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The Death of Ivan Ilych

Leo Tolstoy

Chapter VI

Chapter V

Chapter VII

Summary

Ivan knows that he is dying, but he is unable to grasp the full implications of his mortality. He knows that the syllogism from Kieswetter's Logic, "Caius is a man, men are mortal, therefore Caius is mortal," applies perfectly to Caius, an abstract man. He cannot see how the syllogism applies to him, a concrete man. If he was to die, he reasons, an inner voice would have told him so. As Ivan begins to recall certain childhood memories, he is struck by a sense of his own individuality and the incomprehensibility of his death. He recalls the smell of his striped leather ball, kissing his mother's hand, hearing the rustle of her silk dress. To screen the thought of death from him, he tries to fall back into his former habit of thought, but finds that "all that had formerly shut off, hidden, and destroyed his consciousness of death, no longer had that effect." He tries to erect "new screens" to block that consciousness, but the consciousness penetrates them all.

One day, while moving something in the drawing room, Ivan sees Death looking at him from behind some flowers. He goes to his study and lies down. But Ivan is unable to escape Death. He can only look at it and shudder.

Analysis

Ivan's inability to come to terms with his mortality by means of logic is understandable. Logic serves to remove everything individual, to deal with cases in terms of generalities. Thus, no personal understanding of death can be reached by focusing on logic. It is fitting that Ivan tries to block his consciousness of death by resuming his old current of thought, and by erecting screens. Yet such escapism, although successful for Ivan's colleagues, is no help to him. Death penetrates every screen that he constructs.

Tolstoy intentionally confuses "death" and "pain" by referring to both with the pronoun "It." This deliberate confusion is effective because it serves to reaffirm the idea that just as Ivan cannot escape pain, so too, he cannot escape death. Pain makes him conscious of death. By the end of Chapter VI, Ivan's death is a foregone conclusion.

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tread?

by ndizzles, February 18, 2014

"a judge who chose to tread the newspaper rather than engage in the discussion," you said tread instead of too read

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