The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy

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In "The Death of Ivan Ilyich," why did Ivan conclude his life ''was not the real thing''?

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Leo Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilyich, on its surface, is an exploration of a man questioning the purpose of his life and coming up short. However, as with Tolstoy's other famous works, commentaries on political and spiritual life are at the fore. One could even suggest that the tale is autobiographical, as Tolstoy found himself questioning his life, works, and his legacy in the second half of his life.

It's no accident that Gerasim, the sole servant in the story, is the only character who is unafraid of (or in outright in denial of) death. It was Tolstoy's belief (borrowed from his mentor, Arthur Schopenhauer) that only the poor could know spiritual truth because suffering was forced upon them. Tolstoy became somewhat obsessed by the suffering of the poor in his later years and found himself moving toward asceticism, including sexual abstinence, in his later years. His actions—in particular, turning over the copyright to his works to the people of Russia and renouncing personal...

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