READ STUDY GUIDE: Chapter VIII
It was morning. He knew it was morning because Gerasim had
gone, and Peter the footman had come and put out the candles, drawn
back one of the curtains, and begun quietly to tidy up. Whether it
was morning or evening, Friday or Sunday, made no difference, it
was all just the same: the gnawing, unmitigated, agonizing pain,
never ceasing for an instant, the consciousness of life inexorably
waning but not yet extinguished, the approach of that ever dreaded
and hateful Death which was the only reality, and always the same
falsity. What were days, weeks, hours, in such a case?
"Will you have some tea, sir?"
"He wants things to be regular, and wishes the gentlefolk to
drink tea in the morning," thought ivan Ilych, and only said "No."
"Wouldn't you like to move onto the sofa, sir?"
"He wants to tidy up the room, and I'm in the way. I am
uncleanliness and disorder," he thought, and said only:
"No, leave me alone."
The man went on bustling about. Ivan Ilych stretched out his
hand. Peter came up, ready to help.
"What is it, sir?"
Peter took the watch which was close at hand and gave it to
"Half-past eight. Are they up?"
"No sir, except Vladimir Ivanovich" (the son) "who has gone to
school. Praskovya Fedorovna ordered me to wake her if you asked
for her. Shall I do so?"
"No, there's no need to." "Perhaps I's better have some tea,"
he thought, and added aloud: "Yes, bring me some tea."
Peter went to the door, but Ivan Ilych dreaded being left
alone. "How can I keep him here? Oh yes, my medicine." "Peter,
give me my medicine." "Why not? Perhaps it may still do some
good." He took a spoonful and swallowed it. "No, it won't help.
It's all tomfoolery, all deception," he decided as soon as he
became aware of the familiar, sickly, hopeless taste. "No, I can't
believe in it any longer. But the pain, why this pain? If it
would only cease just for a moment!" And he moaned. Peter turned
towards him. "It's all right. Go and fetch me some tea."
Peter went out. Left alone Ivan Ilych groaned not so much
with pain, terrible thought that was, as from mental anguish.
Always and for ever the same, always these endless days and nights.
If only it would come quicker! If only *what* would come quicker?
Death, darkness?...No, no! anything rather than death!
when Peter returned with the tea on a tray, Ivan Ilych stared
at him for a time in perplexity, not realizing who and what he was.
Peter was disconcerted by that look and his embarrassment brought
Ivan Ilych to himself.
"Oh, tea! All right, put it down. Only help me to wash and
put on a clean shirt."
And Ivan Ilych began to wash. With pauses for rest, he washed
his hands and then his face, cleaned his teeth, brushed his hair,
looked in the glass. He was terrified by what he saw, especially
by the limp way in which his hair clung to his pallid forehead.
While his shirt was being changed he knew that he would be
still more frightened at the sight of his body, so he avoided
looking at it. Finally he was ready. He drew on a dressing-gown,
wrapped himself in a plaid, and sat down in the armchair to take
his tea. For a moment he felt refreshed, but as soon as he began
to drink the tea he was again aware of the same taste, and the pain
also returned. He finished it with an effort, and then lay down
stretching out his legs, and dismissed Peter.
Always the same. Now a spark of hope flashes up, then a sea
of despair rages, and always pain; always pain, always despair, and
always the same. When alone he had a dreadful and distressing
desire to call someone, but he knew beforehand that with others
present it would be still worse. "Another dose of morphine—to
lose consciousness. I will tell him, the doctor, that he must
think of something else. It's impossible, impossible, to go on
An hour and another pass like that. But now there is a ring
at the door bell. Perhaps it's the doctor? It is. He comes in
fresh, hearty, plump, and cheerful, with that look on his face that
seems to say: "There now, you're in a panic about something, but
we'll arrange it all for you directly!" The doctor knows this
expression is out of place here, but he has put it on once for all
and can't take it off—like a man who has put on a frock-coat in
the morning to pay a round of calls.
The doctor rubs his hands vigorously and reassuringly.
"Brr! How cold it is! There's such a sharp frost; just let
me warm myself!" he says, as if it were only a matter of waiting
till he was warm, and then he would put everything right.
"Well now, how are you?"
Ivan Ilych feels that the doctor would like to say: "Well,
how are our affairs?" but that even he feels that this would not
do, and says instead: "What sort of a night have you had?"
Ivan Ilych looks at him as much as to say: "Are you really
never ashamed of lying?" But the doctor does not wish to
understand this question, and Ivan Ilych says: "Just as terrible
as ever. The pain never leaves me and never subsides. If only
something ... "
"Yes, you sick people are always like that.... There, now I
think I am warm enough. Even Praskovya Fedorovna, who is so
particular, could find no fault with my temperature. Well, now I
can say good-morning," and the doctor presses his patient's hand.
Then dropping his former playfulness, he begins with a most
serious face to examine the patient, feeling his pulse and taking
his temperature, and then begins the sounding and auscultation.
Ivan Ilych knows quite well and definitely that all this is
nonsense and pure deception, but when the doctor, getting down on
his knee, leans over him, putting his ear first higher then lower,
and performs various gymnastic movements over him with a
significant expression on his face, Ivan Ilych submits to it all as
he used to submit to the speeches of the lawyers, though he knew
very well that they were all lying and why they were lying.
The doctor, kneeling on the sofa, is still sounding him when
Praskovya Fedorovna's silk dress rustles at the door and she is
heard scolding Peter for not having let her know of the doctor's
She comes in, kisses her husband, and at once proceeds to
prove that she has been up a long time already, and only owing to
a misunderstanding failed to be there when the doctor arrived.
Ivan Ilych looks at her, scans her all over, sets against her
the whiteness and plumpness and cleanness of her hands and neck,
the gloss of her hair, and the sparkle of her vivacious eyes. He
hates her with his whole soul. And the thrill of hatred he feels
for her makes him suffer from her touch.
Her attitude towards him and his diseases is still the same.
Just as the doctor had adopted a certain relation to his patient
which he could not abandon, so had she formed one towards him—
that he was not doing something he ought to do and was himself to
blame, and that she reproached him lovingly for this—and she
could not now change that attitude.
"You see he doesn't listen to me and doesn't take his medicine
at the proper time. And above all he lies in a position that is no
doubt bad for him—with his legs up."
She described how he made Gerasim hold his legs up.
The doctor smiled with a contemptuous affability that said:
"What's to be done? These sick people do have foolish fancies of
that kind, but we must forgive them."
When the examination was over the doctor looked at his watch,
and then Praskovya Fedorovna announced to Ivan Ilych that it was of
course as he pleased, but she had sent today for a celebrated
specialist who would examine him and have a consultation with
Michael Danilovich (their regular doctor).
"Please don't raise any objections. I am doing this for my own
sake," she said ironically, letting it be felt that she was doing
it all for his sake and only said this to leave him no right to
refuse. He remained silent, knitting his brows. He felt that he
was surrounded and involved in a mesh of falsity that it was hard
to unravel anything.
Everything she did for him was entirely for her own sake, and
she told him she was doing for herself what she actually was doing
for herself, as if that was so incredible that he must understand
At half-past eleven the celebrated specialist arrived. Again
the sounding began and the significant conversations in his
presence and in another room, about the kidneys and the appendix,
and the questions and answers, with such an air of importance that
again, instead of the real question of life and death which now
alone confronted him, the question arose of the kidney and appendix
which were not behaving as they ought to and would now be attached
by Michael Danilovich and the specialist and forced to amend their
The celebrated specialist took leave of him with a serious
though not hopeless look, and in reply to the timid question Ivan
Ilych, with eyes glistening with fear and hope, put to him as to
whether there was a chance of recovery, said that he could not
vouch for it but there was a possibility. The look of hope with
which Ivan Ilych watched the doctor out was so pathetic that
Praskovya Fedorovna, seeing it, even wept as she left the room to
hand the doctor his fee.
The gleam of hope kindled by the doctor's encouragement did
not last long. The same room, the same pictures, curtains, wall-
paper, medicine bottles, were all there, and the same aching
suffering body, and Ivan Ilych began to moan. They gave him a
subcutaneous injection and he sank into oblivion.
It was twilight when he came to. They brought him his dinner
and he swallowed some beef tea with difficulty, and then everything
was the same again and night was coming on.
After dinner, at seven o'clock, Praskovya Fedorovna came into
the room in evening dress, her full bosom pushed up by her corset,
and with traces of powder on her face. She had reminded him in the
morning that they were going to the theatre. Sarah Bernhardt was
visiting the town and they had a box, which he had insisted on
their taking. Now he had forgotten about it and her toilet
offended him, but he concealed his vexation when he remembered that
he had himself insisted on their securing a box and going because
it would be an instructive and aesthetic pleasure for the children.
Praskovya Fedorovna came in, self-satisfied but yet with a
rather guilty air. She sat down and asked how he was, but, as he
saw, only for the sake of asking and not in order to learn about
it, knowing that there was nothing to learn—and then went on to
what she really wanted to say: that she would not on any account
have gone but that the box had been taken and Helen and their
daughter were going, as well as Petrishchev (the examining
magistrate, their daughter's fiance) and that it was out of the
question to let them go alone; but that she would have much
preferred to sit with him for a while; and he must be sure to
follow the doctor's orders while she was away.
"Oh, and Fedor Petrovich" (the fiance) "would like to come in.
May he? And Lisa?"
Their daughter came in in full evening dress, her fresh young
flesh exposed (making a show of that very flesh which in his own
case caused so much suffering), strong, healthy, evidently in love,
and impatient with illness, suffering, and death, because they
interfered with her happiness.
Fedor petrovich came in too, in evening dress, his hair curled
*a la Capoul*, a tight stiff collar round his long sinewy neck, an
enormous white shirt-front and narrow black trousers tightly
stretched over his strong thighs. He had one white glove tightly
drawn on, and was holding his opera hat in his hand.
Following him the schoolboy crept in unnoticed, in a new
uniform, poor little fellow, and wearing gloves. Terribly dark
shadows showed under his eyes, the meaning of which Ivan Ilych knew
His son had always seemed pathetic to him, and now it was
dreadful to see the boy's frightened look of pity. It seemed to
Ivan Ilych that Vasya was the only one besides Gerasim who
understood and pitied him.
They all sat down and again asked how he was. A silence
followed. Lisa asked her mother about the opera glasses, and there
was an altercation between mother and daughter as to who had taken
them and where they had been put. This occasioned some
Fedor Petrovich inquired of Ivan Ilych whether he had ever
seen Sarah Bernhardt. Ivan Ilych did not at first catch the
question, but then replied: "No, have you seen her before?"
"Yes, in *Adrienne Lecouvreur*."
Praskovya Fedorovna mentioned some roles in which Sarah
Bernhardt was particularly good. Her daughter disagreed.
Conversation sprang up as to the elegance and realism of her acting
—the sort of conversation that is always repeated and is always
In the midst of the conversation Fedor Petrovich glanced at
Ivan Ilych and became silent. The others also looked at him and
grew silent. Ivan Ilych was staring with glittering eyes straight
before him, evidently indignant with them. This had to be
rectified, but it was impossible to do so. The silence had to be
broken, but for a time no one dared to break it and they all became
afraid that the conventional deception would suddenly become
obvious and the truth become plain to all. Lisa was the first to
pluck up courage and break that silence, but by trying to hide what
everybody was feeling, she betrayed it.
"Well, if we are going it's time to start," she said, looking
at her watch, a present from her father, and with a faint and
significant smile at Fedor Petrovich relating to something known
only to them. She got up with a rustle of her dress.
They all rose, said good-night, and went away.
When they had gone it seemed to Ivan Ilych that he felt
better; the falsity had gone with them. But the pain remained—
that same pain and that same fear that made everything monotonously
alike, nothing harder and nothing easier. Everything was worse.
Again minute followed minute and hour followed hour.
Everything remained the same and there was no cessation. And the
inevitable end of it all became more and more terrible.
"Yes, send Gerasim here," he replied to a question Peter