Two Possible Interpretations


Although The Death of Ivan Ilyich contains little in its narrative style or in terms of the philosophical systems it presents for a Freudian approach to interpretation, if one looks at Ivan Ilyich’s life as a systen of deliberate evasions of love, human contact and self-discovery one soon sees how Ivan has none of the "flexibility of interaction" which was for Freud one of the most important signs of a healthy mind. As Wasiolek points out: "It would take only a shift of vocabulary to see his rigidities and evasions as neurotic flight and defense". Interestingly enough, if one does continue to pursue this line it emerges that Ivan’s sickness becomes not a sign of ill-health nut instead a return to greater health through the re- establishment of love. One can also see the "black sack" and Ivan’s emergence into the light as symbolic references to birth at a time when death is the predominant theme.


Considered in the context of Marx’s propositions on the alienation of man in a consumer culture one can see the possibility of a Marxist interpretation of the story, in which "things" are indeed prominent…the clothes that Ivan buys at "Scharmers", the little lamps, occasional tables and bronzes with which he decorates his family house, and he wants to marry Praskovya Fedorovna just as much for her property as for her character or her looks. In fact, Ivan’s entire life can be seen as dictated to a great degree by things, which determine his feelings about himself, his surroundings and the people he meets, who are judged by what they possess or could potentially possess.

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