Religious Significance In The Death Of Ivan Ilyich

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The Covert Religious Significance in ?The Death of Ivan Ilyich?.

The initial interpretation of ?The Death of Ivan Ilyich? by Leo Tolstoy can be viewed as a lesson on the true meaning of life and how one should live. On further examination I have found that Tolstoy embedded a deeper religious meaning within the story. Unless the reader is familiar with biblical scriptures, Tolstoy?s approach will be lost within the contents of the sentences.

Tolstoy contrasts the life and death of Christ with that of the character Ivan Ilyich. Even more significantly, the story is a replicate of the scripture ?The Story of Job?.

In many cases it appears as if ?The Story of Job? was a great influence on Tolstoy when he wrote ?The Death Of Ivan Ilyich?. Despite the differences in the causes of illnesse between the characters of Job and Ivan Ilyich, the reactions and circumstances surrounding the events are strikingly familiar.

To begin, Job and Ivan were very prosperous men by their own making before their illness. In the case of Ivan, his illness could be ideally blamed on his ignorance on how he should have lived his life. ?It was as if I had been going downhill while I imagined I was going up? (31). Job on the other hand, was stricken with his misfortunes for the challenge of Satan to God, challenging Job?s faithfulness (Job 1:6-12). With all differences aside, after Ivan Ilyich became ill he found himself isolated in loneliness even though he was ?in the midst of a populous town and surrounded by numerous acquaintances and relations? (32). Job became alienated from family and friends as well: ?My kinsfolk and companions neglect me, and my friends are wholly estranged? (Job 19:14). A tragedy worse than sickness befell upon Job and Ivan. Neither character knew the specific cause of their illness; family and friends blamed both of them for the cause of their illness. Although this was an attempt to comfort them, it was deemed less than useful.

Equally important is the questions asked to God when neither Job nor Ivan could find the cause of the disease. Tolstoy made a significant connection of the two characters when Ivan, ? wept on account of his helplessness, his terrible loneliness, the cruelty of man, the cruelty of god, and the absence of God. ["Why hast though done all this? Why hast though brought me here? Why, why does though torment me so terribly?"]" (30). In comparison Job asks similar questions to God. ?Your hands have formed me and fashioned me; will you then turn and destroy me?? (Job 10:8).

Obviously, the similarities in the two characters are overwhelming. But I think Tolstoy?s ending completes the picture of Job as a model of Ivan. After all the suffering and questioning of each of their lives, Job and Ivan Ilyich find redemption only when they put the needs of others before themselves. ?The lord restored the prosperity of Job, after he had prayed for his friends; the lord even gave him twice as much? (Job 42:10). Tolstoy conveyed Ivan's redemption at the moment when Ivan acts out of some motivation other than his own self-interest. ?He was sorry for them, he must act so as not to hurt the them? (36). Tolstoy?s character of Ivan sought peace when he put the well being of others before his self. Job as well did not seek his peace until he thought only of his friends rather than himself. In the end Job recovers his "humility and trust in god, which is deepened and strengthened by his experience of suffering" (503 Holy Bible). The same as well could be said about Ivan and his experience of suffering also.

In Fact, the main idea of a religious meaning being conveyed in Tolstoy?s ?The Death Of Ivan Ilyich?, can be translated with the comparison of Job and Ivan. But within the story, Tolstoy also includes smaller cues to his religious beliefs within the context. Upon looking back at the Life of Ivan Ilyich, when he was well and prosperous, we see that Ivan?s life was wasted on meaningless pleasure. ?His social pleasures were those of vanity??he surrounded himself with ?the best people? (14). The passage within the story that has a broader meaning is when Ivan ?had danced with Princess Trufonova, a sister of the distinguished founder of the society ?Bear My Burden? (14). I comprehend Tolstoy?s usage of ?Bear My Burden? to advance the reader to the most common usage of the phrase. That phrase is symbolic in Christianity to signify the crucifixion of Christ, for the sin of the people. Christ out of the love for mankind bore the burden of sin. I believe Tolstoy used such a phrase as a type of contradiction towards the way Ivan Ilyich and those around him lived their lives. In contrast to Jesus, they didn?t live their lives out of love or concern for others, but rather themselves.

In addition, Tolstoy introduces the phrase as a contrast to the theme as well as a similarity in the character of Gerasim. As we have said earlier, the phrase ?Bear My Burden? is often referred to the crucifixion of Christ. In the story of ?The Death of Ivan Ilyich? we see how Ivan struggles to find the real meaning of his life. Only during his struggle to survive does he find that the best way to live is for others. Ivan Ilyich, who has the best of everything, is missing a real life the way it should be lived. Tolstoy introduces Gerasim who feels real compassion for Ivan.

Similar to Jesus, Gerasim is willing to sacrifice his own pleasure to help ease Ivan?s suffering.

?What?s a little trouble? It?s all a matter of illness with you, sir? (23). In Tolstoy?s American Preachers, Tolstoy writes to a man named Adin Ballou. In his letter, Tolstoy said; ?so is every degree of perfection attainable by man only an approach to the perfection of the father, which Christ showed us the way to emulate? (6). With the introduction of Gerasim, Tolstoy shows that the proper way to live is right there in front of Ivan the whole time. Although in certain parts of the story Ivan seems to clue in on this idea, he never really grasps it until the very end. In comparison, Gerasim symbolizes Christ and our need to ?emulate? him for a prosperous life.

In conclusion, I have discussed many instances where Tolstoy has used religious significance within his writing of ?The Death of Ivan Ilyich. The first is the undeniable resemblance of Ivan Ilyich to the biblical character of Job. With such a usage Tolstoy has the reader question wether the way we live our lives is righteous or the opposition. The introduction of the phrase ?Bear My Burden? allows Tolstoy to show how one should live their lives in the examples of Christ. Overall Tolstoy has created a Christian tale with a moral that teaches a lesson to those who get lost on the path to eternal life.