Matters of Life and Death
Leo Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilyich
Here are some
questions to help guide your reading of this book.
is Ivan Ilyich's attitude toward death at various points in the story
(e.g., before he becomes ill, once he recognizes his illness is fatal,
after the three days of screaming)?
does Ivan Ilyich judge his own life, and how well he is living it,
points in the story? What are his standards for making this judgment,
and how do they change?
important contrasts to, or reflections of, Ivan Ilyich do the other characters
in the story provide? (In particular, what do you notice about
his co-workers, his wife, his children, and Gerasim?)
social class play an important role in Ivan Ilyich's understanding of
his life and death? If so, how?
you consider the ending a happy one for Ivan Ilyich? Why or why
Strategy for reading the book:
the questions before you start reading the book so you know what to
pay attention to.
you see a part of the book that seems to relate to one of the questions,
write down the question, the page number, and the answer you think you're
getting from this part of the book. (You may find that different
parts of the book give different answers to the same question!)
you can, try to give the author's answers to the questions in your
down quotations that you find especially striking -- whether because
they seem exactly right, dead wrong, or very hard to understand.
jot down words or phrases in the essay whose meanings you don't know.
track of repeated phrases, recurring images, or other literary devices
that strike you. These may actually contribute to the message Tolstoy
is trying to convey about life and death!
after you have read the whole book, go back to the questions and try
to give at least a partial answer to each. (Don't go back to particular
sentences you underlined for this -- try to answer based on what
has stayed with you from reading the book.)
you had real trouble with any of the questions, be sure to bring them
in discussion on Wednesday! Chances are your classmates will want
to discuss them, too!