An Analysis of the Character of Ivan Ilych

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorHigh School, 12th grade February 2008

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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...