Ivan Ilyich lived a happy, healthy, decorous and dutiful life as a judge, until an accident made him terminally ill and brought him face to face with Death and the terrible realization that he hadn’t lived as he should.
Like Morrie Swartz (“Tuesdays with Morrie”), Ivan suffered a slow death, unlike Morrie who was able to share some of his feelings with his family, friends and the public, Ivan was alienated from his family and friends, and trapped by loneliness, fear, doubt, anger and despair.
Somehow Tolstoy made Ivan’s struggles more real, nay absolutely gripping. We no longer watch the dying man struggle as a visitor, but find ourselves looking out through his eyes at the unrelenting Reality that’s always there, “always the same”. Until, at the very end, there came relief and joy, and “it is finished”.