The Role of Gerasim in The Death of Ivan Ilych

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The role of Gerasim in The Death of Ivan Ilych, by Leo Tolstoy, is one of faithful and respectful servant. He is genuine, robust, hearty, and he represents the vibrant authentic life that is unobtainable to Ivan. The narrator takes account of Ivan's life and presents it to us partially through a deathbed retrospect and partially through memory.


His work cronies read the obituary in the local newspaper and have two thoughts. The first one, an opening will occur in the department and one of them will be promoted. They begin to fantasize about the higher pay and status of the new position. The second one, they will have to go through the formalities of visiting the family, attending the funeral and subsequent burial. They are not saddened or upset, they think of this as an inconvenience "his so-called friends, could not help thinking also that they would now have to fulfil [sic] the very tiresome demands of propriety by attending the funeral service and paying a visit of condolence to the widow" (Tolstoy, 248). From this view, we see that Ivan does not have strong social ties to his community and his friends have superficial personalities. This concept is foreshadowing of Ivan personality, since later in the story we learn about his supercilious beliefs.
Gerasim is briefly introduced to us at the viewing. He is spreading deodorant about the house, especially in the room that contains Ivan's body. One mourner noticing the decomposing odor thinks about the last time he saw Gerasim "in the study. Ivan Ilych had been particularly fond of him and he [Gerasim] was performing the duty of a sick nurse" (250). ...
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