The Death of Ivan Ilych
by Leo Tolstoy
The Death of Ivan Ilych Lies and Deceit Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph). We used Alymer Maude's translation.
Ivan Ilych wanted to weep, wanted to be petted and cried over, and then his colleague Shebek would come, and instead of weeping and being petted, Ivan Ilych would assume a serious, severe, and profound air, and by force of habit would express his opinion on a decision of the Court of Cassation and would stubbornly insist on that view. This falsity around him and within him did more than anything else to poison his last days. (7.34)
This is a revealing passage. When his colleague Shebek (who's certainly false just like the rest of them) comes to visit, it is Ivan, not Shebek, who initiates the artificial interaction. Ivan is still very much a part of the false world he now he condemns, and is responsible to some extent for keeping it going around him. The falsity is just as much inside him as outside him. But it's not clear that he recognizes this yet.
Ivan Ilych feels that the doctor would like to say: "Well, how are our affairs?" but that even he feels that this would not do, and says instead: "What sort of a night have you had?"
Ivan Ilych looks at him as much as to say: "Are you really never ashamed of lying?" But the doctor does not wish to understand this question, and Ivan Ilych says: "Just as terrible as ever. The pain never leaves me and never subsides. If only something ... " (8.25-26)
Even once Ivan's condition is hopeless, the doctor still can't be honest with him. Not only will the doctor not tell Ivan straight out that he's dying; he won't even ask questions that might lead to such a discussion. Ivan now fully recognizes this.
Ivan Ilych knows quite well and definitely that all this is nonsense and pure deception, 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, though he knew very well that they were all lying and why they were lying. (8.29)
Ivan associates the lying doctor with his own social class. This might be seen as an implied admission that his own life – at least his work life – was false. What makes the doctor similar to a lawyer? Both doctors and lawyers deal with clients, and sometimes try to mask over concerns of real people with specialized language.