Society embeds a view that one has to be perfect, in order to fit in. This standard of perfection causes one to drift away from the real world, thus, causing one to become materialistic. Because Ivan Ilyich lives in a society where perfection matters, in The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy, he does everything to live in a world of flawlessness. He does this in order to fit into this community, causing him to isolate the friends and family around him.
In The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Tolstoy develops a protagonist who seeks flawlessness in order to fit into society, thus, leading to accepting the fear of death. This perfection displays the effect of society’s standards of living the perfect life in order for one to fit in. Tolstoy’s symbolic use of the black sack helps to mirror Ivan’s fear of death due to his seeking of perfection. Ivan’s fear of death becomes evident through his continuous dreams of the black sack and how “he was afraid of that sack, yet wanted to fall through; struggled, yet cooperated.
And then suddenly he lost his grip and fell-and regained consciousness” (Tolstoy 99). The black sack symbolizes death and Ivan is slowly realizing what’s to come. Ivan wants to go deeper into to the sack to find out what’s there, but he fears it. He wants to fall through because he is tired of the pain from living the “perfect” life, but he fears it because he hasn’t accepted reality and death. In this passage the author connotes the word “afraid” in order to show the fear Ivan has for society, as well.
He fears society because he wants acceptance from those around him. The black sack is also a moment of catharsis for Ivan Ilyich. Ivan wants to free himself from all the pain created from this perfection. This is a sign of a slight breakthrough, Ivan is ready to let go of the “perfect” life. Tolstoy symbolic use of the game bridge helps to mirror Ivan’s life as a whole and the perfection that has caused him to fear death. The author says, “What more could he have wished for? He ought to have cheered, invigorated-they would make a grand slam.
But suddenly Ivan Ilyich became aware of that gnawing pain in his side, that taste in his mouth, and under the circumstances it seemed preposterous to him to rejoice in a grand slam” (Tolstoy 71). The game bridge symbolizes the reality of Ivan’s life and how he lives the perfect life. Playing cards with his friends is usually a time of happiness, thus, showing the perfection he wants in his life. Ivan isolated himself from the real word and built a wall causing him to become ignorant and to seek perfection.
When Ivan feels pain and a weird taste in his mouth causing him to lose the game, symbolizes the shattering of his perfect life, opening the door to reality. The author uses the game as a metaphor, connecting to Ivan’s life. His sickness causes him to lose the game, showing that there is no perfection and his perfect world is slowly deteriorating. Since his perfect life is slowly deteriorating, he begins to fear death, because there is nothing that he can be attached to anymore. Tolstoy’s repetitive use of the pleasant and proper motif represents the perfect way of living in Ivan Ilyich’s eyes.
Ivan’s perfection becomes evident, when the author states that “In actuality, it was like the homes of all people who are not really rich but who want to look rich, and therefore end up looking like one another: it had damasks, ebony, plants, carpets, and bronzes, everything dark and gleaming-all the effects a certain class of people produce so as to look like people of a certain class” (Tolstoy 57). The pleasant and proper motif represents the ideal way of living. When Ivan continuously decorates his house in order to fit a certain class, shows that he is living a fake life.
He is doing this in order to fit into society. Ivan is attached to the items that he fixes in his house, causing him to become materialistic and fear death. The author uses imagery to show how everyone is this class were the same. Society has caused these people to change themselves in order to fit in. Ivan wants everything to look real by appearance and not fake, which is how he truly feels. In this novel, Tolstoy creates a protagonist who lives the perfect life, in order to fit in society, causing him to accept the fear of death.
Society today, the media causes one to change their persona, in order for them to feel accepted or fit in. Men and women feel insecure about their bodies causing them to change themselves. Young girls and boys look up to Barbie or Batman to feel pretty or to feel manly. Society does this so one can feel perfect and live in fakeness. The ideal way of living causes insecurities and isolation within a community. Finally, one should live by their own standards, instead of following what the media or society thinks. Society is the cause of changes within people because it brainwashes one to follow the definition of flawlessness.