Themes of a Poor Life in The Death of Ivan Ilyich Essay

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Ivan Ilyich


Themes of a Poor Life in
“The Death of Ivan Ilyich”

It occurred to him that what had appeared perfectly impossible before, namely that he had not spent his life as he should have done, might after all be true. It occurred to him that his scarcely perceptible attempts to struggle against what was considered good by the most highly place people, those scarcely noticeable impulses which he had immediately suppressed, might have been the real thing, and all the rest false. And his professional duties and the whole arrangement of his life and of his family, and all his social and official interests, might all have been false. He tried to defend all those things to himself and suddenly felt the weakness of what he was
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In the above passage, Tolstoy delvers to the reader several main themes used throughout the work as a means of describing the greater role that Ilyich plays in the complex sociological themes outlined in the plot that is his life. “The arrangement of his life and of his family, and all the social and official interests….”

We will begin with an analysation of his family situation. Praskovya, his wife, had been a love constructed from the start of an economic and sociological expectation rather than that of a true courtship. The happiness therefore of the union was derived solely of a necessity to fulfill a desire on the part of others for a “success” of sorts, surely her desire as well. “Ivan Ilyich could have counted on a more illustrious match, but even this one was quite good. He had his salary, and her income, he hoped, would bring in an equal amount. (Tolstoy, 56)” Tolstoy goes on to make several remarks on the benevolent nature of the relationship between he and his wife. The arrival of his children creates no great marker in his life, and proves to be little more than a factor in his ever-lengthening retreat into his life of solitude and work.

It is obvious to the reader that this retreat into his work is the soul means by which Ivan moves towards a personal goal of self-justification and righteousness. It is no…