Suddenly some force struck him in the chest and side, making it still harder to breathe, and he fell through the hole and there at the bottom was a light. . . . Just then his schoolboy son had crept softly in and gone up to the bedside. The dying man was still screaming desperately and waving his arms. His hand fell on the boy's head, and the boy caught it, pressed it to his lips, and began to cry.

These climactic lines come from the final chapter of the novel. In the midst of his agony Ivan is spiritually reborn. As he passes into the light, Ivan finally realizes that his life was not what it should have been. It is not an accident that Ivan's epiphany coincides exactly with his hand falling on his son's head. For the first time in the novel, Ivan expresses deep pity for his son and wife. This spiritual intimacy, coupled with the physical closeness represented by touch, breaks down the screens Ivan has erected between himself and others. As Ivan bridges the gap, his isolation disappears, the meaning of life is revealed, and true joy fills him.