A renowned author Leo Tolstoy wrote a master piece novel titled Death of Ivan Ilych shortly after his conversion to Christianity. The fiction piece tells the story of a Russian Judge Ivan IIyich of how he lived and how he died. The author begins to tell the life of Ivan from the chronological end of the story regarding his death. It all starts when a group of judges are gathered in a room discussion a case when they are interrupted by a close associate of Ivan who informs them of his death.
Leo a moral thinker, essayist and philosopher tells the story with such awe and fascination. Cards are used by this renowned writer to tell the story of Ivan, which the author from the beginning tries to portray it as two different types of life: the artificial and authentic spiritual life. Ivan who considered his life perfect finds fascination in playing cards. The author highlights this fact right from the time he took up a post as an examining magistrate right to his deathbed. Ivan as the author points out made new “acquaintances and connections” and hence “placed himself on a new footing and assumed a somewhat different tone”. Leo uses this to describe Ivan’s masterly in studying situations and knowing what to do and when to do it. Ivan, as the author seems to suggest lived his life just as he played a game of cards. Leo tells of how Ivan assumed a tone of “slight dissatisfaction” towards the government. This as the author points out earned him friends since the society there was generally inclined towards opposing the government (Tolstoy, 2004, p. 14).
Ivan is characterized by the author as a schemer who always found delight at winning and the misery of others. He captures this moment by depicting that Ivan played cards “good-humouredly, calculated rapidly and astutely” this according to the author always ensured he won. Ivan’s love for material possessions in life is also clearly highlighted by his choice of a wife. Although they were in love as the author seems to put it, Ivan also married her because of her material possessions. The author clearly puts it that the marriage gave Ivan “personal satisfaction” (p. 15). Leo highlights this kind of life as one that is characterized by materialism, self interest as well as shallow relationships.
However, as soon as Ivan’s wife became pregnant he started feeling dissatisfied. The author tells of how Ivan lived his life the way he knew how “easily, pleasantly and decorously” (p.22). The author captures clearly the life of Ivan by claiming that in his work he would strive to be ambitious while in his personal life vanity would take over. Ivan’s journey through life was all vanity and ambition. Leo tells of how Ivan brushed away unpleasant things in his life by playing a game of bridge. Ivan would only be delighted if he won few games since he found it boring winning all of them. The author describes how after playing cards, Ivan would have supper and wine so as to ensure he went to bed in good humor.
Even in sickness as the author narrates, Ivan still found pleasure in playing cards. The author uses his lack of prowess at playing cards because he was sick as significant step towards the end of his life. However, when he had learned his death was now inevitable, he started realizing how he had not been living a life that was pleasant. The thought that he was destined to die made him to take an in depth analysis of how he had made those close to him unhappy. Terror abound him when he realized he could not escape dying because of his disease. His perspective towards life however changed. Leo highlights that this was brought out of fear and the end of it was joy. The author uses this novel as a lesson by making death sensible only for those who have lived rightly.