The Death of Ivan Ilych
by Leo Tolstoy
The Death of Ivan Ilych Isolation Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph). We used Alymer Maude's translation.
At the law courts too, Ivan Ilych noticed, or thought he noticed, a strange attitude towards himself. It sometimes seemed to him that people were watching him inquisitively as a man whose place might soon be vacant. Then again, his friends would suddenly begin to chaff him in a friendly way about his low spirits, as if the awful, horrible, and unheard-of thing that was going on within him, incessantly gnawing at him and irresistibly drawing him away, was a very agreeable subject for jests. Schwartz in particular irritated him by his jocularity, vivacity, and savoir-faire, which reminded him of what he himself had been ten years ago. (4.23)
At work things just go on as usual, with no one caring about what Ivan's illness. Ivan's friends are so incapable of coping with anything unseemly in life that all they can do is laugh off his disease. The most horrible and terrifying thing Ivan's ever experienced seems to be joke to them. It's telling, though, that Schwartz – the worst of the group – reminds Ivan of himself.
With this consciousness, and with physical pain besides the terror, he must go to bed, often to lie awake the greater part of the night. Next morning he had to get up again, dress, go to the law courts, speak, and write; or if he did not go out, spend at home those twenty-four hours a day each of which was a torture. And he had to live thus all alone on the brink of an abyss, with no one who understood or pitied him. (4.27)
Ivan now feels completely cut off from the whole world around him. The work place is alienating, and home is even worse. His whole former life, in other words, offers him no comfort. Everywhere he could possibly go, he's just alone with his pain and his fear. All that mattered to him before no longer matters.
He would go to his study, lie down, and again be alone with It: face to face with It. And nothing could be done with It except to look at it and shudder. (6.12)
By this time Ivan has had another realization and become sure that he's going to die. Facing his death makes him more isolated than ever before. He's going to cease to be, while everything else will keep going on as it has. He has to wonder what his own life will mean, once it's over. Nothing and no one else can help him wrap his mind around his death or do anything to change it.