The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy

ivan ilyich coverThe Death of Ivan Ilyich is a novella that begins at the end — the death of Ivan Ilyich. We are then carried back to the years of his youth and other life experiences until he gained the position of a judge in a city. Unfortunately, he fell and hurt his side one day while furnishing his house. He didn’t think of the fall as a big deal and so went on with life, as usual. Little did he know that this incident will cause a big impact in his life.

I find Ivan Ilyich’s character boring but Leo Tolstoy has a way of making the reader feel what the character is feeling. He lets us feel Ilyich’s frustrations as a man nearing his death at the age of forty-five. We feel his anger, fear and irritation as well as his annoyance towards his family who don’t see his death as imminent.

This is a novella that contains so much. It’s a story that leaves you thinking and questioning about the life you are living. Is it right to just live according to the rules? Is having a full-time job giving your life its true meaning? Is keeping up with the society’s expectations enough to say we are living a good life? It’s mostly the same things that Ivan Ilyich asked himself as he looked back in his life while on his death bed and when he came across honest answers to his questions, he found peace and accepted his death.

Quotable Quotes:

“Always the same. Now a spark of hope flashes up, then a sea of despair rages, and always pain; always pain, always despair, and always the same. When alone he had a dreadful and distressing desire to call someone, but he knew beforehand that with others present it would be still worse.”

“Death is finished, he said to himself. It is no more!”

“It can’t be that life is so senseless and horrible. But if it really has been so horrible and senseless, why must I die and die in agony? There is something wrong!”

“There was no deceiving himself: something terrible, new, and more important than anything before in his life, was taking place within him of which he alone was aware.”

“It occurred to him that his scarcely perceptible attempts to struggle against what was considered good by the most highly placed people, those scarcely noticeable impulses which he had immediately suppressed, might have been the real thing, and all the rest false”

Rating: 4/5 stars

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