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.
When the priest came and heard his confession, Ivan Ilych was softened and seemed to feel a relief from his doubts and consequently from his sufferings, and for a moment there came a ray of hope. He again began to think of the vermiform appendix and the possibility of correcting it. He received the sacrament with tears in his eyes. (11.23)
Although Ivan's thoughts have had a bit more of a religious bent at this point, he doesn't ask to see the priest himself; his wife asks for him. What's interesting is that, although the priest seems to help, he doesn't help in the right way. The priest makes Ivan think of himself medically one last time, and not spiritually. The priest has the same effect as a doctor, in other words. What might Tolstoy be suggesting with this implication?
Suddenly some force struck him in the chest and side, making it still harder to breathe, and he fell through the hole and there at the bottom was a light. What had happened to him was like the sensation one sometimes experiences in a railway carriage when one thinks one is going backwards while one is really going forwards and suddenly becomes aware of the real direction.
Just what is going on here? Is Ivan Ilych having the realization himself, or is God acting on him? Who or what is responsible for Ivan's transformative moment?
"Yes, I am making them wretched," he thought. "They are sorry, but it will be better for them when I die." He wished to say this but had not the strength to utter it. "Besides, why speak? I must act," he thought. with a look at his wife he indicated his son and said: "Take him away...sorry for him...sorry for you too...." He tried to add, "Forgive me," but said "Forego" and waved his hand, knowing that He whose understanding mattered would understand. (12.8)
This is the only explicit reference to God from the moment of Ivan's realization onwards. We really don't have any direct indication of what role God has played. Has God been present to Ivan this whole time, or is Ivan expecting to enter into God's presence after he dies?