Die Heuning Pot Literature Guide
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Analysis

Literary Devices in The Death of Ivan Ilych

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

So what's up with Tolstoy starting the story with Ivan's funeral? If you think about it, that's only one respect in which the pacing of this novella is strange. We start the story after the main ch...

Setting

It's a little bit tricky to establish the setting for Ivan Ilych, because the narrator is so fond of playing around with space and time. Different parts of the story take place on very different sc...

Narrator Point of View

The narrator of the novella is most definitely an all-knowing narrator. He's not restricted to one character's point of view, but can get into the mind of any character. When he does, in fact, he e...

Genre

Realism with a big "R" can mean rather different things when applied to different authors. At its most general, though, it's a genre that tries to depict unromanticized ordinary life, the real life...

Tone

The narrator of Ivan Ilych is "above" all that he describes. He conveys an air of knowing everything there is to be known in the story and of having complete control over its presentation. That's i...

Writing Style

Something remarkable about Tolstoy's writing style is how unassuming and hard to notice it actually is. There are very few words that would send you scampering to a dictionary, almost no flowery or...

What's Up With the Title?

We learn from the title that there's a guy named Ivan Ilych. This might sound crude and cold, but he gets sick and dies, and that's what the story is all about. The important part is that in the pr...

What's Up With the Ending?

What is going on in the end when Ivan Ilych has a realization and sees that flash of light? A whole lot, and it's worth asking questions about all of it.What causes the light and Ivan's great reali...

Tough-o-Meter

Ivan Ilych is short, its plot is relatively easy to follow, and unlike Tolstoy's longer novels, it doesn't have millions of characters. The language is pretty simple too; even in an older translati...

Plot Analysis

Ivan Ilych's funeral…and now for the story of his life.The central drama of the story is Ivan's struggle with illness and death, and Tolstoy gives us quite the setup. He tells us Ivan's whole...

Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis: Rebirth

Ivan falls ill after a tumble in his drawing room; Ivan grows up and starts leading a false life.There are two good candidates for the moment when Ivan "falls under The Dark Power," each of which g...

Three Act Plot Analysis

We learn of Ivan's death through his three friends at the court; we get an unfavorable impression of his friends and family at the funeral. The narrator, playing with time, takes us through Ivan's...

Trivia

Did you know that the great Japanese director Akira Kurosawa (best known for his samurai films) made a movie based on The Death of Ivan Ilych? It was called Ikiru, or To Live, and is often consider...

Steaminess Rating

There are a few vague references to certain episodes from Ivan's younger days, when he "succumbed to sensuality" (2.4) and did "horrid" things (2.5). He also apparently had an affair with a country...

Allusions

Emile Zola (5.15)Johann Gottfried Kiesewetter (6.3)Sarah Bernhardt (8.44, 8.55)
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