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In the
Death of Ivan Ilyich, we see a battle
for importance among the author’s own existential crisis. Tolstoy’s story does
not appear to contain an effectively recognizable response to the subject of
how one’s life ought to be lived. It may be a reaction of the author’s own defeat
to see a positive significance in life or a distinct explanation behind his own
imminent demise, or maybe it is a discharge of his own reflection as he
approaches death. Nonetheless, Ivan Ilyich is a good-natured and undistinguished
materialist who has spent his whole life trying to be like everyone else in his
social class: successful and happy man for whom happiness means only the absence
of suffering.  

Throughout
the book, we see Ivan go through phases of different emotions which bring his distinct
phases of realizations. He gains more and more insight into his past and
present life and in turn help him realize what a superficial; life he’s been living.
His inauthentic self has lost all its feeling and passion for personal experience.
Even though we were never given the exact details of Ivan Ilyich’s last
realization, we can assume with the knowledge we have on his life and the impact
of his extreme epiphany that he begins to realize what an inauthentic life he
has been living. He finds that in the absence of all disguises, it is death
that is there to comfort him.

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During Ivan’s last weeks
alive he greatly pondered his closeness to death and nonexistence. It is during
this time that he begins to have a closeness with Gerasim, being that he is the
only person that seems to sympathize with his pains. Gerasim displayed the servitude
and disposition of an existentialist, someone who lives authentically and with self-identity.
Ivan Ilych’s physical life had been a spiritual death and his physical death was
spiritual life. There is devastation in the death of Ivan Ilyich, but it is not
recognition of his death but rather his struggle for compromise.   

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