Why does Tolstoy begin with Ivan's death?

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This is an intriguing question, and one that is not easy to try to answer. Tolstoy was one of the world's very greatest writers. He wrote with that "high seriousness," which the English critic Matthew Arnold said was a sign of great genius. It may seem presumptuous to try to read such a great mind as that of Leo Tolstoy. But here are some suggestions.

The opening is obviously very effective. The description of the dead man is especially striking. 

The dead man lay, as dead men always lie, in a specially heavy way, his rigid limbs sunk in the soft cushions of the coffin, with the head forever bowed on the pillow. His yellow waxen brow with bald patches over his sunken temples was thrust up in the way peculiar to the dead, the protruding nose seeming to press on the upper lip. He was much changed and grown even thinner since Peter Ivanovich had last seen him, but, as is always the case with the dead, his face was handsomer and above all more dignified than when he was alive. The expression...

(The entire section contains 720 words.)

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