Essay title: Psychological Importance in the Death of Ivan Illych
Psychological Importance in The Death of Ivan IllychIn The Death of Ivan Ilych Leo Tolstoy conveys the psychological importance of the last, pivotal scene through the use of diction, symbolism, irony.
As Ivan Ilych suffers through his last moments on earth, Tolstoy narrates this man’s struggle to evolve and to ultimately realize his life was not perfect. Using symbols Tolstoy creates a vivid image pertaining to a topic few people can even start to comprehend- the reexamination of one’s life while on the brink of death. In using symbols and irony Tolstoy vividly conveys the manner in which Ilych views death as darkness unto his last moments of life when he finally admits imperfection. In the first paragraph of the ending chapter, Tolstoy uses simple language to explain world’s view of Ivan Ilych’s death. This language expressing such suffering serves as a stark contrast to the metaphorical language Tolstoy uses to describe the internal struggles Ivan Ilych feels.
- Thesis Statement
- Structure and Outline
- Voice and Grammar
Tolstoy graphically describes Ivan Ilych’s last three days as he screams and flails in complete misery but lyrical diction is markedly absent. But the opposite is true when he notes that Ivan Ilych has entered this state of misery with the same unsolved doubts that plagued him throughout his sickness. These how these doubts continue to ravage Ilych in his last hours. His family, observing only from the outside, simply watches in horror. Their impotence and immobility a stark contrast to Ivan’s inner being. His family only sees him utter the simple letter “O” and occasionally “I won’t” (Tolstoy 61), and is completely unable to grasp his struggle with death. They cannot see beyond the surface of his pain. Through Tolstoy’s contrasting stylistic elements in his descriptions, he underscores the fact that the complex thoughts that actually afflict Ivan Ilych are below the surface and the psychological importance of this scene is Ivan Ilych’s own internal struggle.
Tolstoy also employs irony as he examines the plight of Ivan Ilych. This highlights the differences between Ilych’s perception of his own life and reality while also allowing the reader to take part in some of the tearing anguish Ivan feels in having to submit to the wrongdoings in his life. Tolstoy compares Ivan Ilych’s struggle to the plight of a man condemned to death as he “struggles in the hands of an executioner” (61). Ivan Ilych does not see death as a natural process, but as a punishment controlled by a merciless executioner, ironically much like the merciless judge he once was.
Ivan Ilych’s feels that death is an undeserved punishment because he never considered his own mortality. His obsession with social adroitness made mortality feel like a punishment, and his justification of this obsession made it impossible for him to let go of his life. Ivan Ilych believed he had lived his life up to social standards and because of this he would not have to endure the terrible agony of death that is beset among ordinary people.
In reality he was blind to his shallow life and the transgressions he made. Tolstoy uses vivid imagery to describe Ivan Ilych’s struggle to submit to his life’s end. For example, Tolstoy describes Ivan as feeling as though he is struggling to get inside of a hole. The darkness in the hole obstructs Ivan’s ability to get in, and he is unable to get past the darkness.
Ivan Ilych even believes his inability to see himself correctly into the black hole is the source of his physical pain. “He felt his agony was due to being thrust into that black hole and still more to his not being able to get right into it” (Tolstoy 62). The darkness prohibiting from entering is a painful barrier Ivan Ilych is unable to get past so that he can finally die. This dramatic description highlights the delirium of his last days.This depiction of Ilych’s delirium allows Tolstoy to examine yet another aspect of this man’s life and impeded descent into death through the symbolism of the darkness. Tolstoy alludes that the darkness, or barrier, holding Ivan Ilych from getting into the hole is his confidence that he lived a good life. “That very justification of his life held him fast and prevented him from moving forward, and it caused him the most torment of all” (Tolstoy 62).
He was stuck in a state between life and death because of this validation. Ivan Ilych had spent his entire life as a fraud. He set up barriers to shield himself from anything real. These barriers kept Ivan Ilych in darkness from the world, and now trapped him in the darkness of the hole.
His barriers cut him off from his family and isolated him from real human interaction. He instead engrossed himself in bridge, work, and other duties. Ivan Ilych could not admit that putting up these barriers was wrong. Now, ironically, the barriers that he chose to put up to make protective shadows are causing.