The Death of Ivan Ilych

Ivan Ilych: Redemption in Mere Minutes

Ivan Ilych is dead. His death is hardly what one would call "mourned", and his family and friends think only of how they can profit from his timely demise. He has led a terrible life, and suffered through a generally meaningless existence. One might wonder how the title character in Tolstoy's "The Death of Ivan Ilych" manages to find redemption in the process of his death. And indeed, his death is a process, in which he denies the lack of meaning in his life, questions it, accepts it, and attempts to redeem himself for it. It may seem a bit ludicrous that Ivan, who has led a life not much different from that of a self-absorbed lemming, can be forgiven for all of his sins in a matter of hours. However, through the process of dying, Ivan is redeemed. While his death is certainly painful and he struggles "as a man condemned to death struggles in the hands of of the executioner, knowing that he cannot save himself" (166), it ends in revelation, forgiveness, and joy.

Ivan Ilych leads a trite life, as do his peers: conventional in every sense of the word. It is only in death, however, that he realizes this. Ivan not only allows himself to follow societal standards, but follows them with such accuracy...

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