Ivan Ilych's life had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible.

This line comes from Chapter II of the novel, and is among the most famous in Russian literature. While a simple life is generally considered a virtue, Ivan's life is simple in the wrong way. He is a conformist. His values, desires, and behavior are wholly determined by the opinions and expectations of his social superiors. He chooses his friends based upon their social standing. He decides to marry because it is considered the right thing to do. Ivan's life is terrible because it is a life devoid of true freedom, of true individuality. Ivan does not use his own reason to direct his moral life. Rather, he imbibes his beliefs from aristocrats. In a sense, Ivan is a robot.