The Death of Ivan Ilych

Life Lessons in The Death of Ivan Ilyich

Tolstoy uses The Death of Ivan Ilyich to show his readers the negative consequences of living as Ilyich did. Ivan Ilyich made decisions based on what others thought and what would benefit him monetarily. As death approaches, Ilyich realizes that he squandered everything pure and meaningful in order to work and make money. His materialism and desire to conform made Ilyich’s life miserable and led to his demise.

From the outset of the story it is clear that Ilyich did not live a full, rich life. When his friends hear of his death, they are more concerned with “what effect it would have on their own transfers and promotions or those of their acquaintances” (Tolstoy 32) than the loss of their friend. Ilyich failed to establish close relationships with them, and after learning of his death they seem almost indifferent: “There is, in fact, no reason to assume this incident can keep us from spending a pleasant evening” (36), one remarks. They attend the funeral only “to fulfill the tedious demands of propriety” (33). Even before the reader learns of the manner in which Ilyich lived his life, she sees that the consequences are grim.

Geraism, Ilyich’s servant, serves as a foil. Even though Geraism is of a lower class than Ilyich, he is...

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