The Death of Ivan Ilyich is a story of sin and redemption. Ivan had been blindly building what he thought was a good and proper life. He had completed his education, landed professional positions with increasing responsibilities and salary, married well, and surrounded himself with the outward signs of wealth—a large estate with handsome and stylish furnishings. However, Ivan’s obsession with work, money, and possessions, and his neglect of his family, brought on Ivan a personal crisis from which he could not recover. Ivan’s physical problems—which began when he fell from a ladder while obsessing over draperies—provoked the spiritual crisis that caused his anguish and eventually led to his death.
Ivan’s suffering, however, prompts a self-examination that leads ultimately to his redemption. That self-examination begins when Ivan asks God why he is allowing Ivan, who believes he has led a pleasant and proper life, to suffer. An inner voice questions whether Ivan has lived a good life, provoking Ivan to review his entire life, from his childhood to the time of his illness. This self-examination results in an epiphany for Ivan, as he realizes the sterility of a life of materialism and meaningless work, a life without love and human contact. On his deathbed, Ivan asks his son’s—and God’s—forgiveness for his errors and accepts his own death. His admission of guilt and acceptance of death relieves his suffering, allowing him to see...
(The entire section is 401 words.)