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

Mother Knows Best

Ultimately I think Eugene’s mother is going to come out as the winner in this situation. But will she have the ultimate power? I don’t think so. Eugene in the end will fulfill what he wants to fulfill to make himself happy. He wants to be with the streetwalker.

His mom will have power in the sense of pushing him towards this, but in the end he wants this.

– Nelson


Food For Thought

Christina’s Question: Is sex what Eugene really wants, the physical desire and hunger for it, or is it something more than animalistic instinct?

I would have to agree that Eugene is falling in love with her. As a result of him falling in love, I believe that he is blind to certain things. For example, If they really shared a loving relationship then why does Stepanida get joy of others envying her for her money. If she was so in love she would not want to flaunt this money to people, but make others envious of her by showing off her “caring/charming” companion. But i guess since she is a prostitute this is a once in a life time opportunity for her. For her sake, she is lucky that Eugene is blinded by love and that he makes decisions that in the end are not particularly best for himself in the long run. Maybe he is just so deeply in love that he showers her with expensive things to show his caring for her. So he is also harming himself in a financial sense.

– Alexis


Christina I agree with what your saying regarding Stepanida and envy. But I cannot help but think that Stepanida wants to be envied by the other people in town, particularly men, for being wealthy because by other being envious of her she feels power over them. I think she has control/power issues and she is simply using Eugene to facilitate this. And at the time who wouldn’t want to live an easy comfortable life, especially as a women. Like I mentioned earlier women were treated as objects and served men 3 purposes to have sex, cook/clean, and bear children. I think there relationship will be extremely short lived because they do not share any commonalities. they are getting married for all the wrong reasons.

– Alexis

Monster-In-Law Continued

I could not help but picture what is going on with Eugene’s mom to be out of the stereotypical soap operas. In this case Eugene’s mom puts on that fake front about caring about her son and his well-being in life yet in the end she only cares about herself and like Christina said, her financial securities. Selfish much? I think so. Again I agree with you Christina that Eugene is going to be facing a real issue settling down especially since we know how women were treated and looked upon during those times. I can only imagine how the rest of the book is going to unravel. Who will have the ultimate power? Eugene or his mom?

– Alexis

What? EUGENE is evolving!

I never thought I would see this coming. Knowing Tolstoy, I thought Eugene would stay a womanizing fellow and everyone and everything in this story would be horrible. Everyone would be stereotypically selfish, envious, jealous. BUT wait what’s this Eugene is evolving? There’s character evolution? What is this?!

Although I did predict in some of the comments that Eugene would eventually end up in a relationship, I never though it would be under his own accord. I know, I know he isn’t anywhere close to being in a healthy relationship with Stepanida BUT I see him falling in love. He refuses to rendezvous with other women. He’s definitely falling for her. I never suspected that we would see this man (especially a man modeled by Tolstoy) experience actual human emotions. I’m proud Tolstoy!

– Nelson

Side Note

Here’s a question for us to discuss and hopefully decipher the answer to…

Is sex what Eugene really wants, the physical desire and hunger for it, or is it something more than animalistic instinct?

I know this is super cliche, so please, forgive me in advance… Relationships between people are not simply physical; there is always something more to it, etc. etc. Take for instance the movie “Friends with Benefits”, just in case you’re not following me. Do you guys think this holds true in this case?

My answer: Yes. I think he is falling in love with her. And hold on, ding ding ding, shall I incorporate some Dostoyevsky in this? I think so; he is making decisions that are harmful to himself. He is falling for a woman that is, in essence, a prostitute and he refuses to acknowledge it. Not only that, he is providing her with such a sufficient amount of additional income that the entire town is noticing! Um, self-harming, check; illogical, check.

– Christina

Out with the…new in with the Old?

Okay, remember when I said I liked where Tolstoy was going. Well I’m pretty sure I was wrong. I find that Women are simply becoming objects once again in the reading. Eugene’s mother just wants him to marry so she can have cash flow. Eugene just wants to get with every woman and her mother. I do not see this heading in the way I was hoping. At least women are being sexist toward themselves or actually perhaps we’re seeing men as being objects this time around. Okay wait I like where I’m going with this.

Eugene’s mother is just using him as a pawn to get what she wants. She wants him to get married so she can be better off. That doesn’t sound like objectifying women. It sounds like objectifying men. I like where this is going!

– Nelson


Another character is introduced as the story continues, Eugene’s mom is now in the picture, and something tells me she is going to stir up trouble.

Accustomed to her superfluous lifestyle, Mary Pavlovna (Eugene’s mama), blissfully continues her pleasant little existence on the back of Eugene. Seemingly unaware of her son’s financial turmoil at the moment, Mary “[sacrifices] herself for her son and do all a mother could do, by not complaining…” (pg.216). Furthermore, not only is she naive about the difficulties her son is undergoing, but she wants him to tie the knot as to secure his, and her own, financial security. Am I the only one that foresees an issue? Mr. Mess-Around is going to have a hard time settling down.

Here comes another topic, familiar relationships. Can not wait to see where Tolstoy takes this one.

– Christina

Another Deadly Sin: Envy

Well I will bite my tongue. Turns out he is going to run into problems before he even gets married!

His promiscuous little lover, Stepanida, seems to have taken a piece of Eugene’s heart. She is unavailable one day for their regular rendezvous and when Daniel offers Eugene another woman he “refused with disgust” (pg.217). Oh and his little sugar-mama loves to be envied. Actually, “It seemed to her that if people envied her, then what she was doing was good” (pg.218). Eugene’s cash flow made her someone to hate around town, and she enjoyed it. Sounds like the makings of a successful relationship if you ask me.

– Christina


I’m actually not totally disappointed with Tolstoy at this point. I like the juxtaposition that you just mentioned Alexis and it brings about some thoughts. Perhaps Tolstoy can achieve some deeper thought with his stories as apposed to just saying people are bad. People are complex creatures. They want one thing but they go for another. I think Tolstoy’s experimentation with the human psyche is done pretty well here. Either that or I could be completely off and over analyzing it. Over all though I do prefer the writer I’m seeing now then the one I was seeing before.

– Nelson

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