The Death of Ivan Ilych

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Over two thousand years ago, the Greek philosopher Socrates made the statement: "an unexamined life is not worth living." In 1886, a short novel was published by the Russian author Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy that demonstrated the truth of this statement in the fictional life (and death) of Ivan Ilych…

Introduction

If your life does not affect the lives of others, then it has very little meaning. The ways in which Ivan Ilych treated people during his lifetime was reciprocated by them in his death. Ivan Ilych was too concerned with duty and pleasure to be interested in anyone else, and the opening scene of the story - the announcement of his death - portrays how others showed the same attitudes toward his death.
The first statement that is uttered in the story is by one of his supposed friends, "Gentlemen, Ivan Ilych has died.' (Tolstoy 363). This spurs a flurry of mental activity among the others in the room, who all knew Ilych. "The first thought of each of the gentlemen in that private room was of the changes and promotions it might occasion among themselves or their acquaintances" (363). A general sense of relief sprang up in each man's mind as they sat around and contemplated the fact that while Ilych was dead, they were still alive (364). Then their relief turned to irritation when they realized that they were close enough to the dead man to have to go and pay their respects to his family. Duty called, and they had to answer.
This insistence on doing the "right thing" mirrors Ilych's own course of action during his lifetime. He was always consumed with doing the right thing. ...
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