An Analysis Of The Character Of Ivan Ilych

1618 words - 6 pages

Character in literature may be defined as any person, animal, or object that possesses anthropomorphic (displaying human characteristics) properties. The casual reader will tend to focus his interest on character; therefore, character is considered one of the most essential components of any literary work. It is, after all, characters to whom things happen, who cause things to happen, or who are influenced or affected by things that happen. These occurrences to literary characters affect us emotionally as writers seek to entertain us. The author intends for his reader to ponder the implications behind these events, and to relate them to his own life. As a case in point, we can examine the character of Ivan Ilych in Leo Tolstoy?s ?The Death of Ivan Ilych.? Tolstoy uses the character of Ivan to portray the idea that a life spent on the quest of social acceptance will most often lack meaning in retrospect. Tolstoy employs the use of his own observations in the second section where he states ?Ivan Ilych?s life has been most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible,? and then goes into further detail into the progression of Ivan?s career and family life (320). Next, Tolstoy uses the interaction between the characters of Ivan and Gerasim in the beginning of section eight to allow a comparison between the life of a man who spends his time in selfish pursuits (Ivan), and a person (Gerasim) who would never begrudge a dying man his last wishes (347). Finally, Tolstoy uses Ivan?s final thoughts before dying in section twelve when he finally realizes that ?though his life had not been what it should have been, this could still be rectified (364),? referring to his ability to relieve his family of the stress they must endure because of his illness. It is through the employment of these techniques that Tolstoy is able to portray Ivan as a man who has finally come to the grim realization that while he has lead his life according to what is expected of a person in his position, he finds little solace in the recollection of his trivial and meaningless existence in the face of death.The first aspect of Tolstoy?s use of character reveals its self in the author?s observations on Ivan?s life. Because the author has the power of omnipotence, often his words on the character will hold the most meaning as to the idea he is attempting to impress upon his reader. In the first sentence of the second section, Tolstoy remarks ?Ivan Ilych?s life had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible.? Furthermore, the author uses the remainder of section two to chronicle the idealized path to social acceptance that Ivan has set out upon. The final pages of this section are used by the author to portray the downward progression of Ivan?s marriage and home life as he became more immersed in his occupational requirements (320). On the subject of the second section Laurence Perrine writes: This frightening first sentence of section two focuses the ironic...

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