he himself is the most critical of all. He sees what is wrong with himself and takes that as a heavy implication of what is wrong with society as a whole. By inserting himself into his stories, he can cope with his own insecurities, his own obscenities, and in turn convince himself that he is morally pure once again. “His energies spread out beyond literature into pedagogy, social thought, and moral philosophy. Again and again he sought to turn the gold coin of his fame as a writer into public influence.” (Camden). He wanted to make an impact on society, an attempt to make it change, to make it unlike himself. 

Tolstoy’s unique approach to accepting mankind’s faults and laying them out for society to criticize ultimately earned him his notoriety. Russians expected Tolstoy to take a stand, and write about one side of society. Instead he condemned human civilization as a whole and said exactly what was wrong with both sides of the story. Neither the lion nor the tiger are right, nor are either of them wrong. Both have their needs and both are entirely equally narcissistic, lustful, sinful, self-righteous, etc. The point is that everyone is imperfect and he saw that. In his novella, The Devil, Tolstoy inserts himself into the story to impart a moral message of sorts onto the reader. He has gone through similar situations and he has been able to observe similar situations as the ones that take place in The Devil, therefore, he has the right to speak for such behaviors. In The Devil, the main protagonist, Eugène is led to his own destruction through his narcissistic lust for money and women.

Eugène manages to exemplify all that is wrong with high-class society in The Devil. Throughout the novella he consistently shows his narcissistic behavior to the reader. Eugène has an undying love for all that one would consider “less important” in society. Instead of being cared for he chooses lust, instead of caring for others he chooses to care only for himself, so on and so forth. Eugène goes out of his way to please himself and gain the most from any situation. Time and time again, he proves to the reader that society is much too abundant with his type of people. Of course, this is a projection of Tolstoy himself onto the overall character that is Eugène. Tolstoy makes a point to critique his standing in society. As an upperclass citizen himself, he can relate to and express what upperclass society is like. Eugène is the personification of all that is flawed in the upper class. This standing of supposed superiority is what ultimately causes Eugène to feel as if he can get away with anything. In the end, the fact that he subconsciously knows he is superior results in his narcissistic personality and views. Nothing Eugène ever does is for anyone else but himself unless he is ultimately forced to do it. He may sometimes show supposedly “weak” points where he expresses a bout of love for someone, but in the end he only works to serve himself. His sole purpose is to make himself happy at the cost of everybody else. Unfortunately, this leads to his destruction. Eugène destroys himself through his own narcissistic behavior. Because he is unable to have something, he in a way throws a tantrum of sorts by committing suicide at the closing of the novella.

Furthermore, Eugène’s narcissistic behavior is truly highlighted through his quest for constant monetary gratification. His lust for money is made blatantly obvious at the opening of the novella. “He arranged with his brother, with whom he was very friendly, that he would pay him either four thousand rubles a-year, or a lump sum of eighty thousand, for which Andrew would hand over to him his share of the inheritance.” (Tolstoy, 210). Eugène will stop at nothing to earn what he wants. He even exploits and manipulates his own brother, Andrew, his own flesh and blood, someone he is supposedly “very friendly” with. He manages to take an inheritance that belongs to both siblings and make it wholly his own. By buying his brother’s half of the inheritance Eugène is essentially devaluing Andrew’s standing as a son, even as a brother. He is taking something that should be rightfully shared amongst the two men and taking it all for himself because ultimately that is all he wants. He wants everything and anything he comes in contact with for himself, regardless of the fact that it may rightfully belong to someone else. He will set on a course to find what ever loop hole he can to ensure he wholeheartedly can gain whatever he wants. Eugène’s greed creates a battle field of contradicting emotions within himself. Would he rather have money or women? Or how about both? That is the answer. Eugène decides he will take both money and women for his own. He will own all that he can because that is who he is. His upbringing has taught him to have no mercy and evidently created somewhat of a monster.

In addition to his lust for money, Eugène’s lust for women also drives him to the brink of extinction. It is only his narcissism which knocks him off the edge.  His faults are laid right out in front of the reader come the very first page of The Devil as previously referenced above. Eugène’s lust after Stepanída becomes poisonous after possibly only a few moments after encountering her. His greed and narcissism work together with his longing for a female body to finally urge him to have an affair with Stepanída. Undoubtedly, Eugène is not even phased by the fact that Stepanída has a husband. Tolstoy makes another commentary on society here. Showing how a person attracts the same kind of person. Stepanída embodies in women what Eugène embodies for men. They are both foils for each other in that one’s narcissistic ways highlights the other’s. Eugène seemingly does something “selfless” for once by marrying Liza Annenskaya. He is seemingly rid of his sinful lusting after Stepanída and again seemingly realizes that he is in love. He believes he is a happy man. 

This is the one point in Eugène’s life that the reader is able to see weakness in his narcissistic ways. His love for Liza creates a chance for Eugène to take a turn for the better, to begin a new set goal in life than to solely please himself. By letting the reader believe this for only slightly a moment, Tolstoy is able to swoop back in and prove to the reader that society is only ever so perfect for very short bouts at a time. The moment Eugène sees Stepanída for the first time after his marriage, he quickly falls madly in love—with the thought of being able to lust after the woman. Eugène’s destructiveness fully manifests itself when his lust for Stepanída reaches its absolute threshold. His powerful lust for the peasant woman gets to such a point that he contemplates killing his wife and baby, killing Stepanida, or killing himself. These thoughts result from his inability to understand that he can control his lust. Conclusively, he decides to do the unthinkable. His deeply imbedded narcissism leads him to believe that wanting Stepanida is more important than his wife, his daughter, his family. He would rather die than have to sacrifice anything, showing the degree of which his faults controlled him. 

In the end, Eugene’s narcissism takes over him completely. Leaving no room for anything other than his own desires. Responsibilities were of no care to him. Eugene simply wanted to please himself through Stepanida, which he successfully did. In the end of it all Eugene was satisfied which is only exemplified by the fact that he killed himself. By committing suicide he expressed the purest form of narcissistic behavior. He was in control (or rather his narcissism was), he decided when we was going to die, how he was going to die, and most importantly why he was going to die. The basic fact that he took this power into his own hands only shows how much he believed he should be in control of himself and that only his opinion and his decision mattered.  

Additionally, TermTolstoy manages to show the extent to which mankind will go to get what he wants. He almost plainly states to the reader that man holds his own needs above anyone else’s needs. Needs is not referring to biological needs but instead to selfish, manmade needs. Needs such as money, property, entitlement, etc. Eugene, although scared of ending his life, knows that it is the only decision that will make him happy. It is the only decision that will get him what he wants while still leaving others empty handed. “It is something I never thought of ‑ how strange it will be…” (Tolstoy, 248).  Eugene is shown to brush off the fact that he is selfishly taking himself away from all of those that love him. He thinks of the event as any other task one would normally complete throughout the day. He has just simply never done this before, but of course it is normal.  By treating such a dangerous, unusual event as nonchalantly as he does, Tolstoy perfectly accentuates the degree to which Eugene is narcissistic. 

Moreover, Eugene’s voracious attitude ultimately led him to his own destruction. Tolstoy attempts to make a statement with Eugene’s sinful nature and he succeeds. Tolstoy’s mission in The Devil was to warn people, to have humanity be on the look out for its own destruction because one day it will destroy itself as Eugene did. There are many instances throughout the novella where Tolstoy draws inspiration from his own life, but he mostly draws inspiration from society itself. Tolstoy may share a similar backstory to his characters. Both were previously in Crimea, both held considerable standings in society, and both were the exact mold of what society secretly wants you or more likely drives you to be: a self-righteous narcissistic person. Tolstoy realizes this and throughout most of his works also attempts to warn society as he did in The Devil. “In the last decades of his life Tolstoy publicly repudiated his earlier literary career to devote himself to the moral betterment of humankind. He succeeded in becoming the spokesman for a great ethical position and achieved world influence and renown.” (Carden). Tolstoy is finally able to achieve his goal: to warn people of the dangers of society and what society can cause to itself. The animalistic presence inside of every person has the ability to fight for its instincts and survive, whilst working with nature in itself and outside. 

My Pay-Pa: Christina

There is a certain pattern to the dynamics which occur between people, a method which unifies and gives reason to the madness of human existence. It organizes, identifies, and separates individuals into titles, titles that although mean different things, ultimately confine their members to that one absolute thing. This overwhelming power, the cloud of the social universe, is the sometimes unwritten, but openly known, opinion of the majority. Through this opinion, which roams through cities and other concrete habitats like a thick fog, people are trained to obey and to conform into molds created by accepted ideals. In “The Death of Ivan Ilyich”, by Leo Tolstoy, the protagonist, Ivan Ilyich, adapts and imitates the behaviors and decision-making that society has set forth before him. Through his metamorphosis into a socially acceptable slave, Ivan makes decisions with a mental set that often disregards his most natural desires and replaces their weight with what society has shown him to be the path to happiness and success. Ivan Ilyich is a prime example of how society’s expectations and standards cause people to conform in order to satisfy the majority’s wishes.
From early on, Ivan was enticed and subjected to society’s overbearing power. He was “from his earliest years” attracted, “as a fly to the light, to persons of good standing in the world”, and consequently, “assimilated their manners and their views of life”(Tolstoy 87). These few sentences, which arise as the foreboding to Ivan’s unfortunate fate, are reinforced as the story continues. The narrator goes on, “he gave way to sensuality and to vanity”, and in regards to school, “he had committed actions which had struck him beforehand as great vileness… But later on… he was able, not to regard them as good, but to forget about them completely” (Tolstoy 87). All of his initial, most innate beliefs are struck down to nothing more than shadows cast upon the floor. Even before Ivan is a grown, independent man, society manages to disrupt what he naturally believes to be “good” and “bad” and replace them by what society believes to be “necessary” and “unnecessary”. Furthermore, the very next page states that Ivan’s behavior, as well as the behavior of his peers, in the province which he found his initial work (so kindly acquired for him by his father), was not always the most noble of behavior. However, it was all justified by the fact that everything was done “in the highest society, and consequently with the approval of people of rank” (Tolstoy 88). Ivan’s thought processes alter before he even completes his education, as a means to appease and be adored by the general public.
In relation to Ivan’s relationship with his wife, Praskovya Fyodorovna, he married her because it was something society would approve of. The narrator blatantly states, “Ivan Ilyich was influenced by… doing something that was agreeable to himself in securing such a wife, and at the same time doing what persons of higher standing looked upon as the correct thing” (Tolstoy 90). Not surprisingly, the marriage quickly changed from a lighthearted pretend play, to a miserable seventeen years. As the marriage worsened throughout those seventeen years, Ivan began spending less time with his family and more time at work. This cyclic process only worsened his relationship with Praskovya and strained the marriage further. Had he not been so extrinsically motivated to “secure” a wife who held status such as Praskovya, he might have had the chance to legitimately fall in love, regardless of the woman’s social standing. Nevertheless, because the majority suggested that he should have a wife of such merit, and because she so conveniently fell in love with him, he had no better choice than to blissfully settle down.
As a result of society’s influences, Ivan’s character transforms into an unpleasant and coldblooded creature. His egotistical personality rears its ugly head in his workplace more than anywhere. He is described as treating those under his power “almost like comrades”, he took pleasure in the fact that he was “able to annihilate them” but was behaving in a “simple, friendly way with them” (Tolstoy 89). Further, he felt as if “all were in his hands”, but the one thing that motivated him the most to his labor was “the consciousness of [his] power… [it] constituted for him the chief interest and attractiveness of his new position” (Tolstoy 89). Ivan is an insect even in his early adulthood. He represents a true product of society, with the same determination and disregard for others that the general public brutally promotes.
Despite Ivan’s carefully constructed life, he too eventually faces rejection. Predictably, the boy who had many positions of power handed to him, does not handle rejection very well as a man. When he does not get the promotion that he so savagely hungered, he decides that the best course of action is to “revenge himself on them, the people, that is, who had not known how to appreciate him” (Tolstoy 94). Gritty as he is, Ivan succeeds in his revenge. He receives the post that gives him the five thousand in income he desires, but is that the sole satisfaction he seeks? No, as a matter of fact the income of five thousand was a bonus to the fact that “all those who had been his enemies had been put to shame, and where cringing now… how envious they were of his appointment…” (Tolstoy 95). Ivan is twisted into the crooked mold that society set for him, so much so, that he finds more satisfaction in the ruin of others, than in his own success. Having power is no longer an option, but a necessity. And the power itself is little reward without the annihilation of others.
Ivan’s lifestyle eventually becomes one of the contributing factors to his death. As the end of his life approaches he becomes depressed and outraged, reactions more suitable for a man who did not live life in its fullest nature, and rather, lead life as someone else directed. In his health Ivan had become accustomed to the undivided attention of others, but when the doctors who visit him begin to act apathetic, he is “morbidly [aroused]” with a “great feeling of pity for himself, [and] of great anger against his doctor who could be unconcerned about a matter of such importance” (Tolstoy 102). Even though he dying, Ivan is still preoccupied with the fact that the doctors, instead of waiting on him hand and foot, examining every possibility, have dismissed him as having some obscure sickness which cannot be helped by excess medical attention. The lack of attention in itself is enough to upset Ivan because, as has been taught, important people receive the best attention, whether it be medical or not, and if he is not the upmost priority, then he is no longer a needed pawn in society.
In addition to his desire for attention, there are signs that his illness is a product of conversion disorder, in which he transfers psychological pain into physical ailments. One of the two underlining psychological reasons which suggest that his pain is not legitimate is the fact that he shows signs of a narcissistic personality disorder, extreme love for oneself. Upon discovering his illness, Ivan, who had never once shown any sort of extraordinary concern for his health or habits, begins to act as a sever hypochondriac. Once he received the doctor’s orders his “principle occupation became the exact observance of the doctor’s prescriptions” (Tolstoy 103). Not only did Ivan become obsessed with his sickness, but also began to derive some pleasure from the ordeal. The narrator states “When anything was said in his presence about sick people… he listened, trying to conceal his excitement, asked questions, and applied what he heard to his own trouble” (Tolstoy 103). In addition to the surfacing narcissism, Ivan also suffers from severe depression. After his diagnosis everything appeared “dismal” to him (Tolstoy 102). And as much as he tried to make himself better, “as soon as he had a mischance, some unpleasant words with his wife, a failure in his official work… he was at once acutely sensible of his illness” (Tolstoy 103). If Ivan’s illness was completely, or primarily, a physical issue, he would not be so sensitive to every emotional turn. Between the sudden onset of excessive self-preservation, and the hypersensitivity to emotional spills, Ivan’s suffering is brought on from a more psychological stand point in comparison to a physical one.
Ivan is highly susceptible to society’s influence and never once dares to stray from the beaten path. Lying on his death bed he begins to reflect about the life he has had and contemplates the fate he now faces. Upon his deathbed he states, “It cannot be that all men always have been doomed to this awful horror!” (Tolstoy 109). Ivan, who lies dying in a bed, cannot understand how death could possibly ever take him. He goes on to state that for others, who are mortal, “it [is] right for [them] to die”, but that for himself “it’s a different matter” because if he were to die “[it] would be too awful” (Tolstoy 110). Ivan spends his entire life viewing himself and the world through the clouded looking-glass forced upon him by the masses. The appalling truth of his existence is unbearable for him to accept and he continues his delusion until the very moment when death takes him. Ultimately, even the great Ivan Ilyich is nothing more than a corpse.
The impositions that society creates and inflicts on its members are not restricted to works of literary fiction. There are an immense amount of current-day ‘rules’ that the members of the socially fit must abide by on an every hour basis. For example, a college education is now an absolute necessity to become successful; similarly, professionals are expected to be “politically correct” with every word that slips of their silver tongues. Even children and young adults regularly suffer the consequences of trying to appropriate themselves into what the general public believes correct. These limitations hinder what could be an intellectually and emotionally diverse generation. Every minute human kind makes trillions of decisions, roughly all of those decisions are in some way altered or affected by what the ‘group’ thinks. As long as this process continues to survive through the decades, people will continue to be birthed and raised as just a variation of the previous generation. For some, this might be an acceptable fate, for others, such as Ivan, it is their ultimate demise.

Final Term Paper

Better known for his long novels (War and Peace and Anna Karenina), Tolstoy ultimately has a change of heart in terms of the focus of his writings. After having written these two novels, Tolstoy decides to focus his later works on society’s lower class. Furthermore, Tolstoy concentrates on incorporating Christian themes as well as including material that deals with the 1860s emancipation of the serfs. Eventually, Tolstoy discredits his two most famous novels and claims that it is not true of reality. Leo Tolstoy uses the interactions of his characters to express his views on greed and societal roles. Although the characters in Tolstoy’s “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” and “How Much Land Does a Man Need” view greed as a way of attaining material possessions (and thus happiness), Tolstoy argues that greed in fact causes misery. Further, he expresses that the lower class is not treated properly and the upper class is a contributing factor to the subjugation of the lower class.

Greed is “a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (as money or materials) than is needed” (Webster). Since the day ‘man’ was placed on this earth, he has been greedy. For example, when Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge, they knew it was forbidden to do so; however they went ahead and ate the fruit anyway. It is evident that humans are inherently greedy; they are constantly jealous of others and frequently attempt to seek material possessions because they think it will make them happier. Ultimately, this is not the case because human beings cannot be happy without having meaningful relationships. The accumulation of material items are not enough to lead to emotional fulfillment.

From the beginning of the Leo Tolstoy’s “The Death of Ivan Ilych,” after discovering news about the death of Ivan, his friends and family are mostly concerned with what valuables they can acquire from his death. Even Ivan’s own wife, Praskovya, who should be grieving the death of her husband, is mostly preoccupied with the amount of money she can get from the government as a result of Ivan’s death. This obsession with greed is what ultimately prevents the characters in the story from having genuine relationships. This results in a life of emptiness and unhappiness. The irony in the previous statement is that greedy people seek validation from others to justify their actions.  Therefore, it is pivotal for humans to engage in interaction with other people in order to experience some kind of spiritual connection. Nearly every character is blinded by money and power and as a result they do not see that there is more to life than being rich and successful. Although it may not seem this way, positive relationships are more fulfilling than financial success.

Tolstoy’s “How Much Land Does a Man Need” is the ideal story which shows how greed easily overcomes people. While reading the story, the reader learns that one can only push themselves so far to attain their goal. Tolstoy shows his view that people should understand their limits. Pahom, the protagonist is a prime example of how greed leads to no good. This man spends a great amount of time earning and saving money to buy land. However, Pahom tries to take a shortcut. Instead of using his hard earned money to buy land, he decides to make a deal with a man in the country. The land owner and Pahom agree that Pahom can have as much land as he is able to cover on foot from sunrise to sunset.

Pahóm walked on and on; it was very hard walking, but he went quicker and quicker. He pressed on, but was still far from the place. He began running, threw away his coat, his boots, his flask, and his cap, and kept only the spade which he used as a support (Tolstoy,162).

 

Despite Pahom’s endeavors of returning to where he started and acquiring all this land, Pahom’s servant found Pahom dead with blood flowing from his mouth. As a result of his greed; Pahom is not able to enjoy all the land he has worked so hard to acquire. Ironically, the land owner notes that Pahom only needed six feet of land, symbolizing the size of the grave for the casket.

In “How Much Land Does a Man Need,” Tolstoy proves that greed does not only affect relationships and prevent one from experiencing happiness, but also affects one physically. When a person becomes obsessed with constantly seeking more and more material items, they ultimately add a great deal of stress to themselves. Like Pahom, once a person wants more possessions it becomes an endless cycle because there is no limit as to how much you can have. The person will keep pushing and pushing to have more which ultimately causes physical damage to one’s body. The question Tolstoy makes the reader ask themselves is “When will you be satisfied?” In Pahom’s case, how much land is enough? Something even more important to consider is when will greed provide one with satisfaction if there are no limits?

“How Much Land Does a Man Need” references ‘The Emancipation of the Serfs’ during the mid 1800s in Russia. During this time, serfs were treated inhumanely on a daily basis. In 1861, legislation passed which stated that the serfs were emancipated, but they were not to receive land, which is what they had been seeking all along. However, if a serf wanted to obtain land, they would have to pay to get a small plot of land. Ultimately, freeing the serfs did not prove as effective as all the serfs thought it would be because they were so poor that they could not afford to purchase property. Man again shows greed and does not think that the lower class of society should have the right to own anything valuable. Ultimately, this results in even more land for the bourgeoisie as a result of the serfs not being able to afford to purchase land (Eichler).

According to Tolstoy, the serfs should not be subjugated to this inhumane treatment, it is simply not right. Tolstoy was an adamant believer in freeing the serfs. This is evidenced by when he opens a school for the peasants, who were enslaved as serfs, on his family estate. Unlike the Russian government, Tolstoy believed in allowing the serfs to have the freedom to choose what they want to read in school. Furthermore, Tolstoy believes “the upper classes had as much to learn from peasants as peasants had to learn from the upper classes” (“Leo Tolstoy”). It is a two way street and either class would not be able to exist without the other; that is what makes society so unique and incredible. Typically, the life of the upper class is much easier because they are born into wealth. However, the bourgeoisie need to learn that everything does not need to be handed to them in a silver platter; they too like the serfs should have to work hard to make a living.

In the “Death of Ivan Ilych,” it is made clear that Ivan only marries Praskovya because it is considered ‘the right thing to do.’ As a man belonging to the upper class of society, Ivan has certain obligations to fulfill, particularly establishing a respectable image of himself. Ivan holds no affection for Praskovya when he marries her. His desire to succumb to society’s expectations supersedes his desire to establish a relationship based on love. After Praskovya falls in love with Ivan, Ivan asks himself…

After all why not get married? Praskovya Fyodorovna, was of good family, nice looking. There was a little bit of property. Ivan Ilyich might have reckoned on a more brilliant match, but this was a good match. Ivan Ilyich had his salary; she, he hoped, would have as much of her own. It was a good family; she was a sweet, pretty, and perfectly comme il faut young woman… He was doing what was agreeable to himself in securing such a wife, and at the same time doing what persons of higher standing looked upon as the correct thing. And Ivan Ilyich got married. (Tolstoy, 90).

 

This example further evidences Tolstoy’s views of societal standards. Ilyich, instead of taking into account what he liked about Praskovya, in an emotional sense, tried to calculate his marriage. It is as if he went on with this marriage as a laundry list.  Ivan needs to get on the right foot and please his superiors; hopefully it will allow for connections when trying to climb the job ladder. Ivan has strategically chosen to settle with Praskovya which was an excellent decision. His superiors will not view him as a single bachelor who was unwilling to make a commitment. Men only wanted to be respected in society. Therefore, society is more patriarchal in nature and this is evidenced when Ivan chooses to marry his wife.

In Russia, societal standards dictate that men are to work and provide for the family while women are supposed to bear children, raise the children, and tend to the needs of the house. Throughout the story, Ivan does everything in his ability to assure the financial security of his family. For example, he was not being paid enough at the one job he works at so he took the initiative to find another one. Ivan will not let anything hold him back and his unrelenting drive to succeed is something that should be admired by others. Furthermore, Ivan, unlike many other working men belonging to his social class, has the ability to separate his personal life from his work life. In order to keep up with the societal norms, Ivan and Praskovya host dinners for other members belonging to the bourgeoisie. Society dictates the dividing lines between the upper and lower class. Tolstoy’s view of the lower class being continuously subjugated by members belonging to the bourgeoisie and the upper class having that strong sense of entitlement still hold strong.

Men and women each have their respective role in society. Tolstoy argues that a woman in the position of Praskovya should be tending to her husband. There is no secret, Ivan and Praskovya’s relationship is quite strained; however Praskovya needs to uphold her responsibilities that she committed to upon getting married. She needs to particularly stick to these responsibilities because as a member of the upper class, it would be inappropriate for the two to get a divorce. This was unheard of at the time; once a couple got married they stayed this way unless one died.

In the case of Ivan and Praskovya, she wishes that Ivan would simply die so that she could continue to receive money. She can no longer stand living with someone who acts depressed every day. Regardless of how strained their relationship is, Praskovya is still married to Ivan and she should act in a manner appropriate for a wife. She should be by Ivan’s side in this tumultuous time. She needs to understand that this is a difficult time for Ivan and that he is not coming to terms with his mortality.

Tolstoy’s “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” and “How Much Land Does a Man Need” are two of his famous short stories that focus on the concept of greed. Tolstoy argues that seeking material possessions and pushing oneself beyond their limits to acquire a material item all contribute to the conclusion that greed causes misery. Furthermore, Tolstoy vividly describes societal standards and the separation gap this is occurring between the lower and upper classes. Aside from the fact that Tolstoy had nearly two hundred serfs on his estate, he treated them compassionately and with care. The short stories Tolstoy produced after his famous novels (War and Peace and Anna Karenina) effectively demonstrate his current views on society and greed.

 

-Alexis

 

 

 

 

Term Paper Continued…

Here is my updated paper. I still have a lot of editing to do and some ideas to change, but what do you guys think?

Tolstoy’s “How Much Land Does a Man Need” is the perfect story which shows how greed easily overcomes people. By reading the story, the reader learns that one can only push themselves so far for something. Everything in life needs to be done with good taste, meaning one has to know their limits. Pahom, the protagonist is a prime example of how greed leads to no good. This man spent a great amount of time earning and saving money to buy land. However, Pahom tries to take a shortcut, as a result of being so greedy; he is not able to enjoy all the land he has worked so hard to acquire. Ironically, Pahom was only given six feet of land, in which he was buried.

This story references ‘The Emancipation of the Serfs’ during the mid 1800s in Russia. During this time, serfs were treated inhumanely on a daily basis. In 1861, legislation passed which stated that the serfs were emancipated, but they were not to receive land, which is what they had been seeking all along. However, if a serf wanted to obtain land they would have to pay to get a small plot of land. Ultimately, freeing the serfs did not prove as effective as all the serfs thought it would be because they were so poor that they could not afford to buy the land. The serfs deserve to have more respect and should not be treated as if they were not human beings. They most likely have worked harder than the people who belong to the bourgeoisie. Typically, the life of the upper class is much easier because they are born into it. However, these people need to learn that everything does not need to be handed to them in a silver platter.

After having read Tolstoy’s story “How Much Land Does a Man Need,” it is evident that he was influenced by The Emancipation of the Serfs and this was referenced in his work. Like Pahom, the serfs wanted land and they would do anything they could to obtain property; however they would not realize that this could in fact lead one to death.  At the time, society thought that serfs should be treated inhumanely and not been granted what they sought after. Man again shows greed and does not think that the lower class of society should have the right to own anything valuable. Ultimately, this results in even more land for the bourgeoisie as a result of the serfs not being able to afford to purchase land.

Alexis

Term Paper

Thesis: Leo Tolstoy uses the interactions of his characters to express his views on greed and societal roles. Although the characters in Tolstoy’s view greed as a way of attaining material possessions, and thus happiness, Tolstoy argues that greed instead causes misery. Further, he expresses that the lower classes… and the upper class….

Outline:

Intro-include thesis here

Paragraph 1: definition of greed, establish that all people are greedy.

Paragraph 2: example of woman getting married for money and thus sacrificing a relationship based on love

Paragraph 3: example of man who wants land, gets too much, and dies

Paragraph 4: express the societal roles in context to the time period in russia

Paragraph 5: Ivan decides to marry his wife because of societal standards not because he loves her.

Paragraph 6: example 2

Paragraph 7: link this to Emancipation of Serfs

Conclusion

Greed is “a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (as money or materials) than is needed.” Since the day ‘man’ was placed on this earth, he has acted greedy. For example, when Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge, they knew it was forbidden to do so; however they went ahead and did it anyways. It is evident that humans are inherently greedy; they are constantly jealous of others and are seeking possessions because they think it will make them happier, when ultimately it will not.

From the beginning of the Leo Tolstoy “The Death of Ivan Ilych,” after hearing news about the death of Ivan, his friends and family were mostly concerned with what valuables they could get from his death. Even Ivan’s own wife, Praskovya, who should be grieving the death of her husband, is mostly preoccupied with the amount of money she can get from the government as a result of Ivan’s death. Man is greedy and constantly thinking that “I am the most important person in this room.” Unfortunately, the people who attended Ivan’s funeral are not concerned about his death or paying condolences to his family, but rather acting in a manner that would benefit themselves the most. This obsession with greed is what ultimately prevents the characters from the story to have relationships. Everyone in the story is blinded by money and power and do not see that there is more to life than being rich and successful.

Tolstoy’s “How Much Land Does a Man Need” is the perfect story which shows how greed easily overcomes people. By reading the story, the reader learns that one can only push themselves so far for something…

 

Alexis

Please LOOK Freaks: I Have A Legitimate Question:)

Hay fellow bloggers! So as I continue my journey in writing this paper I find myself with too many questions. I figured you guys would like to SEE what I have been so devotedly up to so here it is:

From early on, Ivan was enticed and subjected to society’s overbearing power. He was “from his earliest years” attracted, “as a fly to the light, to persons of good standing in the world”, and consequently, “assimilated their manners and their views of life”(pg.87). These few sentences, which arise as the foreboding to Ivan’s unfortunate fate, are reinforced as the story continues. The narrator goes on, “he gave way to sensuality and to vanity”, and in regards to school, “he had committed actions which had struck him beforehand as great vileness… But later on… he was able, not to regard them as good, but to forget about them completely” (pg.87). All of his initial, most innate beliefs are struck down to nothing more than shadows cast upon the floor. Even before Ivan is a grown, independent man, society manages to disrupt what he naturally believes to be “good” and “bad” and replace them by what society believes to be “necessary” and “unnecessary”. Furthermore, the very next page states that Ivan’s behavior, as well as the behavior of his peers, in the province which he found his initial work (so kindly acquired for him by his father), was not always the most noble of behavior. However, it was all justified by the fact that everything was done “in the highest society, and consequently with the approval of people of rank” (pg.88). Ivan’s thought processes alter before he even completes his education, as a means to appease and be adored by the general public.

*My question is: does Mr. Shapiro want us citing straight from the source? I am having a hard time avoiding it in this paragraph (as you can probably tell). It’s just so hard to keep from shoving this down the reader’s throat because it is so obvious!!! I feel like I need to hammer my point so that it gets validity. -__-* All these years we wasted learning how to write the wrong way… Tisk, tisk.

-Christina

My Pay-Per

My Thesis: Ivan Ilyich is a prime example of how society’s expectations and norms shape people into… [Dear fellow bloggers, I need your assistance. Originally my final word(s) were “preset molds” to finish off my thesis statement. However, I was advised to devise a better word(s)/ phrase to describe what it is that I am trying to communicate. I want the reader to get the idea that society wants us to follow in the paths that have already been beaten (a concept much better described with long, wordy sentences). I am at a loss, or more so, an inability to put that into one word. Any suggestions?]

Here is My Idea: Talk about his decisions when it comes to his path in life, his decisions with love, and his ultimate resolve. Then, compare his decisions to common-day examples of decisions that parallel his behaviors and thought processes (for example, going to college, instead of running off into the wild to live with wolves and trying to find ourselves in the beauty of nature). Then sum up how society changes our thought patterns to fit something the majority approves of. [Do you guys think that this is an appropriate way to end my paper? Just my concluding thought… or is there some ultimate resolve I should try to reach? Some final suggestion for the better of all mankind?]

My Intro: There is a certain pattern to the dynamics which occur between people, a method which unifies and gives reason to the madness of human existence. It organizes, identifies, and separates individuals into titles, titles that although mean different things, ultimately confine their members to that one absolute thing. This overwhelming power, the cloud of the social universe, is the sometimes unwritten, but openly known, opinion of the majority. Through this opinion, which roams through cities and other concrete habitats like a thick fog, people are trained to obey and conform to preset molds created by accepted ideals. In “The Death of Ivan Ilyich”, the protagonist, Ivan Ilyich, adapts and imitates the behaviors and decision-making that society has set forth before him. Through his metamorphosis into a socially acceptable slave, Ivan makes decisions with a mental set that often disregards his most natural desires and replaces their weight with what society has shown him to be the path to happiness and success. Ivan Ilyich is a prime example of how society’s expectations and norms shape people into preset molds.
***Oh, I almost forgot… Am I supposed to include Tolstoy’s history in this? Any ideas?
-Christina

Narcissism in The Death of Ivan Ilyich and The Devil

So I know it’s a pretty obvious theme throughout The Death of Ivan Ilyich but there’s no help but noticing it. Ivan is pretty much the definition of a narcissist. Of course, all he cares about is himself and whether he is happy or whether he is enjoying himself. He concentrates on what will make him succeed and what will put him in a superior position to other people. 

We see the downfall of this character throughout the story and how his narcissism leads to his own destruction. Although he has an unidentified fatale disease, he could have lived his life more fully and died at peace rather than destroying what was left of his own existence with his obsessive thoughts on being better than everyone.

This is seen throughout Tolstoy’s works, as Eugene in The Devil also leads himself to his own destruction. This time through greed and again narcissism as greed can be a form of narcissism. Eugene is led to his demise because he neglects the fact that Stepanida is only getting with him for the fact that he has money. So in turn his lust for having his father’s money and finally taking it turns into Stepanida’s own greed for his money. Stepanida’s own desire for his money leads Eugene to believe that she is actually in love with him. Which if you read the end of the story and I hope you gals did finish it because well…uh spoiler alert…Eugene kills himself. The innocent lust for money eventually ends in his suicide.

Tolstoy tries to make a point throughout a lot of his works that having a high political or social position is not important. In fact it may often be detrimental to oneself.

Ivan, before his death, was a highly regarded court justice. 
Eugene inherited a large sum of money.

Both had “power” and both lost power. What caused them to have this so called power eventually led to their ultimate demise. This is exactly what Tolstoy is getting at. He is trying to convey to the reader that often times being of high stature is actually a hindrance. 

In the end the aspect that made them so worthy, that gave them a place in the world, destroyed them.

So anyway the two theses I’m stuck on at the moment are:
1. In The Death of Ivan Ilyich, the titular character leads himself into his own destruction through the use of his own narcissism and sense of self importance.

2. In The Devil, Eugene is led to his own downfall through his lust for money and women.

Christina: Thesis

Okay guys, so I have decided to sit down and decide on my final thesis for my paper. We discussed a ton of topics concerning Ivan Illyich and I decided that I want my paper to be focused on that story, because there really is a whole bunch to write about. So for my thesis I was thinking to talk about how Ivan is the prime example of how people try to live up to the standards of society and their peers and of their own accord despite the fact that it may not truly be in their best interest. Kind of how we want to get into that big-name school when in reality there are a thousand great schools to chose from. So where I am running into trouble is the wording and how I am going to take this and run with it. Heres my ideas so far:

Thesis: Ivan Ilyich is a prime example of how society’s expectations and norms shape people into preset molds.

Running with it: Talk about his decisions when it comes to his path in life, his decisions with love, and his ultimate resolve. Then, compare his decisions to common-day decisions that parallel his behaviors and thought processes. Then sum up how society changes our thought patterns to fit something the majority approves of.

Any suggestions?
Thanks,
Christina

Term Paper

I hope you guys have though up some decent themes for the paper.

Keep in mind we read 2 stories and part of War and Peace so we can definitely use all that information. 

I was thinking maybe each of us should have themes relating Tolstoy as a writer and not just get stuck in only one story.

Remember our theses/topics are due next week so get to brainstorming. Good Luck!

- Nelson

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