The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy

907 Words4 Pages
Fear is only one of the emotions that drive people. Society and even religion uses fear in the form of consequences to persuade people to control their EGO. The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy allows the readers to learn the consequences of living a completely selfish, non-Christian life without actually having to make Ivan’s mistakes. At face value, The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy is not a Christian novel. There is no mention of spirituality until the final chapter of the book, ****** there are only vague references to life after death with no mention of Christianity. However, fiction is about telling a story; it is about leaving the reader changed by the end of the book. In this regard, Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich is a masterpiece and should be celebrated by Christians as a work of art.

Tolstoy immediately absorbs you into the novel by beginning with Ivan’s death. The actual death scene is saved until the end of the novel, but he shows you the reaction of some of Ivan’s colleagues as they hear the news of Ivan’s death. You are almost disgusted at the nonchalant manner that Ivan’s “friends” take his death. They are surprised by his death, but immediately think of how his death will affect their own lives, but more importantly, their careers. “The first though that occurred to each of the gentlemen in the office, learning of Ivan Ilyich’s death, was what effect it would have on their own transfers and promotions.” (pg 32) As a reader, you have to wonder how Ivan must have had to live in order for people close to him to feel no sadness towards the loss or even pity for his wife. In fact, these gentlemen are exactly like Ivan. The purpose of their lives was to gain as much power as possible with n...

... middle of paper ... more Christian lives then Ivan Ilyich, but if they are never able to live their lives in a completely Christian manner, they will have the same outcome Ivan. It may occur on their deathbed, or in the afterlife, but even if it is unconscious, there will be suffering with the knowledge that they did not live their lives to the fullest of their abilities.

Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich is a reminder that books can provide answers to questions we never asked, but yearned to know. For that reason alone, The Death of Ivan Ilyich should be considered a work of art. However due to the many subtle hints and clues pointing at the underlying Christian nature of the book, it deserves to be added to the list of great modern Christian literature.

Works Cited

Tolstoy, Leo. The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Trans. Lynn Solotaroff. New York: Bantam Books, 1981.
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