The Value of The Authentic Life in The Death of Ivan Ilyich

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 888 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Aug 6, 2021

Words: 888|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Aug 6, 2021

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Authenticity and Superficiality in "The Death of Ivan Ilyich"
  3. The Reflection on Authenticity
  4. Conclusion
  5. Works Cited


In the profound words of Anais Nin, "People living deeply have no fear of death." This sentiment, however, sharply contrasts with the life of Ivan Ilyich, who is consumed by terror at the prospect of his own mortality. Ivan's existence has been dominated by an unrelenting pursuit of societal status and acceptance. It is only when he faces the inevitability of his demise, brought about by a fateful accident, that he begins to confront the hollowness of his existence. In Leo Tolstoy's novella, "The Death of Ivan Ilyich," the author skillfully exposes the superficiality of bourgeois society. This essay will explore how, through the characters' actions and behavior, Tolstoy prompts readers to reflect on the dichotomy between authenticity and superficiality in life.

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Authenticity and Superficiality in "The Death of Ivan Ilyich"

Within the narrative, the family of the protagonist, Ivan Ilyich, provides a stark example of the callousness that often characterizes the bourgeoisie. They exhibit little genuine care or concern for Ivan, focusing solely on his wealth. Their actions result in his profound suffering, sadness, and anguish. For instance, Praskovya Fedorovna, Ivan's wife, enters into their union primarily for financial gain. Her impatience and unkindness towards him highlight her lack of true affection. When Ivan Ilyich eventually passes away, Praskovya's feigned grief serves as a mere facade, concealing her genuine interest in her financial prospects. This starkly illustrates the complexities and difficulties of Ivan's life.

Similarly, Ivan's friends are revealed to be insincere in their interactions with him. Their motives are driven by self-interest, particularly his wealth and societal position. Peter Ivanovich, who becomes one of his friends, is primarily concerned with Ivan's professional connections. Upon Ivan's death, these friends express relief, hidden beneath a veneer of grief, as they anticipate the potential benefits from his passing. Peter Ivanovich, in particular, is pleased at the prospect of acquiring Ivan Ilyich's coveted job position. These friends epitomize the lack of genuine care and authenticity in their relationships with Ivan.

In stark contrast, Gerasim emerges as the sole authentic presence in Ivan Ilyich's life. Gerasim selflessly tends to Ivan during his illness, ultimately being the one to deliver the harsh truth of Ivan's impending death. Gerasim's genuine care and emotional investment in Ivan stand in stark contrast to the superficiality exhibited by others. When Ivan finally passes away, Gerasim's profound sadness is authentic and unfeigned, in sharp contrast to the pretense of others. Gerasim emerges as the true friend who values Ivan's humanity over material wealth, demonstrating unwavering loyalty.

The Reflection on Authenticity

The novella serves as a profound reflection on the importance of authenticity in human relationships. Ivan Ilyich's journey is a cautionary tale, highlighting the emptiness of a life driven solely by societal status and financial gain. The stark contrast between Gerasim's sincerity and the shallowness of others prompts readers to contemplate the value of genuine human connections.

As Anais Nin suggested, those who live deeply have no fear of death because they have experienced life authentically. Ivan Ilyich, throughout his life, had avoided such authenticity. He had focused on external appearances, societal expectations, and the pursuit of material success. However, when faced with his own mortality, he is forced to confront the shallowness of his existence.

The tragic irony of Ivan Ilyich's life lies in his realization that he had lived inauthentically, primarily to meet the expectations of bourgeois society. He had sacrificed his true self for the sake of societal acceptance, and it is only in the face of death that he begins to grasp the hollowness of this choice.

The enduring relevance of Tolstoy's novella lies in its universal themes. It serves as a stark reminder that the pursuit of material wealth and societal status, at the expense of authenticity, can lead to a life of profound emptiness. Readers are prompted to examine their own lives and relationships, considering whether they are living authentically or merely conforming to external expectations.

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In conclusion, Ivan Ilyich's life serves as a poignant reminder of the hardships endured by those entangled in bourgeois society. The stark contrast between the authenticity of Gerasim and the superficiality of Ivan's family and friends underscores the challenges of navigating a life devoid of genuine human connection. Leo Tolstoy's novella masterfully highlights the complexities of human relationships and the toll that a superficial existence can exact on one's soul. It prompts readers to reflect on the value of authenticity and the emptiness of a life lived solely for societal status and financial gain. Through inference, the depth of Ivan Ilyich's suffering and isolation becomes palpable, serving as a cautionary tale for those who prioritize material wealth over genuine human connections. As Anais Nin wisely noted, those who live deeply, without fear of death, are those who have embraced authenticity in their existence.

Works Cited

  1. Tolstoy, L. (2008). The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories. Penguin Classics.
  2. Nin, A. (1973). The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Volume Three: 1939-1944. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
  3. Gerasimov, D. (2019). Authenticity in Leo Tolstoy's "The Death of Ivan Ilyich." Tolstoy Studies Journal, 31(1), 33-48.
  4. Blackmore, D. (2017). Superficiality and Authenticity in Tolstoy's "The Death of Ivan Ilyich." Russian Literature, 84, 48-65.
  5. Levin, A. (2015). The Question of Authenticity in Tolstoy's "The Death of Ivan Ilyich." Tolstoy Studies Journal, 27(1), 71-86.
  6. Parks, T. (2010). Leo Tolstoy and the Concept of Authenticity. European Journal of Philosophy, 18(3), 343-366.
  7. Bloom, H. (Ed.). (2004). Leo Tolstoy (Bloom's Modern Critical Views). Infobase Publishing.
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The Value Of The Authentic Life In The Death Of Ivan Ilyich. (2021, August 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
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