The Death of Ivan Ilych
by Leo Tolstoy
The Death of Ivan Ilych Religion Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph). We used Alymer Maude's translation.
"Why hast Thou done all this? Why hast Thou brought me here? Why, why dost Thou torment me so terribly?"
He did not expect an answer and yet wept because there was no answer and could be none. The pain again grew more acute, but he did not stir and did not call. He said to himself: "Go on! Strike me! But what is it for? What have I done to Thee? What is it for?" (9.10-12)
This is the first time Ivan himself makes any serious mention of God. He assumes that God must be punishing him for something, since he's suffering so much. That seems different than what Ivan feels at various moments earlier in the story, when he doesn't seem to have any idea why what's happening to him is actually happening. Where did God come into the picture?
Then he grew quiet and not only ceased weeping but even held his breath and became all attention. It was as though he were listening not to an audible voice but to the voice of his soul, to the current of thoughts arising within him. (9.13)
Ivan's been asking angry questions constantly in the story but he's never really stopped to listen. It seems at first as if he's listening for God, but what he ends up hearing is his own soul. It's the first time Ivan looks inward at his true self, the part of himself that isn't false.
"Live as you lived in the law courts when the usher proclaimed 'The judge is coming!' The judge is coming, the judge!" he repeated to himself. "Here he is, the judge. But I am not guilty!" he exclaimed angrily. "What is it for?" And he ceased crying, but turning his face to the wall continued to ponder on the same question: Why, and for what purpose, is there all this horror? But however much he pondered he found no answer. And whenever the thought occurred to him, as it often did, that it all resulted from his not having lived as he ought to have done, he at once recalled the correctness of his whole life and dismissed so strange an idea. (9.26)
Now Ivan explicitly thinks of God as a judge, and he starts to think of whether his suffering reflects a judgment on him. That could explain its purpose, which is what he hasn't been able to explain since he began to suffer. But that would only make sense if Ivan had done something wrong, and Ivan can't accept that yet.