Exemplum (tale told explicitly to illustrate a moral lesson); satire of upper class; psychological novella




The major climax of the novel occurs in chapter 12 when Ivan Ilych is suddenly struck in the chest and side and pushed through the black sack into the light. Ivan finally discovers the right way to live and realizes the error of his past life.


Ivan Ilych


Bourgeois society in general, which may take the form of Schwartz, Praskovya, Peter, or a professional colleague.

Setting (time) 

Late nineteenth century (1800s)

Setting (place) 

Petersburg and the surrounding Russian provinces and cities

Point of View 

The novel is from the point of view of the omniscient narrator, although action occasionally progresses from Ivan's point of view.

Falling Action 

Insofar as Ivan experiences his climactic epiphany in a single moment before his death, the novel contains no falling action. The falling action for the other characters occurs in Chapter 1 of this chronologically out-of-sequence novel.




Frequently satirical and mocking; subtly pedagogical


By means of ambiguous foreign language references (le phenix de la famille, respice finem), symbolic dreams (the black bag), and descriptive imagery (the fly to a bright light), Tolstoy foreshadows Ivan's death and spiritual rebirth.