The Death of Ivan Ilych
by Leo Tolstoy
The Death of Ivan Ilych Suffering Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph). We used Alymer Maude's translation.
Apart from this lying, or because of it, what most tormented Ivan Ilych was that no one pitied him as he wished to be pitied. At certain moments after prolonged suffering he wished most of all (though he would have been ashamed to confess it) for someone to pity him as a sick child is pitied. He longed to be petted and comforted. He knew he was an important functionary, that he had a beard turning grey, and that therefore what he longed for was impossible, but still he longed for it. (7.34)
What Ivan wants most of all is for someone to recognize how badly he's suffering and just show him some care. But nobody wants to recognize it, and nobody gives him the care he needs, except Gerasim. It seems that his suffering itself is made much worse by not being acknowledged by anyone else. Ivan's suffering gradually reveals to him that he needs other people, and can't just depend on himself. That's the first step in coming to care for other people. It's no coincidence that Ivan is said to feel like a child. Ivan's childhood – the period when he openly depended on others – was also the only happy time in his life.
It was morning. He knew it was morning because Gerasim had gone, and Peter the footman had come and put out the candles, drawn back one of the curtains, and begun quietly to tidy up. Whether it was morning or evening, Friday or Sunday, made no difference, it was all just the same: the gnawing, unmitigated, agonizing pain, never ceasing for an instant, the consciousness of life inexorably waning but not yet extinguished, the approach of that ever dreaded and hateful Death which was the only reality, and always the same falsity. What were days, weeks, hours, in such a case? (8.1)
By this point, Ivan's life has become unbearable . It's all the same: endless pain, constant fear. Nothing in particular matters any more. That's why Ivan is able to completely lose track of time.
Peter went out. Left alone Ivan Ilych groaned not so much with pain, terrible though that was, as from mental anguish. Always and for ever the same, always these endless days and nights. If only it would come quicker! If only what would come quicker? Death, darkness?...No, no! anything rather than death! (8.15)
Ivan's suffering is so bad at this point that he actually wants to die, just to put an end to it. There's no other end in sight. But he's terrified of death too, because he can't wrap his mind around what it means. So Ivan is stuck between the two, itself a form of torture.