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Lies And Hypocrisy In The Novel The Death Of Ivan Ilych By Leo Tolstoy

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Imagine living and surrounded by false people. Every word becomes nonsense and true identity is lost. All you witness is shallow people and their aspiration are petty and they only focus on their appearance. The thought of mortality never crosses their minds which blinds them to see that their lifestyle is false. So, that doesn’t seem like a good community and definitely not a healthy lifestyle, does it? Well, in the novella of “The Death of Ivan Ilych” by Leo Tolstoy, the characters’ lives in a world constructed on falsehood. Geriasm may be the only one that does not live in their world, but all the other characters are close-minded and empty-headed.

Starting from the beginning, when Ivan Ilych was presented dead, his so call friends did not sympathize for him and show their respect. Rather, all they thought about was their own promotion. So, when “receiving the news of Ivan Ilych’s death the first thought of each gentleman in that private room was of the changes and promotions it might occasion among themselves or their acquaintances.” As you see, the pure fakeness and careless people that surrounds him, even by his death bed. In addition, his “nearest acquaintances,” Peter Ivanovich had “studied law with Ivan Ilych and had considered himself to be under obligations to him” and Fedor Vasilievich did not even show up for the service for Ivan Ilych. Also, on “seeing Peter Ivanovich enter” Schwartz “winked at him”, as if to say, “Ivan Ilych has made a mess of things- not like you and me.” So, Schwartz is totally unaffected by the death of Ivan Ilych and tries to prove that it had nothing to do with them. At this point, it is obvious to see that Ivan Ilych really has no positive people, they are all selfish and fake.

Praskovya Fedorovna, the widow seems like the one that would back up Ivan Ilych and actually be there for him. However, that was false. Praskovya Fedorovna “recognizing Peter Ivanovich, sighed, went up close to him, took his hand, and said, “I know you were a true friend to Ivan Ilych…” and looked at him awaiting some suitable response. And Peter Ivanovich knew that, just as it had been the right thing to cross himself in that room, so what he had to do was to press her hand, sigh, and say “believe me…” So, he did all this and as he did it felt that the desired result had been achieved: that both he and she were touched.” Both Praskovya Fedorovna and Peter Ivanovich went through the motions of mourning because it seem appropriate, not because they were actually upset about the whole situation. In addition, both of them felt better about themselves because they did what is “appropriate” so basically, they only were there to get the job done. I strongly still sense fakeness and selfishness.

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The doctor in “The Death of Ivan Ilych” also lies and deceive. Honesty is hard for the characters to develop in the novella of “The Death of Ivan Ilych.” The doctor refuse to inform Ivan Ilych the truth on his condition, rather tries avoiding the topic which leads him questioning if the doctor is “ashamed of lying?” And, to no surprise, the doctor does not want to answer the question. Nevertheless, Ivan Ilych knows that this all does not add up, but “when the doctor, getting down on his knee, leans over him, putting his ear first higher then lower, and performs various gymnastic movements over him with a significant expression on his face, Ivan Ilych submits to it all as he used to submit to the speeches of the lawyers, thought he knew very well that they were all lying and why they were lying.” In that quote, Ivan Ilych is comparing his social class with the lying doctor, which may suggest that his work life was false. While, “the doctor put on just the same air towards him as he himself would put on towards an accused person.” (Boleslav. 2008)

Gerasim, the only authentic character in Ivan Ilych’s world of lies and deceit. He is the only one who understand and see that Ivan Ilych is dying, Geraism “recognized it and pitied him” so he is able to comfort Ivan Ilych. For instance, “Ivan Ilych would sometimes call Gerasim and get him to hold his legs on his shoulders, and he liked talking to him. Geraism did it all easily, willingly, simply, and with good nature that touched Ivan Ilych.” (Charlton. 2019) As you see the differences that Gerasim and the other character have is not only that “he did not lie”, but “everything showed that he alone understood the facts of the case and did not consider it necessary to disguise them.” Gerasim truly and fully comprehends that he too will have to die someday like Ivan Ilych is dying. Geraism states “we shall all of us die, so why should I grudge a little trouble?—expressing the fact that he did not think his work burdensome, because he was doing it for a dying man and hoped someone would do the same for him when his time came.” This sets him way apart from the other characters because the other are stuck believing nonsense and living as shallow beings. Plus, Geraism is taking care of Ivan Ilych because he truly wants to, not because he feels obligated to.

At this point, Ivan Ilych is becoming aware that he lives in a world full of lies and deceit. Ivan Ilych is tormented by “the lie, which for some reason they all accepted, that he was not dying but was simply ill.” So, “this deception tortured him—they’re not wishing to admit what they all knew and what he knew but wanting to lie to him concerning his terrible condition and wishing and forcing him to participate in that lie.” So, Ivan Ilych cannot force others to realize that he’s dying even if he calls out to them saying “stop lying! You know and I know that I am dying. Then at least, stop lying about it!” But he had never had the spirit to do it.” Slowly, but surely, Ivan Ilych is starting to realize that he lived his life in falsehood with false group of people. So, at this point, he has nothing in his life that he can defend from falsehood. Plus, “Ivan Ilych tries to treat his death as an abstract entity, speaking of it objectively in the third person. But he reaches the point where he only way he can face the issue is to admit that he is dying.”

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Lies And Hypocrisy In The Novel The Death Of Ivan Ilych By Leo Tolstoy. (2021, August 31). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 8, 2023, from
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