Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Leo Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.
The Death of Ivan Ilyich: Introduction
The Death of Ivan Ilyich: Plot Summary
The Death of Ivan Ilyich: Detailed Summary & Analysis
The Death of Ivan Ilyich: Themes
The Death of Ivan Ilyich: Quotes
The Death of Ivan Ilyich: Characters
The Death of Ivan Ilyich: Symbols
The Death of Ivan Ilyich: Theme Wheel
Brief Biography of Leo Tolstoy
Historical Context of The Death of Ivan Ilyich
Other Books Related to The Death of Ivan Ilyich
- Full Title: The Death of Ivan Ilyich
- When Written: 1882
- When Published: 1886
- Literary Period: Realism
- Genre: Novella, Philosophical Fiction
- Setting: St. Petersburg, Russia
- Climax: Having looked into his son Vasya’s eyes and asked for his family’s forgiveness, Ivan Ilyich dies, though he feels that death has turned into “light.”
- Antagonist: Greed, egotism, and the fear of death
- Point of View: Third Person
Extra Credit for The Death of Ivan Ilyich
A Gloomy Gift. Tolstoy presented The Death of Ivan Ilyich to his wife, Sophia, as a birthday gift. Despite the novella’s morbid title and depressing content, Sophia was happy to receive it because she had recently been worrying about his dwindling output as a fiction writer.
Exit Interview. As evidenced by The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Tolstoy was fascinated by the process of dying, which was something he had obviously only ever experienced as an onlooker. Accordingly, he wanted his close friends to pose a set of pre-determined questions to him whenever he himself began to die. But when he was finally on his deathbed, he was unable to speak, and though he had accounted for this by devising a system of communicating with his eyes, his acquaintances forgot to ask him the agreed-upon questions.