The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy

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Sum up the reactions of Ivan Ilyich's colleagues to the news of his death. What is implied in Tolstoy’s calling them ”so-called friends”?

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Ivan Ilyich's associates are described as "so-called friends" because they apparently do not feel genuinely close to the man while he was alive, and even after he has died, they all seem to regard it an unpleasant duty to pay their sympathies to his widow and attend his funeral.

But Tolstoy is not condemning these men, Peter, Fedor, and Schwartz, so much as observing that the entire scene depicted in the novella's opening is an illustration of what normally happens when anyone dies, even a respected and basically good man such as Ivan Ilyich. To look back at the first few pages, after one has read the whole story, is to be struck not just by the casual reaction of the friends when they read his obituary, but also by the fact that the outside world knows only that "Ivan Ilyich had been ill for several weeks" and then passed away. The huge turmoil and excruciating pain of Ivan Ilyich's last months have been summed up so briefly that his friends have no idea of the magnitude of what has...

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