The Death of Ivan Ilyich: Top Ten Quotes

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  1. Tolstoy asserts about Ilyich's friends: "The more intimate of Ivan Ilyich's acquaintances, his so-called friends, could not help thinking also that they would now have to fulfill the very tiresome demands of propriety by attending the funeral service and paying a visit of condolence to the widow."
  2. Speaking alone with Peter Ivanovich, Praskovya Federovna explains her husband's final days of agony, saying, "It was unendurable.  I cannot understand how I bore it; you could hear him three rooms off.  Oh, what I have suffered!"
  3. Tolstoy begins his next chapter by Ivan Ilyich's life as follows: it "had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible."
  4. Tolstoy explains, "But on the whole his life ran its course as he believed life should do: easily, pleasantly, and decorously."
  5. Tolstoy explains Ilyich's pain and alienation from society, saying, "he had to live thus all alone on the brink of an abyss, with no one who understood or pitied him."
  6. Even with the translation, Tolstoy's language is still beautiful as he details his character's last thoughts: "the gnawing, unmitigated, agonizing pain, never ceasing for an instant, the consciousness of life inexorably waning but not yet extinguished, the approach of that ever dreaded and hateful Death which was the only reality, and always the same falsity."
  7. Tolstoy employs the central metaphor of his work, saying of his protagonist: "It seemed to him that he and his pain were being thrust into a narrow, deep black sack, but though they were pushed further and further in they could not be pushed to the bottom. And suddenly he broke through.."
  8. Ivan Ilyich says to himself, regarding his life's decisions, "I was going up in public opinion, but to the same extent life was ebbing away from me.  And now it is all done and there is only death."
  9. Tolstoy explains, "It occurred to him that his scarcely perceptible attempts to struggle against what was considered good by the most highly placed people, those scarcely noticeable impulses which he had immediately suppressed, might have been the real thing, and all the rest false."
  10. Tolstoy narrates, expanding his metaphor: "It was at that very moment Ivan Ilyich fell through and caught sight of the light.."

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