The Death of Ivan Ilych
Technology and Modernization Quotes Page 3
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She described how he made Gerasim hold his legs up.
The doctor smiled with a contemptuous affability that said: "What's to be done? These sick people do have foolish fancies of that kind, but we must forgive them." (8.35-36)
Because the doctor's perspective is so blind to the real problem for Ivan – the problem of coping with death – he can just dismiss Gerasim's treatment of Ivan as nonsense. But Gerasim is the only person who is helping Ivan in any significant way. The doctors – and modern medicine by extension – have failed to help him.
The celebrated specialist took leave of him with a serious though not hopeless look, and in reply to the timid question Ivan Ilych, with eyes glistening with fear and hope, put to him as to whether there was a chance of recovery, said that he could not vouch for it but there was a possibility. The look of hope with which Ivan Ilych watched the doctor out was so pathetic that Praskovya Fedorovna, seeing it, even wept as she left the room to hand the doctor his fee.
The gleam of hope kindled by the doctor's encouragement did not last long. The same room, the same pictures, curtains, wall- paper, medicine bottles, were all there, and the same aching suffering body, and Ivan Ilych began to moan. They gave him a subcutaneous injection and he sank into oblivion. (8.40-42)
This is the last of the celebrity doctors that Ivan sees, and also the last time Ivan places any hope in the doctors' ability to save him. As soon as the specialist leaves and Ivan is confronted with the full reality of his situation again, the hope is gone.
The doctor came at his usual time. Ivan Ilych answered "Yes" and "No," never taking his angry eyes from him, and at last said: "You know you can do nothing for me, so leave me alone."
"We can ease your sufferings."
"You can't even do that. Let me be." (11.6-8)
Near death, Ivan at last tells the doctor what he really thinks. They can't do anything for him, not even to ease his suffering. It's unclear whether their treatments can affect his physical suffering, even though that's what they're designed to do. It is certain they can do nothing for his greatest sufferings, which are mental.