Praskovya Fyodorovna Golovina Quotes in The Death of Ivan Ilyich
‘Three days and three nights of horrible suffering, and then death. Just think, it could happen to me any time, now,’ he thought, and he felt that momentary pang of fear. But immediately he was saved, without knowing how, by the old familiar idea that this had happened to Ivan Ilyich, not him, and it could not and would not happen to him, and that kind of thinking would put him in a gloomy mood, for which there was no need, as Schwartz’s face had clearly demonstrated. Pursuing this line of thought, Pyotr Ivanovich calmed down and began to show a close interest in the details of Ivan Ilyich’s death, as if death was a chance experience that may have applied to Ivan Ilyich but certainly didn’t apply to him.
He realized that married life—at least with his wife—didn’t always mean enjoyment and decency, but, on the contrary, it often disrupted them, and it was therefore necessary to guard against such disruptions. And Ivan Ilyich began to seek ways of doing this. His work was the one thing that impressed Praskovya, and it was through work and the commitments associated with it that he took on his wife and asserted his own independence.
In court he found his mind wandering; he would be miles away, wondering whether to have plain or moulded cornices with his curtains. He became so involved that he often did the work himself, rearranging the furniture and rehanging the curtains. On one occasion, climbing a stepladder to show a dull-witted upholsterer how to hang the draperies, he slipped and fell, though he was strong and agile enough to hold on, and all he did was bump his side on a window-frame knob. The bruised place hurt for a while but it soon passed off. And all this time Ivan Ilyich felt particularly well and in the best of spirits. ‘I seem to have shed fifteen years,’ he wrote home.
The whole thing turned out just as he had expected […]. He was made to wait, the doctor was full of his own importance—an attitude he was familiar with because it was one that he himself assumed in court—then came all the tapping and listening, the questions with predetermined and obviously superfluous answers, the knowing look that seemed to say, ‘Just place yourself in our hands and we’ll sort it out, we know what we’re doing, there’s no doubt about it. We can sort things out the same way as we would for anyone you care to name.’ It was just like being in court. The way he looked at the accused in court was exactly the way he was being looked at now by the famous doctor.
He could see that the awful, terrible act of his dying had been reduced by those around him to the level of an unpleasant incident, something rather indecent (as if they were dealing with someone who had come into the drawing-room and let off a bad smell), and this was done by exploiting the very sense of ‘decency’ that he had been observing all his life. He could see that no one had any pity for him because no one had the slightest desire to understand his situation.
‘Yes, I’m hurting them,’ he thought. ‘They feel sorry for me, but they’ll be all right when I’m dead.’ He wanted to tell them this, but he wasn’t strong enough to get the words out. ‘Anyway…no good talking. Must do something.’ He looked at his wife, motioned to their son and said: ‘Take him away…sorry for him… and you…’ He tried to say, ‘Forgive me,’ but it came out as, ‘For goodness…’ Too weak to correct himself, he waved his hand knowing that he who needed to would understand.