The Death of Ivan Ilyich

by Leo Tolstoy

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Gerasim provides comfort to Ivan Ilyich in more than one way in The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Explain about two ways Gerasim cares for Ivan Ilyich.

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Ivan Ilyich had gone through the paces of living but never stopped to contemplate the reasons that he steadily conformed to all of society’s expectations. One of those expectations was that, as a solidly bourgeois gentleman, he would employ servants in his home. Although Gerasim had grown up as a peasant with few opportunities, he does not seem to resent his class status. After the master’s accident, Gerasim is one of the few people who takes good care of him.

Alleviating Ilyich's physical discomfort is one way that he assists the man. During the night, he makes sure that his legs remain elevated. He also exhibits a straightforward, matter-of-fact attitude toward the situation. Rather than sugarcoating the circumstances, he faces the fact that Ilyich will soon die. He sees death as the ultimate leveler. While he does not chastise his owner for wondering why he is not exempt from suffering, he does remind him of the universality of his experience:

We shall all of us die, so why should I grudge a little trouble?

Through this idea of acceptance of our shared experience, Tolstoy shows that the person who has a lowly status in terms of material goods may be occupying a higher spiritual level than the richer man. By neither denying reality nor hysterically overreacting, Gerasim paves the way for Ilyich to ease out of his earthly existence.

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