The Death of Ivan Ilyich Study Guide
Ch. 1: (In each case give concrete examples directly from the text and indicate the page number).
1. How do those "left behind" respond? co-workers? friends? widow? children? (Attend to the variety of responses)
2. What emotions are demonstrated? What gaps exist between internal and external expressions of emotion? Why do you think such gaps exist?
3. What kinds of distractions/obstacles/concerns intervene in the grieving process for the various mourners? What other considerations come into play as the various mourners react to the death?
4. Which responses does Tolstoy suggest are "universal? which seem to be peculiar to the character of Ivan Ilych?
5. What mourning/memorial rituals and practices are presented here?
6. What is done to/with the body? How is it laid out? What actions are expected of the various mourners?
Ch. 2-3 (In each case give concrete examples directly from the text and indicate the page number).
1. What are the character qualities of Ivan Ilych as a child and school boy?
2. What characteristics emerge in the young man?
3. How do these traits shape his adult life and behavior?
4. Describe Ivan Ilych's experiences as a young husband and father? How does his personal life affect his professional life and vice versa?
5. What motivates him in making certain decisions about his personal life and about his professional life?
6. How does the change in Ivan Ilych's professional status in midlife (first in terms of being passed over for promotion and then in terms of being granted a new higher position with better pay) affect his sense of self and happiness?
7. How does his personal life alter?
8. How do we as readers react to Ivan Ilych's "bruise?" How does Ivan Ilych? Praskovya Fedorovna?
9. Tolstoy has made a deliberate decision to tell us about the post-death period before he takes us back to Ivan Ilych's earlier life and to the original moment when his injury occurred which will ultimately lead to his death. How does that shape our reaction? How does it help us assess the reaction of the various characters?
Ch. 4-6 (In each case give concrete examples directly from the text and indicate the page number).
1. What are the relatively early symptoms of Ivan Ilych's disorder?
2. How does it affect his perosnal life and professional life in these early days?
3. What is the attitude of Praskovya Fedorovna to Ivan Ilych's behavior, temper, illness?
4. What is Ivan Ilych's experience with the medical profession?
5. What kind of information and involvement in his condition is Ivan Ilych permitted?
6. What is the family's reaction to Ivan Ilych's medical news?
7. How does Ivan Ilych feel about the medical profession and the treatment of his case?
8. What emotions does Ivan Ilych experience/exhibit in this period?
9. How does his wife interact with him? How does she feel about his worsening state?
10. What role does the brother-in-law play?
11. How do colleagues and friends perceive/react to his condition?
12. At what point does Ivan Ilych acknowledge that he is dying and what is his emotional reaction to that realization?
Ch. 7-8 (In each case give concrete examples directly from the text and indicate the page number
1. What kinds of medical/physical experiences do we see as Ivan Ilych's condition becomes grave?
2. What is Ivan's interaction with the doctor like? How do we assess the doctor's observations? attitudes? style?
3. What kinds of emotions does he experience as his suffering increases?
4. What is the response and actions of Ivan Ilych's family (particularly the wife and the daughter) and how does Ivan react to them?
Ch. 9-11 (In each case give concrete examples directly from the text and indicate the page number).
1. What kinds of medical/physical experiences do we see as Ivan Ilych's condition in these final weeks of Ivan's life?
2. What kinds of emotions does he experience as his suffering increases and death approaches?
3. What is Geriasim's role and how does he interact with Ivan Ilych?
4. What is the response and actions of Ivan Ilych's family?
5. What role does religion/belief play?
6. Does Ivan Ilych "learn" from his suffering? grow through it? transcend it?
7. How does the account of these final weeks, days, and hours shape how we think about what we had read in Ch. 1? How do we see things differently when we reread Ch. 1 having finished the text?