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.