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Trial by death is one of the favorite themes in Tolstoy's works. This theme is most prominent in the "The Death of Ivan Ilyich", where the whole novel is about the painful dying of Ivan Ilyich Golovin.

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Trial by death is one of the favorite themes in Tolstoy's works. This theme is most prominent in the "The Death of Ivan Ilyich", where the whole novel is about the painful dying of Ivan Ilyich Golovin. The horror of life wrongly lived, and subsequent judgment constitute the Tolstoy's message in this book. "The Death of Ivan Ilyich" preserves the Tolstoy's favorite literary tool for coming to terms with the world - psychological analysis. Tolstoy was always dedicated to exploring the conflict between individual and his or her environment. His best-known characters usually are against the surroundings to which they were born and conditioned. The latter Tolstoy, as in the case with "The Death of Ivan Ilyich", is mainly interested in rebirth of the person from the privileged social class, who has felt the social inequality, moral shallowness and hypocrisy of the life around. ...read more.


Faced with the inevitable, Ivan at first evades the direct answer. In the dialog with his awoken conscience, he argues that he led a decent life. But as the end was coming, there was no more reasons left to bargain with himself, and Ivan Ilyich gave up. He failed to justify his life. Throughout his existence he was only interested in the worldly appearance, in how he will look in the eyes of the others, especially his superiors, ignoring the needs of his family for emotional support and depriving himself of the emotional development. The three days of screaming experienced by Ilyich, where in "time ceased to exist for him" and he "struggled as a man condemned to death struggles in the hands of an executioner, knowing there is no escape" (Tolstoy 131), is analogous to Christian purgation. The three days is the trial for Ivan Ilyich, only this time he is the one being judged by his uncovered sense of right and wrong. ...read more.


It is briefly re-told by the author, who concentrates his and reader's attention on the psychological life of the character, who despises his previous life, and on his relationship with the world around. In "The Death of Ivan Ilyich" the plot does not unfold in the chronological order. It starts in reverse, from the logical end, with the impressions of Ivan Ilyich's death on his co-workers. By breaking the chronological order, Tolstoy makes the consequences of the horrible culmination even more morbid. Tolstoy was a devoted Russian Orthodox, and a lot of his works are based on the stories form the Bible. The key point of the Russian Christian religious tradition is the forgiveness of sins, after a person fully confessed. After three days of anguish to find meaning in the emptiness of his life, Ivan Ilyich saw the divine light. For him, death is the light and freedom from his previous transgressions against his soul. ...read more.

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