The Moments of Self-Realization That Allow Ivan Ilych to Triumph Over His Pain
Ivan Ilych had suffered greatly throughout life. The sufferings were present both during his health and in his illness, but only differed in the magnitude of pain he felt. While still in good health, Ivan Ilych suffered greatly both mentally and psychologically and at some point became depressed and had to live work and go live with his brother in law at the country (Kennedy and Gioia, 281). The suffering Ivan Ilych was experiencing at the time was purely caused by the fact that he had not gotten the opportunity to advance in his job, and remained for many years in the same job position earning only 3,500 rubles (Kennedy and Gioia, 272). Therefore, Ivan Ilych thought that once he was able to get a good job and start earning well, then all his troubles would come to an end. Indeed, Ivan Ilych was lucky to find a good job that paid the 5,000 rubles and life started becoming good for him. The only problem is that the good life did not last for long. Just when he was arranging his house to ensure it would reflect his new class in life and thus surprise his wife and daughter once they came to live with him, he tripped while hanging the curtains and was knocked by the window knob right on his side. Although he felt a little pain that vanished immediately after, that was to become the beginning of another phase of Ivan Ilych’s suffering, this time from physical pain. The region that had been knocked starting becoming painful occasionally and in the end landed him in the hospital.
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The first point of self-realization for Ivan Ilych was when he lay on the coach suffering from the strongly agonizing pain from his kidneys, and then looked at “Gerasim’s sleepy, good-natured face with its prominent cheekbones” (Kennedy and Gioia, 298). Looking at how Gerasim was calm and contended with life, Ivan Ilych realized that the major reason he was suffering from pain, especially related to the mental suffering, was because he had refused to be contented with what he had in life. Unlike Gerasim, Ivan Ilych had much in terms of financial and social influence, but he had lived throughout his life a discontented man. Consequently, Ivan Ilych came to a point of self-realization at this point and asked himself, “what if my whole life has really been wrong?” (Kennedy and Gioia, 298). The question then triggered a wave of through process that prompted Ivan Ilych to gain more insights into his life, starting with realizing that how he has been seeing his family was not real. Ivan Ilych had lived most of life hating his wife, especially the moment he started suffering from the physical pains from his ailing kidneys, which triggered him to become more irritable and start treating his wife with hate, loathe and anger. Equally, Ivan Ilych did not interact well with both his grown up daughter and his school-going son. Therefore, it occurred to Ivan Ilych that “what had appeared perfectly impossible before, namely that he had not spent his life as he should have done, might after all be true” (Kennedy and Gioia, 298).
The moment he gained this self-realization, Ivan Ilych then started to hate everything around him, because he saw it all as deception and not real. The self-realization even worsened and intensified his pain, and with the strong pain, he hated everyone around him. Nevertheless, the second point of self-realization came when the priest was invited by his wife and he came and gave him the communion. Therefore, “when the priest came and heard his confession, Ivan Ilych was softened and seemed to feel a relief from his doubts and consequently from his sufferings” (Kennedy and Gioia, 299). Receiving the communion was such an eye-opening event for Ivan Ilych, because for the first time, Ivan Ilych started refocusing not only on his life but also on the possibility and reality of death. Death was something that had always terrified and dreaded Ivan Ilych to the point of his physical pain increasing many folds. The fear of death is also that which had prevented Ivan Ilych from gaining the self-realization that his life had been wrong all along. Nevertheless, after receiving the communion, Ivan Ilych gained the self-realization that death, which he had feared as a dark hole, was indeed a lie. Ivan Ilych gained the self-realization that instead of death being a dark hole where one would plunge into oblivion; death was in fact a door way to light. Thus, with this new realization, Ivan Ilych started perceiving life and death from a very different perspective from the one he had all through his life and “for a moment there came a ray of hope” (Kennedy and Gioia, 299).
The communion therefore opened a whole new world of self-realization and self-discovery for Ivan Ilych, and with it, he accepted that he had lived his life in ways that were wrong and needed to change it by when he suddenly acknowledged “Yes, it was not the right thing” (Kennedy and Gioia, 299). Consequently, Ivan Ilych sprung into action and apologized to his wife and son who were with him on the death bed saying “sorry for him… sorry for you too….He tried to add, “Forgive me,” but said “Forego” (Kennedy and Gioia, 300). In his last breathe; Ivan Ilych hoped that they would understand all he needed was forgiveness because he died before he could declare it to all.
- Kennedy, X J, and Dana Gioia. An Introduction to Fiction. Boston: Longman, 2010. Print.