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The Death of Ivan Ilych
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Chapter 12

From that moment the screaming began that continued for three

days, and was so terrible that one could not hear it through two

closed doors without horror. At the moment he answered his wife

realized that he was lost, that there was no return, that the end

had come, the very end, and his doubts were still unsolved and

remained doubts.

"Oh! Oh! Oh!" he cried in various intonations. he had begun

by screaming "I won't!" and continued screaming on the letter "O".

For three whole days, during which time did not exist for him,

he struggled in that black sack into which he was being thrust by

an invisible, resistless force. He struggled as a man condemned to

death struggles in the hands of the executioner, knowing that he

cannot save himself. And every moment he felt that despite all his

efforts he was drawing nearer and nearer to what terrified him. he

felt that his agony was due to his being thrust into that black

hole and still more to his not being able to get right into it. He

was hindered from getting into it by his conviction that his life

had been a good one. That very justification of his life held him

fast and prevented his moving forward, and it caused him most

torment of all.

Suddenly some force struck him in the chest and side, making

it still harder to breathe, and he fell through the hole and there

at the bottom was a light. What had happened to him was like the

sensation one sometimes experiences in a railway carriage when one

thinks one is going backwards while one is really going forwards

and suddenly becomes aware of the real direction.

"Yes, it was not the right thing," he said to himself, "but

that's no matter. It can be done. But what *is* the right thing?

he asked himself, and suddenly grew quiet.

This occurred at the end of the third day, two hours before

his death. Just then his schoolboy son had crept softly in and

gone up to the bedside. The dying man was still screaming

desperately and waving his arms. His hand fell on the boy's head,

and the boy caught it, pressed it to his lips, and began to cry.

At that very moment Ivan Ilych fell through and caught sight

of the light, and it was revealed to him that though his life had

not been what it should have been, this could still be rectified.

He asked himself, "What *is* the right thing?" and grew still,

listening. Then he felt that someone was kissing his hand. He

opened his eyes, looked at his son, and felt sorry for him. His

wife camp up to him and he glanced at her. She was gazing at him

open-mouthed, with undried tears on her nose and cheek and a

despairing look on her face. He felt sorry for her too.

"Yes, I am making them wretched," he thought. "They are

sorry, but it will be better for them when I die." He wished to

say this but had not the strength to utter it. "Besides, why

speak? I must act," he thought. with a look at his wife he

indicated his son and said: "Take him away...sorry for him...sorry

for you too...." He tried to add, "Forgive me," but said "Forego"

and waved his hand, knowing that He whose understanding mattered

would understand.

And suddenly it grew clear to him that what had been

oppressing him and would not leave his was all dropping away at

once from two sides, from ten sides, and from all sides. He was

sorry for them, he must act so as not to hurt them: release them

and free himself from these sufferings. "How good and how simple!"

he thought. "And the pain?" he asked himself. "What has become of

it? Where are you, pain?"

He turned his attention to it.

"Yes, here it is. Well, what of it? Let the pain be."

"And death...where is it?"

He sought his former accustomed fear of death and did not find

it. "Where is it? What death?" There was no fear because there

was no death.

In place of death there was light.

"So that's what it is!" he suddenly exclaimed aloud. "What


To him all this happened in a single instant, and the meaning

of that instant did not change. For those present his agony

continued for another two hours. Something rattled in his throat,

his emaciated body twitched, then the gasping and rattle became

less and less frequent.

"It is finished!" said someone near him.

He heard these words and repeated them in his soul.

"Death is finished," he said to himself. "It is no more!"

He drew in a breath, stopped in the midst of a sigh, stretched

out, and died.

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