Life and Death of Ivan Illvich

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Sarah Foster
Philosophy M/W 9:25
December 5, 2012
Analysis of the Life and Death of Ivan Illyich

Ivan's defining characteristic is that he lives his life by the standards of others. Rather than relying on his own good judgment to direct his moral life, Ivan relies on the beliefs and values of aristocratic society. He believes that if he goes along with their life style, he will be happy and fulfilled with his own life. He begins to act as one in his position should act. He gets married as a young gentleman in his position should do and also buys a house and furnishes it with only the most expensive furniture. As Ivan accustoms himself to the high society, he grows increasingly irritated to everything that threatens his own comfort and material well-being. When Ivan’s wife, Praskovya introduces something unpleasant about her pregnancy, Ivan retreats from his wife and consumes himself in his work. When married life becomes difficult, Ivan adopts a formal attitude toward his family. As Ivan scrambles to avoid the unpleasant, he reduces his personal relationships to merely materialistic relationships. By adopting the values of aristocratic society rather than using his reason to discover what is truly meaningful in life, Ivan isolates himself from the rest of the world and in place of meaning and fulfillment, Ivan finds only pain and dissatisfaction. I-Thou relationship calls for an individual to place his or her needs to the side while stepping into the other's shoes. This is precisely the view that Ivan lacks. He places his needs before that of others around him. The view that Ivan adopts in the novel is the I-It view, this is where one sees the world through the lens of his or her own needs. While being a part of this high society, Ivan begins to adopt this aspect of life and is more absorbed with materialistic things that the things that matter the most. By forcing Ivan to confront the prospect of his death, it brings him face to face with...
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