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

Archive for the category “War and Peace”

Take a Look at This


Heres an interesting video I found its short, but I really think it will give you a persepctive on Tolstoy and the time period he wrote the book in (late 1800s)


– Alexis



Hey guys, don’t forget to check the comments sections for replies to posts and what not.

– Nelson

Shift in Focus

Seeing as you guys have found quite a bit on Tolstoy already, I figured I would be brief on his information and focus on some of the short stories we should supplement our new book with.

So Tolstoy was born into a noble family and lost his parents at a young age. By the time he was an adult his family’s fortune was lacking. He was obviously successful reagardless. Besides the fame he received for his two longest novels, “War and Peace” and “Anna Karenina”, (Sorry I don’t know how to italicize using this thing) he became well known as a teacher of both morals and religion. It is said that Martin Luther King Jr. and Ghandi acquired some of their inspiration for nonviolence from him.

Anyways, some of his short stories include “There Are No Guilty People”, “How Much Land Does A Man Need?”, and “A Spark Neglected Burns The House”, all of which sound like they would be great reads. Maybe I am judging a story by its title but they seem as if they could be inspiring for a research paper. Let me know what you guys think.

– Christina


Tolstoy’s language is both scholarly and eloquent. He shows that his repeated encounters with death have not affected him in the long run. Instead of writing somberly, he writes objectively and keeps an open mind about his writing.

To have gone through so much loss and such a tumultuous childhood, Tolstoy is remarkably calm and collected.

Tolstoy’s two largest accomplishments, War and Peace and Anna Karenina are primarily focussed on something close to Tolstoy, royalty. Tolstoy was born in Yasnaya Polyana, his family’s estate. The Tolstoy family was a prestigious, well-known family headed by Count Nikolai Ilyich Tolstoy.

Again I note that it is strange that the many deaths he has experienced have not affected him. What are your thoughts on this?

– Nelson

The Bear

ALEXIS: In chapter 7, I was confused with the whole scene regarding Pierre taking part in tying a bear to a policeman. Any one have any thought or ideas on that?

Hey Alexis,

I am not 100% sure about the whole policeman and bear thing but I did find some interesting points. Firstly, on page 13, Pierre is referred to as a “bear”. Also, continued on page 13 the conversation between the old lady and Prince Vassily brings up the Imperial Guard and the futileness of protesting to the Emperor. So, maybe the discussion in chapter 7 is an abstract reference to the discourse occurring in page 13 and the pages that follow.

Hope this helps!

– Christina

Part 1

I found it interesting that in the very first paragraph of the novel, Tolstoy already dives into discussing the concept of war. I feel that most authors typically do not reveal the main theme at the very beginning of the story. In addition, I like how Tolstoy’s language is scholarly, but it is still understandable to read. In the beginning of part 1 the reader is introduced to Anna Pavlovna Scherer and she is just one of the people who constaintly keeps alluding to war. She first describes the threats that Napolean faces to bring Russia then she goes on to ask Prince Andrei if he has enlisted. Furthermore, the reader can also see the gender roles that both men and women have in the novel. For example,  Prince Andrei warns him against marrying as he feels as though he has lost his freedom. He then goes on to criticize women. Being that it is 1805, this is obviously common place for men to be critizing women as opposed to todays day and age. After having discussed war, Tolstoy then has Pierre launch into the discussion of peace. Pierre voices approval of the French Revolution. After the soiree, Pierre and Andrew discuss the idea of perpetual peace which was brought to their attention by one of Anna’s guests. Pierre believes in peace, but he thinks that peace should be spiritual rather than political.
In chapter 7, I was confused with the whole scene regarding Pierre taking part in tying a bear to a policeman. Anyone have any thought or ideas on that?

I also found the different culutral differences to be quite interesting. For instance, the Rostov mother and youngest daughter are celebrating their name day (the feast day of the Christian saint after whom the women are named). This just further demonstrates how these women are religious and enjoy spiritual festivities. The reader also learns that  Nicholas is joining the army because of his own desire. As one continues to read we learn that there is tension in the air between Vasili Kuragin,the current heir to the Bezukhov fortune, and Anna Mikhaylovna. Vasili fears that Anna Mikhaylovna will be a rival fortune-seeker. This foreshadows that their relationship will be broken after  the hostility they have for each other. However, the count passes away and Pierre becomes the heir to his fathers fortunes. Therefore, the tension between Vasilli and Anna will ease because to their dismay they are not an heir to the money.

All the information i described takes you roughly through chapter 14 part 1 on the novel.

– Alexis

Part 1, Ch. 1

So after reading a bit, I have to say the use of French language is extremely confusing. It becomes a major nuisance having to check the definition of these words repeatedly. On the other hand, this may sound odd but I love all their names, Pavlovna especially.

The first chapter begins with Pavlovna’s introduction. Pavlovna lives in Saint Petersburg and seems to have a love of throwing parties and engaging in contact with the upper class crowds. She’s close with the Empress of Russia and has a number of princes attending her party.

Pavlovna speaks with Prince Vassily about setting his son up with some nobel women.

– Nelson


After having read the introduction, I think there are certain key components that we have to keep in mind when reading the book. To start off with we see that Tolstoy grew up with no parents. “Leo displays the keen awareness of death that will haunt him throughout his life” (pg xi) I think this quote will really set the mood for the rest of the novel. Maybe this foreshadows that out of the five families struggling for survival they will be surrounded by death of their close ones just like Tolstoy. We also learn that War and Peace is written in  installments. I agree with Christina it is incredibly confusing to begin treading this novel and already be introduced to numerous characters. However, like you said I am just thankful for the character page list. Within the first chapter we are already introduced to the fact that war played a pivotal role in the novel. Just in the first chapter war dominates the conversations at the party. I also got the sense that Anna Pavlovna is one of those domineering people who likes to be in charge. We also know that she hosts a lot of parties and she is not found of Napoleon (she calls him the antichrist). We know that she is religious especially since she refers to Napoleon as the antichrist.  She talks a lot, but she does try to be helpful. For example she suggests that getting the younger one (of Prince Vassily’s kids) married to the youngest Bolkonsky daughter. Those are just some of the ideas I have come across thus far. Hopefully the book will get less confusing as we read and finally know who each character is and their relationship with one another.

– Alexis

Pierre and Prince Andrey

Some notes for later:

During the soiree a comparison is made between Princess Ellen Vassilyevna Kuragin (Helen; Elena) and her brother Prince Ippolit Vassilvitch Kuragin (Hippolyte). Page 10-11 describe how Ellen is strikingly beautiful and how her brother is just as equally atrocious. For some reason Anna Pavlovna is upset about Pierre and the abbe “talking too eagerly and naturally” over a political conversation. She also refers to Pierre as “the italian” in a derogatory tone. Prince Andrey Bolkonsky, the husband of “the little princess” seems to dislike the guests at the party, even his wife appears to “bore” him, and has enlisted in the army. Comments about being seen in “this society” are reoccurring.
Putting the pieces together:

Pierre, who lacks respect and “nobility” due to his illegitimate birth and Italian heritage, is best friends with Prince Andrey, the highly regarded husband of Princess Ellen. Pierre is an honest man, who is unafraid to think against the beliefs of society. He is a believer in that Napoleon Bonaparte is a fine leader and respectable man, while others, like Anna Pavlovna, strongly disagree. Prince Andrey seems to only have caring and warm emotions for Pierre (he dislikes his own wife). In addition, Andrey dislikes the society which he is apart of, the nobility, and is looking forward to his enlistment in the war as a means of escaping the shallow existence of the upper class. Coincidentally his wife, Ellen, could not be happier as a member of that upper-class society, and is in essence, the epitome of it.

– Christina

Broke the Ice

Alright so the first few pages of this book are already packed with a ton of information. I have to admit, it is pretty difficult to follow seeing as Anna Pavlobna Scherer (a.k.a. Annette Scherer), Prince Vassily, Abbe Morio, Baron Funke, the Empress Marya Fyodorovna, Ippolit, Anatole, Princess Bolkonsky, Prince Bolkonsky, and Liza Meinen are all characters introduced in literally the first six pages. Figuring out who is who and who does what is a complicated thing to attempt. (Luckily, on page XXXV, there is a character list with brief -very brief- explanations of the characters.)

Anyways, so the plot opens up in Russia, and from research (back of the book), it is during the time of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. The story follows the lives of five different families (who are kindly separated in that character list I mentioned earlier).

Thats all I have to say for now, let me know when you guys decipher more of the book.

– Christina

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