Tolstoy´s Ivan Ilyich

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Tolstoy began the story with chapter one, with the death of Ivan Ilyich and the narration of Pyotr Ivanovich, a close friend of Ivan’s. As demonstrated in the first chapter, there are evident flaws to the society that the two lived in. Pyotr’s narration suggests to the reader the materialistic, and selfish motives that individuals in the society possessed. Furthermore, the reader understands that individuals of this materialistic society sought to obtain pleasantness and propriety for their lives. In addition, the reader understands that individuals of this society are conformists, concerned wholly with the image they portray of themselves to society. Tolstoy begins the story from Pyotr’s perspective and narration because Pyotr is a standard representative of this flawed society, and his commentary addresses major themes of the book. By beginning with Pyotr’s reaction to Ivan’s death the reader gains an important understanding of the society addressed in the story.
Firstly, the effect of introducing the book with Ilyich’s death in which Pyotr is the narrator, allows the reader to recognize how the characters’ society functions. Pyotr being a standard representative of the rather flawed society demonstrates that the society is complete with selfish, materialistic individuals. The society is based off of class, wealth and social status. This is demonstrated in the first chapter, especially when Pyotr and his colleagues first hear of Ivan’s death. “…The first thought that occurred to each of the gentlemen in this office, learning of Ivan Ilyich’s death, was what effect it would have on their own transfers and promotions or those of their acquaintances.” (Tolstoy, pg 32) The individuals’ initial reaction to the death is not remorse,...

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...he individuals in this society, and their need to do what is considered “right” by society, in order to portray this false image of themselves to society.
Overall, the effect of Pyotr’s narration in chapter one was very important to the creation and outline of the main thoughts and themes of the story. The themes addressed in the story included the self-interested, materialistic, society; the need to achieve a pleasant and proper life; and the sense that one has to portray themselves in a certain way to be accepted by society, even if that entails portraying a false image of themselves. By beginning with Ivan’s death and by being able to observe the reactions of the society to Ivan’s death, the reader gains an important understanding about the themes that will be outlined throughout the story and are crucial to the understanding of how Ivan Ilyich’s lead his life.
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