Theme Of Meaningless In "The Death Of Ivan Ilyich"

1266 words - 5 pages

Theme of Meaninglessness in “The Death of Ivan Ilyich”
In the Tolstoys story “The Death of Ivan Ilyich,” he scrutinizes the life of Ivan Ilyich, a gentleman whose life has become an entanglement of loneliness and utter hatred towards his life. Tolstoy never fails to pinpoint the discomfort Ivan has in his own marriage and the constant pressure he feels from society. Ivan’s life is in shambles by the time he is about to die, but accepts it because he feels his life has no purpose and is only to torture others. Tolstoy examines the theme of meaninglessness in Ivan Ilyich’s life, and the reason why Ivan is discontent with the way he lives by paying close attention to Ivan’s social interactions and pressure to live up to society’s expectations.
Tolstoy describes Ivan as someone with "no light" in his eyes and a dead man because Ivan believes his life has no purpose to it, and is starting to make the people around him have no meaning in their life either (67). Ivan sees no purpose in his own life because no one seems to show compassion towards him. "His face was more handsome, above all more significant, than it had been in the living man," this solidifies how Tolstoy describes Ivan as being more lifeless after death than when he was alive (42). Ivan believes "it will be better for them when I die," because he realizes that he is more meaningful to people once he’s dead, then when he is alive (90). No one can dull his pain and make him forget about it, he is lonely and is constantly dwelling in his own self-pity. It is like he’s already dead and watching everybody from a distance, and that’s when he realizes no one cares about him. Tolstoy expresses that as a reader you need to look at your own life by "look[ing] it straight in the eye," and decide if it is meaningless (72). Even the narrator is questioning if his life is essential or not because he doesn’t understand how "Can it be that life is so meaningless and vile? And if it is indeed so vile and meaningless, then why die, and die suffering?" (84). Tolstoy is talking to himself, trying to understand the meaning of life along with Ivan Ilyich. He does not understand why Ivan has to die suffering when Ivan’s life is not important to anyone or himself because no one will miss him when he is dead, it’s like he is dead already. Not only will the burden be gone of caring for him, but his suffering through life was rubbing off on everyone he encountered. Ivan realizes that his son “with terrible blue circles under his eyes” was turning into him (74). The narrator wants the reader to understand that his son is the only one that shows some sort of compassion for Ivan and it’s because the son understands how lonely Ivan feels because he was turning into Ivan. Tolstoy emphasizes that after Ivan’s encounter with his son he has a moment of realization that his life holds no meaning and is passing his thoughts to his son by making his son do what he did when he was younger. Ivan starts to understand that his...

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