READ STUDY GUIDE: Chapter VI
Ivan Ilych saw that he was dying, and he was in continual
In the depth of his heart he knew he was dying, but not only
was he not accustomed to the thought, he simply did not and could
not grasp it.
The syllogism he had learnt from Kiesewetter's Logic: "Caius
is a man, men are mortal, therefore Caius is mortal," had always
seemed to him correct as applied to Caius, but certainly not as
applied to himself. That Caius—man in the abstract—was
mortal, was perfectly correct, but he was not Caius, not an
abstract man, but a creature quite, quite separate from all others.
He had been little Vanya, with a mamma and a papa, with Mitya and
Volodya, with the toys, a coachman and a nurse, afterwards with
Katenka and will all the joys, griefs, and delights of childhood,
boyhood, and youth. What did Caius know of the smell of that
striped leather ball Vanya had been so fond of? Had Caius kissed
his mother's hand like that, and did the silk of her dress rustle
so for Caius? Had he rioted like that at school when the pastry
was bad? Had Caius been in love like that? Could Caius preside at
a session as he did? "Caius really was mortal, and it was right
for him to die; but for me, little Vanya, Ivan Ilych, with all my
thoughts and emotions, it's altogether a different matter. It
cannot be that I ought to die. That would be too terrible."
Such was his feeling.
"If I had to die like Caius I would have known it was so. An
inner voice would have told me so, but there was nothing of the
sort in me and I and all my friends felt that our case was quite
different from that of Caius. and now here it is!" he said to
himself. "It can't be. It's impossible! But here it is. How is
this? How is one to understand it?"
He could not understand it, and tried to drive this false,
incorrect, morbid thought away and to replace it by other proper
and healthy thoughts. But that thought, and not the thought only
but the reality itself, seemed to come and confront him.
And to replace that thought he called up a succession of
others, hoping to find in them some support. He tried to get back
into the former current of thoughts that had once screened the
thought of death from him. But strange to say, all that had
formerly shut off, hidden, and destroyed his consciousness of
death, no longer had that effect. Ivan Ilych now spent most of his
time in attempting to re-establish that old current. He would say
to himself: "I will take up my duties again—after all I used to
live by them." And banishing all doubts he would go to the law
courts, enter into conversation with his colleagues, and sit
carelessly as was his wont, scanning the crowd with a thoughtful
look and leaning both his emaciated arms on the arms of his oak
chair; bending over as usual to a colleague and drawing his papers
nearer he would interchange whispers with him, and then suddenly
raising his eyes and sitting erect would pronounce certain words
and open the proceedings. But suddenly in the midst of those
proceedings the pain in his side, regardless of the stage the
proceedings had reached, would begin its own gnawing work. Ivan
Ilych would turn his attention to it and try to drive the thought
of it away, but without success. *It* would come and stand before
him and look at him, and he would be petrified and the light would
die out of his eyes, and he would again begin asking himself
whether *It* alone was true. And his colleagues and subordinates
would see with surprise and distress that he, the brilliant and
subtle judge, was becoming confused and making mistakes. He would
shake himself, try to pull himself together, manage somehow to
bring the sitting to a close, and return home with the sorrowful
consciousness that his judicial labours could not as formerly hide
from him what he wanted them to hide, and could not deliver him
from *It*. And what was worst of all was that *It* drew his
attention to itself not in order to make him take some action but
only that he should look at *It*, look it straight in the face:
look at it and without doing anything, suffer inexpressibly.
And to save himself from this condition Ivan Ilych looked for
consolations—new screens—and new screens were found and for
a while seemed to save him, but then they immediately fell to
pieces or rather became transparent, as if *It* penetrated them and
nothing could veil *It*.
In these latter days he would go into the drawing-room he had
arranged—that drawing-room where he had fallen and for the sake
of which (how bitterly ridiculous it seemed) he had sacrificed his
life—for he knew that his illness originated with that knock.
He would enter and see that something had scratched the polished
table. He would look for the cause of this and find that it was
the bronze ornamentation of an album, that had got bent. He would
take up the expensive album which he had lovingly arranged, and
feel vexed with his daughter and her friends for their untidiness -
- for the album was torn here and there and some of the photographs
turned upside down. He would put it carefully in order and bend
the ornamentation back into position. Then it would occur to him
to place all those things in another corner of the room, near the
plants. He would call the footman, but his daughter or wife would
come to help him. They would not agree, and his wife would
contradict him, and he would dispute and grow angry. But that was
all right, for then he did not think about *It*. *It* was
But then, when he was moving something himself, his wife would
say: "Let the servants do it. You will hurt yourself again." And
suddenly *It* would flash through the screen and he would see it.
It was just a flash, and he hoped it would disappear, but he would
involuntarily pay attention to his side. "It sits there as before,
gnawing just the same!" And he could no longer forget *It*, but
could distinctly see it looking at him from behind the flowers.
"What is it all for?"
"It really is so! I lost my life over that curtain as I might
have done when storming a fort. Is that possible? How terrible
and how stupid. It can't be true! It can't, but it is."
He would go to his study, lie down, and again be alone with
*It*: face to face with *It*. And nothing could be done with *It*
except to look at it and shudder.