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

Archive for the tag “Christina”

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



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

Its Raining… Women.

While “The Devil” does contain a death, it very quickly gravitates to the ever-present issue of women, a.k.a. sex. So, bringing in from my previous knowledge of religion, and the fact that the story is titled “The Devil”, I am assuming that Eugene is going to find himself dancing with the devil when it comes to lust and adultery.

Women are viewed pretty much as objects in the eyes of Eugene and the watchmen. The watchmen describes a potential match for Eugene as a “tasty morsel” (pg.213). Also, Eugene has very loose standards for his women; requesting that they be healthy, attractive, and that she “be as little fuss as possible” (pg.211-213).

Sex is an extremely important part of Eugene’s psychological makeup. He needs it so bad he doesn’t even care about much else. For example, when he finally ‘beds’ the peasant woman “he [does not] even see her thoroughly” (pg. 214). His mind can only be freed by this physical act, which is ironic because I think people like to try and separate the physical from the mental, when in this case they undoubtedly overlap and interact. By relieving the discomfort of not having a woman in the countryside, Eugene can now proceed to do his business.

– Christina

The Devil

Hay guys,
Since we are all done with Ivan, I figured we should read “The Devil” by Tolstoy. Its the last story in the book, and I have read a couple pages so far, it is rather painless.

If your curious, its about lust as a deadly sin, and the protagonist, Eugene (LOL), is pretty full of it.

– Christina

Ivan’s Behavior in the Face of Death

Alexis, I was not sure exactly what you were trying to communicate regarding Ivan’s behavior when he realizes he is dying. But here is my judgement on him and his decision making towards death:

Ivan is undoubtedly a coward. From the very beginning of his life, he has mimicked and repeated the behaviors of other people as a means to better himself, “…he was attracted… to persons of good standing in the world, assimilated their manners and views on life… he had committed actions which had struck him beforehand as great vileness… But later on, perceiving that such actions were committed also by men of good position… he was able… to forget about them completely” (pg.87). This alone shows how little he really valued his natural personality and mannerisms. He was constructed falsely, the foundations for his personality were as fake as his marriage and life. Thus, when faced with death, he was left with nothing to shield himself with but what he truly was, a fraud and a coward. Ivan states, “Anything better than death!” (pg.117). He is so scared of what will happen to him, that he would rather continue on living horribly, than just accept death and be at rest.

– Christina


One of the many pleasant life lessons this story has to offer includes the conclusion that HOPE = HAPPINESS. Ivan remains miserable once he has lost all hope. At any moment that hope reappears, he is suddenly satisfied enough to push on and his pain magically shrinks and/or disappears.

Also, religion can help generate that hope…
“When the priest came… there came a moment of hope… He took the sacrament with tears in his eyes.” (pg. 128)

But before we get excited, thinking to our little selves that hope is the answer to eternal satisfaction, I would like to throw in there that Tolstoy obviously wanted to erase all hope from us, as the unsuspecting and naive readers. Because if hope is all we have, and is what keeps us satisfied enough to continue living, then in the eyes of the ‘Optimistic’ Tolstoy, we are leading lives of falsity and lies; lives which will one day catch up to us and make us miserable on our death beds once we realize that no, nobody cares and the world continues on.

Well, happy last blog of the quarter! Might as well end it on a good note:)

– Christina

Its all about the money, money, money…

More examples of Ivan’s greed:

“…he gave way to sensuality and to vanity…” pg. 8

Ivan went to Petersburg to “revenge himself on them… who had not known how to appreciate him.” pg.94

Ivan’s house was “all just what is commonly seen of the houses of people who are not exactly wealthy but want to look like wealthy people…” pg.97

He is so shallow that he “insisted on getting everything from an expensive pastry cook…” pg.99

“His official pleasures lay in the gratification of his pride, his social pleasures lay in the gratification of his vanity.” pg.99

I don’t like him at all. lol.

– Christina

Ivan: The Monster Created by Society

  • Ivan is not as good as we like to think…

Pg. 87

“… he gave way to sensuality and to vanity… At school he had committed actions which had struck him beforehand as great vileness, and gave him a feeling of loathing for himself… But later on, perceiving that such actions were committed also by men of good position… he was able… to forget about them completely, and was never mortified by recollections of them.”

  • Looks like our victim enjoyed power as well…

Pg. 89

“… he liked treating such persons affably, almost like comrades; liked to make them feel that he, able to annihilate them, was behaving in this simple, friendly way… Ivan Ilyich felt that everyone… all were in his hands… the consciousness of this power… constituted for him the chief interest and attractiveness of his new position.”

  • He didn’t fall in love with his wife, she was just appropriate for him (pg.90).
  • The marriage started off pleasant but turned ugly when Praskovya got pregnant. Ivan then so kindly used his “official duties” to “protect himself” from her(pg.91).
  • He was a workaholic… the worse his family life got, the more and more he got out of the house (pg.93).

– Christina

The Death of Ivan Ilyich

So I started reading this story and yes, you guessed it, Ivan dies. Tolstoy obviously wanted the reader to ‘get’ the story right off the bat so from the very beginning we can see that its going to be about money and power. On the very first page of the “The Death…” the true motives of Ivan’s colleagues are revealed. Omniscient narrator states, “…on hearing of Ivan Ilyich’s death, the first thought of each gentleman in the room was of the effect this death might have on the transfer or promotion of themselves of their friends.”(p.79) In fact, the only person who appears to have any conscience at all is Peter, or Pytor, Ivanovich. But even he is rather concerned with the effects of Ilyich’s death and the burden it is to deal with the proper burial of the dead. Ilyich’s own wife is more concerned with the financial aspects of his death than the fact that he is dead.

– Christina

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