The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy

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According to The Death of Ivan Ilyich, why is it important to acknowledge one's own mortality?

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Tolstoy's message, in this story and in most of his later fiction, involves the transience and relatively unimportant nature of earthly life. Ivan Ilyich, in the agony of the final three days before he expires, senses that he has made some fundamental error in the way he's lived his life. This has been, simply, the fact that he, like most people, valued material things. The wrongness of living for possessions and not spiritual values is brought home more emphatically because Tolstoy stresses that Ivan Ilyich was not an unusual or a bad man: his life has been unremarkable, and therefore his fate is "all the more terrible."

Like many (if not most) people, Ivan Ilyich has had the implicit attitude that, somehow, death is not a reality for him. When he becomes ill, his reaction is that something inexplicable is happening to him, when the reality of the situation is that this—illness and death—will happen to everybody. In his case, it just occurs sooner and more rapidly. The principal...

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