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Selection Info & Discussion Guides

The Death of Ivan Ilyich
By Leo Tolstoy

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Until his illness, Ivan Ilyich had never reflected on his life. But he slowly comes to see his life as a terrible, huge deception which had hidden life and death. As he lays dying, his lifelong friends think of the promotions that may come their way, and his wife began to wish he would die, but she didn't want him to die because then his salary would cease. He has always avoided human connection, but through the tender ministrations of a peasant he comes to recognize the mesh of falsity in which he's lived. Written more than a century ago, Tolstoy's work still retains the power of a contemporary novel.
Copyright ©: Reed Business Information

Discussion Questions

How did the first chapter make you feel?

As Ivan rises in his career, he fails in his personal life. Discuss why this is and if you have personally experienced this. Why was playing bridge an escape?

Why do you think Ivan marries Praskovya? What do you think each of their perception is about their relationship and why?

Where do you think the problems in their marriage originated and why? How would you have handled it?

After three days of excruciating physical and mental pain, Ivan realizes that despite a futile life, he can still make amends. Is he right? Does he accomplish this? With whom and why?

What do you think of Ivan's relationship with the peasant boy? How is the boy different from the rest of Ivan's visitors?

If you were there, how would you have interacted with Ivan? What would you have told him?

Why do you think Tolstoy didn't explain "the light" Ivan sees?


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