READ STUDY GUIDE: Chapter XII
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
"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
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.