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The Death of Ivan Ilych
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Chapter 6

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.

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