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

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….


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


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…




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