Essay about Ivan Ilyich Materialism

Leo Tolstoy was born in Russia to an aristocratic family at a large estate known as Yasnaya Polyana. Nobility in his blood, Tolstoy grew up with unlimited resources. He knew of what it was like to have an over indulgence of unnecessary luxuries. This background is what made him perfectly fit to write a novel based entirely on the consequence of living one’s life without meaning. This is exactly what the work The Death of Ivan llyich conveyed.

This work was centered around a man who pursued a boisterous career for the sake of glamour and recognition, a man who married a woman based on societal pressure, a man ho was so infatuated with material objects that he lost sight of life’s true values. Through the various aspects of Ivan llyich’s life, Leo Tolstoy portrays how materialism inevitably leads to self- destruction. Founded on the basis of social capital, Ivan’s relationship with his wife, Praskovya Fyodorovna, was a key instrument in his ultimate unhappiness. In the opening chapter, the audience is given a glimpse of their relationship’s state.

If a woman’s husband had just passed away, one could only expect her to be grieving during his funeral. This was not the case. Her grief esembled that of a crying child peeking to make sure the adults are watching. This was seen in her conversation with Pyotr Ivanovich, a “close” friend of Ivan where her chief business was not to be consoled but to find out how “in connection with her husband’s death, she could obtain a grant of money from the government” (Tolstoy 40). Praskovya had just recently lost a husband, and her biggest concern was what she could milk out of it.

This highlights the lack of intimacy in their relationship and foreshadows the lack of support Ivan would receive throughout his death. In a flashback to the beginning of their relationship, Tolstoy describes their relationship as a “good alliance” (Tolstoy 48). The implications of this are that this is a relationship built on convenience. While feelings of fondness may have existed, the relationship’s ultimate purpose stemmed from doing something that “people of the highest standing considered correct” (Tolstoy 49).

Fast-forward into their relationship, the audience experiences an emotional roller-coaster. Ivan and Praskovya go back and forth between bickering and what would seem like happiness. The cause of this up and down is no more than onetary troubles. After living above his salary for seven years, Ivan found himself short on money, and at this time Praskovya “blamed her husband for every setback they experienced.. ” (Tolstoy 51). However, the second Ivan acquired his new salary of 5,000 rubbles, “they were closer than they had been since the first years of their married life” (Tolstoy 57).

This shows that the amount of money circulating in Ivan’s life was directly proportional to the happiness shared between him and his wife; this signifies a weak relationship. Because this relationship was so centered around wealth, when Ivan crept to is death he found himself alone without any support from the person he should expect it most from. Because when Ivan crept to his death, his wife “wish[ed] he would die, yet she could not really wish that, for then there would be no income” (Tolstoy 64). Does that sound like a marriage that has any hint of love?

Another materialistic aspect of Ivan’s life that led to his self- destruction was his career. Tolstoy described Ivan as a child that from his earliest had “been drawn to people of high standing in society as a moth is to light” (Tolstoy 41). When examined in a scientific way, this simile has significant meeting. A moth uses a distant light source such as the moon to navigate in a behavior known as transverse orientation. However, when a moth is exposed to a man-made light source it becomes disoriented.

Ivan is the same in the sense that once he was exposed to the glam associated with being a man of law and, he himself became disoriented in his path of life. The counter-argument could be made that he simply admired these people and was simply inspired, however, after living in debt for a short while, Ivan compromised his career on the count of simply being short on funds. “He was no longer bent on any ministry, filed, or type f work… but it had to pay five thousand and allow him to stop working for a ministry that failed to appreciate him” (Tolstoy 54). This mentality showed that he was only being driven by wealth and power.

Tolstoy highlights what a mentality like this leads to by giving Ivan a taste of his own medicine, literally. Ivan was drawn to his career by the smell of money. However, he also received something else: power. Ivan’s career by default carried a lot of power, and Ivan was infatuated with this power. Because to Ivan, “the chance to ruin whomever he chose” was a cause for rejoicing (Tolstoy 52). However, karma came around to bite him when he had his accident, Ivan became subjected to the scrutiny of physicians. “The celebrated doctor[s] dealt with him in the precisely the manner he dealt with man on trial” (Tolstoy 65).

They made him wait on them; they constantly juggled diagnosis; they dehumanized him. The same way Ivan treated the people before him. Tolstoy was believer of karma, and this irony of having roles reversed may have been his way of revealing to his audience the consequences of treating people like anything less than people. Because by treating the people on trial as if eneath himself, it was only right for karma to treat him in the same way. This leaves the audience to wonder if he had been a more compassionate lawyer, that maybe these celebrated doctors could have made the correct diagnosis.

The final aspect of Ivan’s life that contributed to his downfall came in the form of extravagant taste. In the aftermaths of Ivan luxurious tastes, Tolstoy shows his audience the consequence of being materialistic. In chapter 3, Ivan is found in a financial pickle due to the ‘injustices’ he had suffered. One of these injustices was “the debts he had incurred by living above his means” (Tolstoy 54). This lavish lifestyle forced Ivan to move in with his wife’s brother. What was the result of this? The result of this was an unhappy Ivan completely comprising his career by simply seeking out a positon based on the salary offered.

Ivan pretending to be someone he was not led to him compromising his career, and in this Tolstoy shows his audience the dangers of living gluttonous as it can cost a regular person a career in which they love by substituting it with a career that supports their bad habits. This is similar to drugs one can be so addicted to drugs that they would be willing to do heinous things for a chance at eeling that illustrious high. Ivan was addicted to luxury, and he would have undoubtedly done anything in order to feed that addiction, something Tolstoy, a man who overcame gambling problems, feels would lead to self-destruction.

The most importance instance of this came in the form of interior decoration. “Once, when he mounted a step ladder to show a perplexed upholstered how he wanted the drapes hung, he missed a step and fell” (Tolstoy 56). During this moment, Ivan was obsessed with turning his new apartment into a lavish place suitable for his upper echelon standards. Had he placed less of n emphasis, less of an obsession on interior decoration, the fate of his future would have been drastically altered because ultimately, the result of decorating was the injury that killed him.

Tolstoy craft of this scene was nonchalant; the injury was not even a focal point of the chapter. At first glance, the injury seemed like some form of comic relief. However, this was not this case, and this injury became one of the most cataclysmic events in Ivan’s life. In making something so minute mean so much, Tolstoy shows his audience how even the smallest hints of materialism brew trouble. The reasons for getting married led to him being alone at his deathbed. His choice of career led to him being ultimately stripped of his dignity.

And his extravagant taste led to his inability to be satisfied. These three things all factored in making Ivan an unhappy man up until his death. The final scene ends with Ivan realizing how poisonous he has been in not only his own life but also in the life of everyone around him. His materialistic lust landed him in a pit of despair begging for salvation. He ultimately found this salvation by realizing he had been torturing the people around him, and that “it would be etter for them when [he] die[d]” (Tolstoy 112).

This salvation was similar to the one found in the short, Like a Prayer, by Rafael Campo in which he also finds his way only after having a life-changing event. The circumstances were vastly different. Campo was a doctor dealing with AIDS’ patients, while Ivan was a lawyer dealing with the accused and his own family. However, the result was the same thing. Campo thought of those patients as less of a person, and until he himself was faced with the possibility of having AIDS was toxic to his patients. Once his incident occurred, he made a turn for the best and treated veryone with the same respect.

Ivan behaved in a similar manner. Only until he realized he would die soon enough did he choose to change. Unfortunately, it was a little bit too late. This is an interesting concept because while Campo is able to better himself, Ivan is not. Tolstoy in this conveys to his audience that chasing a life of materialistic design warrants only bad outcomes. Materialism had made Ivan so toxic that the only way to alleviate his suffering as well as his family’s suffering was to leave this planet. By ending the novel this way, Tolstoy places the ultimate exclamation mark.

One that states that a life lived with no true meaning or value may serve the good of society by simply seeing its way out. Tolstoy’s written demise of Ivan Tolstoy served to tell a lot of what a life of materialism heads. It tells a lot of what lusting for money and power can lead to: unhappiness. This is a huge lesson for future doctors to learn from. Because a doctor that chases medicine for the wrong reasons, a doctor whose career means nothing more than a source of monetary wealth and notoriety faces the consequence missing out on the beauty of medicine and ultimately succumbing to misery.