The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy

4 April 2015
Analyzes protagonist’s shallow life & redemptive death & role of his servant in his spiritual awakening.

This study will analyze Leo Tolstoy’s short novel The Death of Ivan Ilych, focusing on the physical and symbolic causes of the protagonist’s death, the view of Russian society projected by the author, and the role and symbolic significance of Ivan’s servant Gerasim plays in the story and in the life and awakening of Ivan. The study will argue basically that Ivan lived a shallow life ruled by selfishness and materialism, incurred a mysterious illness, and just before his death underwent a spiritual conversion marked by clearly Christian references. Gerasim plays a helpful role in directly and indirectly guiding Ivan toward this awakening.

The physical aspect of Ivan’s illness is clearly meant by Tolstoy to be both a mystery and quite ordinary. The onset of the illness is caused by an apparently minor mishap.

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