Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Ivan Ilyich Golovin
Ivan Ilyich Golovin (ih-VAHN ihl-YIHCH goh-LOH-vihn), a prominent judge. A genial and conscientious lawyer, the popular Ivan Ilyich hides from reality under a cloak of decorum. Obtaining an excellent appointment in St. Petersburg, he finds there a house and an ordered routine exactly to his taste. He feels that life is, at last, just as it should be. Then he learns that he is the victim of a fatal disease. Facing death, he is forced to look, for the first time, at the truth about his life. Only as he becomes aware of the real meaning of his past decisions does he free himself from the fear of death.
Praskovya Fedorovna Golovina
Praskovya Fedorovna Golovina (prahs-KOH-vyah FYOH-do-rov-nah goh-LOH-vih-nah), Ivan Ilyich Golovin’s wife. Dissatisfied with the role her husband has chosen for her, she becomes demanding and quarrelsome and, finally, isolated from him. Only in death does her husband become aware of her as a person deserving pity and forgiveness.
Gerasim (geh-RAH-sihm), Ivan Ilyich Golovin’s peasant servant boy. In his candid admission of the reality and naturalness of death, and with his honesty and clean young strength, Gerasim comforts and...
(The entire section is 233 words.)
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Ivan Ilych’s wife, Praskovya Fedorovna, is never emotionally intimate with her husband, though they both desire the same lifestyle. They take pride in their new house, which embodies the propriety and class in which they want to live. When she first became pregnant, Ivan complained that she deliberately caused scenes and easily became jealous. Instead of dealing with his wife’s emotions, Ivan ignored them. Praskovya ultimately reciprocates her husband’s distant coldness. She indulges in extreme self-pity but believes herself to be very tolerant of her dying husband’s moans. As her husband is dying, however, Praskovya does not acknowledge the seriousness of his situation. She chastises him for not taking his medicine and suggests that he see more doctors. At his funeral she is preoccupied with maintaining the proper persona of the grieving widow as she asks Peter Ivanovich if he thinks it possible for her to get money from the government to help her financially after her husband’s death.
See Fedor Vasilievich
Gerasim is a Russian peasant with whom Ivan Ilych takes much comfort during the last days of his life. He is a servant of the house and selflessly and compassionately acts as sick nurse for Ivan, often elevating the dying man’s legs throughout the night. Like Ivan’s youngest son, Gerasim does not display the fake and shallow propriety that Ivan...
(The entire section is 1206 words.)