The Death of Ivan Ilyich

by

Leo Tolstoy

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Gerasim Character Analysis

A young man from a peasant family, Gerasim is one of Ivan Ilyich’s servants. Unlike everyone else in the house, Gerasim is more than willing to empathize with Ivan because he isn’t afraid to try to understand what it must be like to die. While the other servants, along with Praskovya and Liza, are all unable to sympathize with Ivan because they don’t truly want to understand what it must be like to be in his position, Gerasim doesn’t mind because he accepts that everyone will someday face a similar fate. In turn, he becomes Ivan’s favorite caretaker, often staying up all night and letting Ivan rest his legs on his shoulders, elevating them in such a way that alleviates the dying man’s pain. A gentle and kind man, Gerasim is quite wise, reminding Pyotr Ivanovich at Ivan’s funeral that death will come for everyone someday.

Gerasim Quotes in The Death of Ivan Ilyich

The The Death of Ivan Ilyich quotes below are all either spoken by Gerasim or refer to Gerasim. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Meaning and Mortality Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of The Death of Ivan Ilyich published in 2008.
Chapter 9 Quotes

He waited only for Gerasim to go out into the next room, and then he could restrain himself no longer: he burst into tears like a child. He was weeping because of his own helpless state, and his loneliness, and other people’s cruelty, and God’s cruelty, and God’s non-existence.

‘Why hast Thou done all of this? Why hast Thou brought me to this point? Why oh why dost Thou torture me like this?...’

He was not expecting any answers; he was weeping because there were not and could not be any answers.

Related Characters: Ivan Ilyich Golovin (speaker), Gerasim
Page Number: 208
Explanation and Analysis:
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Gerasim Character Timeline in The Death of Ivan Ilyich

The timeline below shows where the character Gerasim appears in The Death of Ivan Ilyich. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Meaning and Mortality Theme Icon
Greed, Purity, and Corruption Theme Icon
...room, taking stock of who’s present. Fully entering the room, he notices Ivan’s peasant servant, Gerasim, who is scattering pinches of carbolic on the floor to mask the smell of Ivan’s... (full context)
Meaning and Mortality Theme Icon
Greed, Purity, and Corruption Theme Icon
...the ceremony and leaves as soon as he can. On his way out, he encounters Gerasim, who gives him his coat. Knowing that Gerasim was fond of Ivan and stayed with... (full context)
Chapter 7
Empathy vs. Resentment Theme Icon
Illness and Control Theme Icon
...eat specially prepared foods and must go to the bathroom in a chamber pot, which Gerasim empties. Thankfully, though, going to the bathroom also means that he can interact with Gerasim,... (full context)
Meaning and Mortality Theme Icon
Empathy vs. Resentment Theme Icon
Greed, Purity, and Corruption Theme Icon
Illness and Control Theme Icon
When Gerasim is cleaning up after Ivan one day, Ivan acknowledges that this must not be very... (full context)
Meaning and Mortality Theme Icon
Empathy vs. Resentment Theme Icon
Greed, Purity, and Corruption Theme Icon
Illness and Control Theme Icon
...truly understand his predicament. The only person willing to actually do this, he knows, is Gerasim, who tells him one evening, “We’ve all got to die one day. Why shouldn’t I... (full context)
Meaning and Mortality Theme Icon
Greed, Purity, and Corruption Theme Icon
...this kind of empathy regardless, which is why he takes comfort in his relationship with Gerasim. However, he goes to great lengths to hide this secret wish, as is the case... (full context)
Chapter 8
Empathy vs. Resentment Theme Icon
Greed, Purity, and Corruption Theme Icon
Illness and Control Theme Icon
Bedbound, Ivan now only marks the days according to when Gerasim enters and exits his room. His condition only gets worse, reaching a point where he... (full context)
Meaning and Mortality Theme Icon
Empathy vs. Resentment Theme Icon
Greed, Purity, and Corruption Theme Icon
...father die a painful death. He also feels that Vasya is the only person other Gerasim who really pities him. (full context)
Chapter 9
Meaning and Mortality Theme Icon
Late that night, Ivan has terrible dreams, and his pain consumes him. Gerasim has been with him for the majority of the time, letting him elevate his legs,... (full context)