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“The Death of Ivan Ilyich” by Leo Tolstoy Essay

The book, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, shows the influence of Realism and Romantic thought through its author, Leo Tolstoy. The illusion of reality and the roles marriages play in society at this time were the main themes of the book. Ivan Ilyich uses the aspect of realism and romantic thought effectively in this book.

The author Leo Tolstoy uses the character Ivan Ilyich to demonstrate how societal pressures often lead people to marry for the wrong reasons and how loveless or meaningless marriages often occur for different reasons. Ivan Ilyich belonged in the upper class of society and he acted based on how a person in this class would act. Ivan Ilyich acted based on how society wanted him to act. Ivan planned to find fulfillment by acquiring property and wealth and getting married. Ivan adopted the beliefs of society at this time. Ivan Ilyich marries only because society expects him to take a wife.

When Praskovya tells Ivan about her pregnancy, Ivan retreats from his wife and absorbs himself in his official work. Later on in the book when the marriage becomes increasingly difficult, Ivan adopts a formal, contractual attitude toward his family. He shows a character where he does not have any personal relationship with his wife and children.

Ivan Ilyich portrays the illusion of reality in his act. Many of the minor characters, especially the physicians, depicted the theme. As Ivan Ilyich was becoming sick, many of the doctors came to check on him. Ivan had a problem with these doctors because they dodged the fact that Ivan was going to die. Ivan saw right through these physicians knowing that they were clouding their diagnosis. Ivan’s friends, too, became Tolstoy’s target for illusion of reality. When they went to Ivan’s funeral, they thought that they “should” or “have to” go and comfort the widow.

Their real reasoning behind everything was to see who would take Ivan’s position at work. Another example of illusion of reality occurs when Ivan is lying down in excruciating pain and his wife, daughter, and son-in-law enters the room. Ivan sits and watches as they ignore the pain he is enduring to argue about something as petty as opera glasses. Ivan noticed that the family did not want to address a situation as big as death, so they talk around it

The reflection of realist and romantic thought done by Ivan Ilyich made the story appealing and it made readers feel like if they were sitting in the story. An example that would have the reader feeling this way is when Ivan was screaming for three days. You felt sorry for him because of his pain. Another time the reader felt that they were actually in the story was when Ivan asked to talk to Gerasim because you knew it made him feel better. Sometimes even reading what Ivan’s wife did to him made the reader feel as if she were a bad person. This was true because Ivan did not really marry her for love, but he did it because that was what a person like of his class was supposed to do.

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