The Death of Ivan Ilych

World Literature 2 Professor Susan Crane Due Date: 2/26/2009 Written by: Christine Belsky

“Some people are so afraid to die, that they never begin to live (quote by Henry Van Dyke).” Was this the case in Ivan Ilych’s life? When most people are asked what they think about

death, you may be used to the quick witted answers. Sometimes, people do not think things through. They don’t think about how one side of the story affects the other. In Ivan’s case, you sometimes hear “I am here now, but where will I go?” In The Death of Ivan Ilych, he was a miserable man who thought only of himself. Certain times throughout the text, there were quotes from brothers, wives, kids, and friends who simply wanted to be forgotten by Ivan. They did not enjoy him and could not stand his presence. In the beginning of the story, you can see how unhappy people were with him. When his co-workers received the news about his death, all they could think about was the promotions that we to come. They were excited about the raises and promotions, and the reality did not set in right away. If someone such as Ivan were so miserable during his existence, does the clarity hit him in his final moments? Would you say that people who live unhappy lives and live a miserable existence are more susceptible to “freak” out when the final moments are near? That is of course opposed to someone who had a very fulfilling life and was loved by many. Which type of death is easier to deal with; someone who dies of natural causes or someone like Ivan who has a disease? Is an unexpected death better; that way you do not have time to worry about what is going to happen to you. Your aftermath lies in the hands of your loved ones. Or, is a death that is fore coming easier, so you have time to take the proper precautions and plan ahead. Is dying unexpectedly better because you do not deal with your own personal pain because you never see it coming? Sometimes it is better to not know any type of information such as that. Should the alternative be that you stick it out, endure the slow process, and possibly have the pain to accompany it? Is wanting to die unexpectedly selfish because you don’t want to suffer? Would you rather have it be quick and painless, or is that selfish because

you are taking yourself away from your family? Can anyone really make that decision for you or is that one hundred percent your decision? Let’s throw the topic of religion into this paper. What happens when you ask a Christian or an Atheist their position on this topic? A Christian would take the “I believe in a higher God” aspect, and the Atheist of course does not believe in a higher God. Granted believing in something gives you something to look forward to, such as “meeting your maker.” On the other hand, some people might think that death is inescapable and that is final. From a Christian standpoint, as stated in Romans 6:23 it states “for the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord. The bible is full of passages that say those who died is because they sinned. So, did Ivan life a life of sin? Is that what forced his illness? Or did he live a life of greatness and his payment is not the illness, but rather the eternal life after death? Now, you can believe in whatever religion you want, and if that means that there is life after death, then so be it. Your outlook on life and death dates back to the conditioning you were exposed to when you were younger. No two people are alike, and neither are their families. So you can be brought up in a different household, religion, single parent, or foster family, it doesn’t matter. Can death ever be easy? Should death be painful in all circumstances? Should the anguish of a drawn out painful death be enough? What is a good death? Is there such thing as one? Or is a good death only as good as we take it? Should we accept the way things have turned because we have no control over it? Have we been called upon to enrich the lives of others in another life? Christians believe that God has called upon them for a bigger task. He didn’t see their life fit and he had a different plan. Is it wrong to not feel pain at a funeral? Can happiness be a way or mourning? Some funerals are considered a celebration of life. Sometimes certain people would rather have a party

instead of a funeral. They do not want people to cry over their death, they would rather celebrate the things they accomplished. Do people who don’t show emotions not mourn the same way as any other person? Does it matter what way people mourn or is every way sad, even if people seem happy and alright. In the final paragraph of the story, Ivan faces his fears. “Yes, here it is. Well, what of it? Let the pain be. And death…Where is it?” He realized that there was no death so there was no pain. His soul was released and his spirit was set free. He was ready for the journey ahead. Once he could face the fact that there was no death, he drew in a breath, stopped in the midst of a sigh, stretched out and died. When you approach your final moments, do things become clear? Are you scared? Are you happy? I don’t think we can know what death is and what it truly feels like until we are there. I think that is what happened to Ivan Ilych. He was miserable, and people tended to avoid him. He never knew how precious the little things were until he reached the end. Should the type of celebration be our own choice? Should we openly be able to go to a funeral and crack a joke or tell stories of the old days without being considered rude? Should we be able to have a happy ceremony or a peaceful ceremony if we want? Should we mix it up and have a little bit of both? There are a lot of people in our big world, all of which have different personalities. What may not offend you, may offend someone else. In today’s society we are overly cautious about what we say, and worried about hurting other people. So I ask you, what death is a good death? Does the way we handle everyday situations result in our opinions on certain things? Where do we go? Is there a higher being? Did Ivan Ilych die because he sinned? Is death painful? I do not think we can ever have the correct conclusion until we are actually there. People tend to forgive everyone, confess their sins, and find spiritual wholeness when the end is near.

How should we handle death? Sometimes death is unexpected, and a lot of times that is harder. You do not know when it’s coming and you cannot prepare for it. Should death be exciting? I do not have the answers to any of these questions. I think how we handle death should be up to us. No one should have a say in the matter. Each individual handles it how they want to. Both death and life are a beginning and an end. It is the ultimate circle of life. We try to live our lives to the fullest so as to pass on our wisdom to someone else. Can you ever be ready for death? What would happen if you did not wake up tomorrow? Who would miss you, what would happen? You don’t know the answer until you are there. You can be what I like to call a “professional funeral attendee,” which would be someone who experiences so much death in their life. But just because they are exposed to death, doesn’t mean they are ready for it. Or are they?

1) The New American Bible: Genesis 6:23
2) The Longman Anthology (The Nineteenth Century – Volume E), “The Death of Ivan

Ilych,” page 544 - 579 3) Wikipedia, Death and Dying