The Death of Ivan Ilych
by Leo Tolstoy
The Death of Ivan Ilych Family Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph). We used Alymer Maude's translation.
With the birth of their child, the attempts to feed it and the various failures in doing so, and with the real and imaginary illnesses of mother and child, in which Ivan Ilych's sympathy was demanded but about which he understood nothing, the need of securing for himself an existence outside his family life became still more imperative. (2.20-21)
Ivan Ilych doesn't appear to have any sympathy for his wife or his newborn child. Instead, they're a bother to him, and interfere with his ordered and pleasant life. All he wants to do is retreat from his house. This mirrors the way he will himself be treated by his family once he becomes sick.
Things went particularly well at first, before everything was finally arranged and while something had still to be done: this thing bought, that thing ordered, another thing moved, and something else adjusted. Though there were some disputes between husband and wife, they were both so well satisfied and had so much to do that it all passed off without any serious quarrels. When nothing was left to arrange it became rather dull and something seemed to be lacking, but they were then making acquaintances, forming habits, and life was growing fuller. (3.20)
Home-decorating is apparently the only thing that can bring Ivan Ilych and Praskovya Fedorovna together. That hardly amounts to rebuilding a relationship. They stop fighting once they get to St. Petersburg only because what they each want out of city life happens to coincide. They both want to make new friends, they both want to have a nice home with which to impress people. As for actually caring about each other, well…
Having come to the conclusion that her husband had a dreadful temper and made her life miserable, she began to feel sorry for herself, and the more she pitied herself the more she hated her husband. She began to wish he would die; yet she did not want him to die because then his salary would cease. And this irritated her against him still more. She considered herself dreadfully unhappy just because not even his death could save her, and though she concealed her exasperation, that hidden exasperation of hers increased his irritation also. (4.2)
And we hit an all-time low. This might be the first hint that Praskovya Fedorovna actually wants Ivan to die. She blames him for all that's wrong in her life and hates him for making her suffer. We already know he's incapable of showing her sympathy, so to some extent she has reason to be angry. But we've got to ask – does she really only care about Ivan for the money, or is this just a thought she has in the heat of a moment?