Name Instructor Class July 7, 2011 The Death of Ivan Ilych: The Terrors of The Simple and The Ordinary In The Death of Ivan Ilych, Leo Tolstoy argues that a simple and ordinary life is a terrible one. This essay explores the statement: “Ivan Ilych's life had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible.” The five concepts that are discussed are “spiritual growth,” “philistine,” “suffering,” “sycophantic decorum,” and “intrinsic living.” These concepts are discussed in the context of Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning and they will show how Ivan has not lived as well as he though he has…
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Ivan Ilych's life has been simple, because he lacks spiritual growth and lives like a philistine, and ordinary, because he experienced no suffering until his sickness and he relies on sycophantic decorum to fill his life; and the outcome of simplicity and ordinariness is a terrible life, because he learns that he has not fully lived intrinsically at all. Ivan Illych's life has been simple, because he lacks spiritual growth. Ilych measures the quality of his whole life through his material possessions and social status. He overly concerns himself with his belongings, because he desires to be perceived as a wealthy man: “…with his new and fashionable portmanteau, linen, clothes, shaving and other toilet appliances, and a travelling rug, all purchased at the best shops” (Tolstoy Ch.2). He believes that a wealthy man is more powerful and loved. Furthermore, his social relations are valuable to him, as they “…[inspire] general respect” (Tolstoy Ch.2). This is similar to how I used to be concerned of the latest gadgets. I felt accepted when I had the most up-to-date technologies. I also have a friend, who is consumed with the desire of having social connections for the purpose of showing off. These are trite reasons for choosing how people should live. The absence of spiritual goals is all the more present in Ivan’s life. He lives for the pursuit of influence and wealth and he ultimately neglects the importance of developing his “inner hold” (Frankl 77). Furthermore, Ivan’s life is horribly simple, because he is a philistine. As a philistine, he has “no interest in culture, the arts, or fashion except as a show to others, but without authentic passion he can only define himself by the things he buys for himself” (Breakthrough Writing Lesson #2). He is materialistic and provides only the material needs for his family and himself. Frankl notes the facileness of such simple, material pleasures. He recounts the story of a woman, who discovered her “inner self” as she converses with a tree (75). She confesses to be a spoiled woman, but she changes completely when she realizes the importance of more complicated and deeper matters- the nourishment of her soul. As Frankl focuses on the significance of a spiritual life, which makes living more meaningful and complex, Ivan lives in the far opposite side of living, one that is simple to the point of being subhuman, because of the attendance to pure physical needs. Frankl understands the primitive nature of human existence: “It can be readily understood that such as state of strain, coupled with the constant necessity of concentrated on the task of staying alive, forced the prisoner’s inner life to a primitive level” (Frankl 36-38). Ivan is a prisoner of materiality, while the Holocaust victims were prisoners of human racism and xenophobia. Ivan Ilych's life has been ordinary too, because he experienced no suffering until his sickness, and he relies on sycophantic decorum to fill his life. He lives a comfortable life, up until his sickness. He focuses on material wealth and its accumulation. When he learns of dying, he abhors
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