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.
Once when Ivan Ilych was sending him away he even said straight out: "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. (7.34)
Ivan discovers in Gerasim someone who can comfort him in his isolation. Gerasim recognizes, unlike everyone else, that he himself will die. That enables him to understand what Ivan is going through; he can put himself in Ivan's place. Gerasim's honesty about his own death could show Ivan that death isn't something he has to face alone. Every human being faces it, and they can face it together if they're open about it. But Ivan doesn't see that right away because he's too focused on himself.
His son had always seemed pathetic to him, and now it was dreadful to see the boy's frightened look of pity. It seemed to Ivan Ilych that Vasya was the only one besides Gerasim who understood and pitied him. (8.51)
Vasya is the only person besides Gerasim who can break through Ivan's isolation. This might be because he genuinely feels sorry for his father. Ivan can see that. Unlike Gerasim, though, Vasya probably can't understand what's happening. He does know that his father is suffering, though, and is not able to ignore that suffering in the same way his other family members do. Vasya has not grown into the false world to which everyone else belongs.
He removed his legs from Gerasim's shoulders, turned sideways onto his arm, and felt sorry for himself. He only waited till Gerasim had gone into the next room and then restrained himself no longer but wept like a child. He wept on account of his helplessness, his terrible loneliness, the cruelty of man, the cruelty of God, and the absence of God. (9.10)
It seems as though Ivan has barely thought about God up to this point. But if there's anyone Ivan is isolated from, it's God. Does God feel absent to Ivan because Ivan doesn't believe in him, or because Ivan hasn't thought of him before?