# 4.4: Chapter 4

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 Все были здоровы. Нельзя было назвать нездоровьем то, что Иван Ильич говорил иногда, что у него странный вкус во рту и что-то неловко в левой стороне живота. They were all in good health. It could not be called ill health if Ivan Ilych sometimes said that he had a queer taste in his mouth and felt some discomfort in his left side. Но случилось, что неловкость эта стала увеличиваться и переходить не в боль еще, но в сознание тяжести постоянной в боку и в дурное расположение духа.[1] Дурное расположение духа это, все усиливаясь и усиливаясь, стало портить установившуюся было в семействе Головиных приятность легкой и приличной жизни. Муж с женой стали чаще и чаще ссориться, и скоро отпала легкость и приятность, и с трудом удерживалось одно приличие. Сцены опять стали чаще. Опять остались одни островки, и тех мало, на которых муж с женою могли сходиться без взрыва. But this discomfort increased and, though not exactly painful, grew into a sense of pressure in his side accompanied by ill humour.[1] And his irritability became worse and worse and began to mar the agreeable, easy, and correct life that had established itself in the Golovin family. Quarrels between husband and wife became more and more frequent, and soon the ease and amenity disappeared and even the decorum was barely maintained. Scenes again became frequent, and very few of those islets remained on which husband and wife could meet without an explosion.
 После одной сцены, в которой Иван Ильич был особенно несправедлив и после которой он и при объяснении сказал, что он точно раздражителен, но что это от болезни, она сказала ему, что если он болен, то надо лечиться, и потребовала от него, чтобы он поехал к знаменитому врачу. After one scene in which Ivan Ilych had been particularly unfair and after which he had said in explanation that he certainly was irritable but that it was due to his not being well, she said that if he was ill it should be attended to, and insisted on his going to see a celebrated doctor. Он поехал. Все было, как он ожидал; все было так, как всегда делается. И ожидание, и важность напускная, докторская, ему знакомая, та самая, которую он знал в себе в суде, и постукиванье, и выслушиванье, и вопросы, требующие определенные вперед и, очевидно, ненужные ответы, и значительный вид, который внушал, что вы, мол, только подвергнитесь нам, а мы все устроим, – у нас известно и несомненно, как все устроить, все одним манером для всякого человека, какого хотите. Все было точно так же, как в суде. Как он в суде делал вид над подсудимыми, так точно над ним знаменитый доктор делал тоже вид.[4] He went. Everything took place as he had expected and as it always does. There was the usual waiting and the important air assumed by the doctor, with which he was so familiar (resembling that which he himself assumed in court), and the sounding and listening, and the questions which called for answers that were foregone conclusions and were evidently unnecessary, and the look of importance which implied that “if only you put yourself in our hands we will arrange everything — we know indubitably how it has to be done, always in the same way for everybody alike.” It was all just as it was in the law courts. The doctor put on just the same air towards him as he himself put on towards an accused person.[4]
 Доктор говорил: то-то и то-то указывает, что у вас внутри то-то и то-то; но если это не подтвердится по исследованиям того-то и того-то, то у вас надо предположить то-то и то-то. Если же предположить то-то, тогда… и т. д. Для Ивана Ильича был важен только один вопрос: опасно ли его положение или нет? Но доктор игнорировал этот неуместный вопрос. С точки зрения доктора, вопрос этот был праздный и не подлежал обсуждению; существовало только взвешиванье вероятностей – блуждающей почки, хронического катара и болезней слепой кишки.[5] Не было вопроса о жизни Ивана Ильича, а был спор между блуждающей почкой и слепой кишкой. И спор этот на глазах Ивана Ильича доктор блестящим образом разрешил в пользу слепой кишки, сделав оговорку о том, что исследование мочи может дать новые улики и что тогда дело будет пересмотрено. Все это было точь-в-точь то же, что делал тысячу раз сам Иван Ильич над подсудимыми таким блестящим манером. Так же блестяще сделал свое резюме доктор и торжествующе, весело даже, взглянув сверху очков на подсудимого.[6] Из резюме доктора Иван Ильич вывел то заключение, что плохо, а что ему, доктору, да, пожалуй, и всем все равно, а ему плохо. И это заключение болезненно поразило Ивана Ильича, вызвав в нем чувство большой жалости к себе и большой злобы на этого равнодушного к такому важному вопросу доктора. The doctor said that so-and-so indicated that there was so- and-so inside the patient, but if the investigation of so-and-so did not confirm this, then he must assume that and that. If he assumed that and that, then…and so on. To Ivan Ilych only one question was important: was his case serious or not? But the doctor ignored that inappropriate question. From his point of view it was not the one under consideration, the real question was to decide between a floating kidney, chronic catarrh, or appendicitis.[5] It was not a question of the life of Ivan Ilych, but rather a dispute between the floating kidney and the appendix which the doctor solved brilliantly, as it seemed to Ivan Ilych, in favour of the appendix, with the reservation that should an examination of the urine give fresh indications the matter would be reconsidered. All this was just what Ivan Ilych had himself brilliantly accomplished a thousand times in dealing with men on trial. The doctor summed up just as brilliantly, looking over his spectacles triumphantly and even gaily at the accused.[6] From the doctor’s summing up Ivan Ilych concluded that things were bad, but that for the doctor, and perhaps for everybody else, it was a matter of indifference, though for him it was bad. And this conclusion struck him painfully, arousing in him a great feeling of pity for himself and of bitterness towards the doctor’s indifference to a matter of such importance.
 Но он ничего не сказал, а встал, положил деньги на стол и, вздохнув, сказал: He said nothing of this, but rose, placed the doctor’s fee on the table, and remarked with a sigh: – Мы, больные, вероятно, часто делаем вам неуместные вопросы, – сказал он. – Вообще, это опасная болезнь или нет?.. “We sick people probably often put inappropriate questions. But tell me, in general, is this complaint dangerous, or not?…” Доктор строго взглянул на него одним глазом через очки, как будто говоря: подсудимый, если вы не будете оставаться в пределах ставимых вам вопросов, я буду принужден сделать распоряжение об удалении вас из зала заседания. The doctor looked at him sternly over his spectacles with one eye, as if to say: “Prisoner, if you will not keep to the questions put to you, I shall be obliged to have you removed from the court.” – Я уже сказал вам то, что считал нужным и удобным, – сказал доктор. – Дальнейшее покажет исследование. – И доктор поклонился. “I have already told you what I consider necessary and proper. The analysis may show something more.” And the doctor bowed. Иван Ильич вышел медленно, уныло сел в сани и поехал домой. Всю дорогу он не переставая перебирал все, что говорил доктор, стараясь все эти запутанные, неясные научные слова перевести на простой язык и прочесть в них ответ на вопрос: плохо – очень ли плохо мне, или еще ничего? И ему казалось, что смысл всего сказанного доктором был тот, что очень плохо. Все грустно показалось Ивану Ильичу на улицах. Извозчики были грустны, дома грустны, прохожие, лавки грустны. Боль же эта, глухая, ноющая боль, ни на секунду не перестающая, казалось, в связи с неясными речами доктора получала другое, более серьезное значение. Иван Ильич с новым тяжелым чувством теперь прислушивался к ней. Ivan Ilych went out slowly, seated himself disconsolately in his sledge, and drove home. All the way home he was going over what the doctor had said, trying to translate those complicated, obscure, scientific phrases into plain language and find in them an answer to the question: “Is my condition bad? Is it very bad? Or is there as yet nothing much wrong?” And it seemed to him that the meaning of what the doctor had said was that it was very bad. Everything in the streets seemed depressing. The cabmen, the houses, the passers-by, and the shops, were dismal. His ache, this dull gnawing ache that never ceased for a moment, seemed to have acquired a new and more serious significance from the doctor’s dubious remarks. Ivan Ilych now watched it with a new and oppressive feeling.
 Но Иван Ильич все-таки точно стал исполнять предписания и в исполнении этом нашел утешение на первое время.[7] However, Ivan Ilych still obeyed his orders implicitly and at first derived some comfort from doing so.[7]
 Главным занятием Ивана Ильича со времени посещения доктора стало точное исполнение предписаний доктора относительно гигиены и принимания лекарств и прислушиванье к своей боли, ко всем своим отправлениям организма. Главными интересами Ивана Ильича стали людские болезни и людское здоровье. Когда при нем говорили о больных, об умерших, о выздоровевших, особенно о такой болезни, которая походила на его, он, стараясь скрыть свое волнение, прислушивался, расспрашивал и делал применение к своей болезни. From the time of his visit to the doctor, Ivan Ilych’s chief occupation was the exact fulfillment of the doctor’s instructions regarding hygiene and the taking of medicine, and the observation of his pain and his excretions. His chief interest came to be people’s ailments and people’s health. When sickness, deaths, or recoveries were mentioned in his presence, especially when the illness resembled his own, he listened with agitation which he tried to hide, asked questions, and applied what he heard to his own case. Боль не уменьшалась; но Иван Ильич делал над собой усилия, чтобы заставлять себя думать, что ему лучше. И он мог обманывать себя, пока ничего не волновало его.[8] Но как только случалась неприятность с женой, неудача в службе, дурные карты в винте, так сейчас он чувствовал всю силу своей болезни;[9] бывало, он переносил эти неудачи, ожидая, что вот-вот исправлю плохое, поборю, дождусь успеха, большого шлема.[10] Теперь же всякая неудача подкашивала его и ввергала в отчаяние. Он говорил себе: вот только что я стал поправляться и лекарство начинало уже действовать, и вот это проклятое несчастие или неприятность… И он злился на несчастье или на людей, делавших ему неприятности и убивающих его, и чувствовал, как эта злоба убивает его; но не мог воздержаться от нее.[11] Казалось бы, ему должно бы было быть ясно, что это озлобление его на обстоятельства и людей усиливает его болезнь и что поэтому ему надо не обращать внимания на неприятные случайности; но он делал совершенно обратное рассуждение: он говорил, что ему нужно спокойствие, следил за всем, что нарушало это спокойствие, и при всяком малейшем нарушении приходил в раздражение. Ухудшало его положение то, что он читал медицинские книги и советовался с докторами. Ухудшение шло так равномерно, что он мог себя обманывать, сравнивая один день с другим, – разницы было мало. Но когда он советовался с докторами, тогда ему казалось, что идет к худшему и очень быстро даже. И несмотря на это, он постоянно советовался с докторами. The pain did not grow less, but Ivan Ilych made efforts to force himself to think that he was better. And he could do this so long as nothing agitated him.[8] But as soon as he had any unpleasantness with his wife, any lack of success in his official work, or held bad cards at bridge, he was at once acutely sensible of his disease.[9] He had formerly borne such mischances, hoping soon to adjust what was wrong, to master it and attain success, or make a grand slam.[10] But now every mischance upset him and plunged him into despair. He would say to himself: “there now, just as I was beginning to get better and the medicine had begun to take effect, comes this accursed misfortune, or unpleasantness…” And he was furious with the mishap, or with the people who were causing the unpleasantness and killing him, for he felt that this fury was killing him but he could not restrain it.[11] One would have thought that it should have been clear to him that this exasperation with circumstances and people aggravated his illness, and that he ought therefore to ignore unpleasant occurrences. But he drew the very opposite conclusion: he said that he needed peace, and he watched for everything that might disturb it and became irritable at the slightest infringement of it. His condition was rendered worse by the fact that he read medical books and consulted doctors. The progress of his disease was so gradual that he could deceive himself when comparing one day with another — the difference was so slight. But when he consulted the doctors it seemed to him that he was getting worse, and even very rapidly. Yet despite this he was continually consulting them.
 – Вы знаете, – говорила она знакомым, – Иван Ильич не может, как все добрые люди, строго исполнять предписанное лечение. Нынче он примет капли и кушает, что велено, и вовремя ляжет; завтра вдруг, если я просмотрю, забудет принять, скушает осетрины (а ему не велено), да и засидится за винтом до часа. “You know,” she would say to her friends, “Ivan Ilych can’t do as other people do, and keep to the treatment prescribed for him. One day he’ll take his drops and keep strictly to his diet and go to bed in good time, but the next day unless I watch him he’ll suddenly forget his medicine, eat sturgeon — which is forbidden — and sit up playing cards till one o’clock in the morning.” – Ну, когда же? – скажет Иван Ильич с досадою. – Один раз у Петра Ивановича. “Oh, come, when was that?” Ivan Ilych would ask in vexation. “Only once at Peter Ivanovich’s.” – А вчера с Шебеком. “And yesterday with Shebek.” – Все равно я не мог спать от боли… “Well, even if I hadn’t stayed up, this pain would have kept me awake.” – Да там уже отчего бы то ни было, только так ты никогда не выздоровеешь и мучаешь нас. “Be that as it may you’ll never get well like that, but will always make us wretched.” Внешнее, высказываемое другим и ему самому, отношение Прасковьи Федоровны было такое к болезни мужа, что в болезни этой виноват Иван Ильич и вся болезнь эта есть новая неприятность, которую он делает жене. Иван Ильич чувствовал, что это выходило у нее невольно, но от этого ему не легче было. Praskovya Fedorovna’s attitude to Ivan Ilych’s illness, as she expressed it both to others and to him, was that it was his own fault and was another of the annoyances he caused her. Ivan Ilych felt that this opinion escaped her involuntarily — but that did not make it easier for him.
 В суде Иван Ильич замечал или думал, что замечает, то же странное к себе отношение: то ему казалось, что к нему приглядываются, как к человеку, имеющему скоро опростать место; то вдруг его приятели начинали дружески подшучивать над его мнительностью, как будто то, что-то ужасное и страшное, неслыханное, что завелось в нем и не переставая сосет его и неудержимо влечет куда-то, есть самый приятный предмет для шутки. Особенно Шварц своей игривостью, жизненностью и комильфотностью, напоминавшими Ивану Ильичу его самого за десять лет назад, раздражал его.[15] At the law courts too, Ivan Ilych noticed, or thought he noticed, a strange attitude towards himself. It sometimes seemed to him that people were watching him inquisitively as a man whose place might soon be vacant. Then again, his friends would suddenly begin to chaff him in a friendly way about his low spirits, as if the awful, horrible, and unheard-of thing that was going on within him, incessantly gnawing at him and irresistibly drawing him away, was a very agreeable subject for jests. Schwartz in particular irritated him by his jocularity, vivacity, and savoir-faire, which reminded him of what he himself had been ten years ago.[15]
 Приходили друзья составить партию, садились. Сдавали, разминались новые карты, складывались бубны к бубнам, их семь. Партнер сказал: без козырей, – и поддержал две бубны. Чего ж еще? Весело, бодро должно бы быть – шлем. И вдруг Иван Ильич чувствует эту сосущую боль, этот вкус во рту, и ему что-то дикое представляется в том, что он при этом может радоваться шлему. Friends came to make up a set and they sat down to cards. They dealt, bending the new cards to soften them, and he sorted the diamonds in his hand and found he had seven. His partner said “No trumps” and supported him with two diamonds. What more could be wished for? It ought to be jolly and lively. They would make a grand slam. But suddenly Ivan Ilych was conscious of that gnawing pain, that taste in his mouth, and it seemed ridiculous that in such circumstances he should be pleased to make a grand slam. Он глядит на Михаила Михайловича, партнера, как он бьет по столу сангвинической рукой и учтиво и снисходительно удерживается от захватывания взяток, а подвигает их к Ивану Ильичу, чтобы доставить ему удовольствие собирать их, не утруждая себя, не протягивая далеко руку. “Что ж он думает, что я так слаб, что не могу протянуть далеко руку”, – думает Иван Ильич, забывает козырей и козыряет лишний раз по своим и проигрывает шлем без трех, и что ужаснее всего – это то, что он видит, как страдает Михаил Михайлович, а ему все равно. И ужасно думать, отчего ему все равно. He looked at his partner Mikhail Mikhaylovich, who rapped the table with his strong hand and instead of snatching up the tricks pushed the cards courteously and indulgently towards Ivan Ilych that he might have the pleasure of gathering them up without the trouble of stretching out his hand for them. “Does he think I am too weak to stretch out my arm?” thought Ivan Ilych, and forgetting what he was doing he over-trumped his partner, missing the grand slam by three tricks. And what was most awful of all was that he saw how upset Mikhail Mikhaylovich was about it but did not himself care. And it was dreadful to realize why he did not care.
 Все видят, что ему тяжело, и говорят ему: “Мы можем прекратить, если вы устали. Вы отдохните”. Отдохнуть? Нет, он нисколько не устал, они доигрывают роббер. Все мрачны и молчаливы. Иван Ильич чувствует, что он напустил на них эту мрачность и не может ее рассеять. Они ужинают и разъезжаются, и Иван Ильич остается один с сознанием того, что его жизнь отравлена для него и отравляет жизнь других и что отрава эта не ослабевает, а все больше и больше проникает все существо его. They all saw that he was suffering, and said: “We can stop if you are tired. Take a rest.” Lie down? No, he was not at all tired, and he finished the rubber. All were gloomy and silent. Ivan Ilych felt that he had diffused this gloom over them and could not dispel it. They had supper and went away, and Ivan Ilych was left alone with the consciousness that his life was poisoned and was poisoning the lives of others, and that this poison did not weaken but penetrated more and more deeply into his whole being. И с сознанием этим, да еще с болью физической, да еще с ужасом надо было ложиться в постель и часто не спать от боли большую часть ночи. А наутро надо было опять вставать, одеваться, ехать в суд, говорить, писать, а если и не ехать, дома быть с теми же двадцатью четырьмя часами в сутках, из которых каждый был мучением. И жить так на краю погибели надо было одному, без одного человека, который бы понял и пожалел его. With this consciousness, and with physical pain besides the terror, he must go to bed, often to lie awake the greater part of the night. Next morning he had to get up again, dress, go to the law courts, speak, and write; or if he did not go out, spend at home those twenty-four hours a day each of which was a torture. And he had to live thus all alone on the brink of an abyss, with no one who understood or pitied him.

1. Tolstoy uses the Russian equivalent of "mood" ("raspolozhenie duxa," lit., "disposition of spirit") to indicate that a physical symptom may be a sign of spiritual distress. In this way it is suggested that Ivan Ilich's physical illness is actually a symbol of his spiritual distress, the "consciousness" of which is only now, once his ideal of life has finally been reached, beginning to make itself known to him. ↵
2. The first few paragraphs of chapter four present Ivan Ilich as experiencing symptoms very similar to those exhibited by Praskovya Fyodorovna when she was pregnant: the well-known "morning sickness" in pregnancy is reflected in Ivan Ilich's difficulties with taking food and the strange taste in his mouth; the increasing sense of pressure and weight in the abdomen is also common to both experiences. Most striking of all is the common behavior patterns of the two, the sudden outbursts, the demands, and the vulgar scenes. As though to point up these similarities the text reports that Praskovya Fyodorovna asserts, with her usual exaggeration, that Ivan Ilich had always had a "terrible character," and that it had needed all her good nature to put up with it for twenty years (i.e., since the time of her first pregnancy). The text continues by noting that "what was true was that now their quarrels were started by him" (thereby suggesting a comparison with those quarrels of twenty years before which were started by her!). In this way the onset of Ivan Ilich's illness, which culminates in his death, is linked to the onset of pregnancy, which culminates in the birth of new life. ↵
3. This is the first of several phrases and incidents in the novel that can be understood as allusions to the story of the death by crucifixion of Jesus as reported in the New Testament. This set of motifs in the story is discussed by various scholars, including the present author ("A Note on the Miracle Motifs in the Later Works of Lev Tolstoi." In The Supernatural in Slavic and Baltic Literatures: Essays in Honor of Victor Terras, 191-99. Columbus, Ohio: Slavica Publishers, 1988). The presence of these allusions in the text is challenging, because the miracle of the Resurrection--that people are saved by the death and resurrection of Jesus--was explicitly denied by Tolstoy in his study of the Gospels (e.g., in The Gospel in Brief, A Harmonization and Translation of the Four Gospels, and What I Believe). I will indicate these allusions as such as the text progresses. ↵
4. Note the explicit comparison which the text offers between the cold and impersonal treatment Ivan Ilich receives from the doctors and that which he himself accorded to those whom he encountered in his own official capacity. A strict reading of the Russian text says that the behavior of the doctor toward him as patient was "the very same as that which he knew in himself in court." A few lines later we read: "It was all just as it was in the law courts. The doctor put on just the same air towards him as he himself put on towards an accused person." The text is so emphatic and unambiguous on this point that the reader must conclude that it is important to come to the conclusion that Ivan Ilich's life has been just as much a sham and just as disconnected from the real life and real concerns of individual people as the doctors' lives are now shown to be. ↵
5. The Russian text has it that "it was not a question about the life of Ivan Ilich." The suggestion seems to be that the doctors are not concerned about the life of their patient, but only about the identification of his illness. The distinction between health and illness now asserts itself at the expense of the distinction between life and death. In one sense, then, the novel has two levels of concern. On one level we are offered the story of Ivan Ilich's progress from health to illness to death; on another level we are dealing with a concern about the proper distinction between life and death. The first, and more superficial, level invites a three-part structuring of the narrative, the other a two-part structuring. It is one of the compositional distinctions of The Death of Ivan Ilich that Tolstoy has enabled the simultaneous co-existence of these two patterns of organization. ↵
6. Note that Ivan Ilich has now changed from a patient to a man on trial as the comparison between the doctor's office and the court has now been realized. The Russian word "podsudimyj" ("defendant; an accused") etymologically means "subject to judgement"; this reminds us of the indications in Chapter One that it would be the reader's role to judge of the life of Ivan Ilich. ↵
7. The extensive description of Ivan Ilich's relationship with his doctor makes it clear that the doctor is quite unequal both to the treatment of his patient's illness and to the meeting of his emotional needs. The text here states that Ivan Ilich "still" obeyed the doctor's instructions, reminding us of the confusion and apparent incompetence of the doctor and his office described in the preceding paragraph. Even so, Ivan Ilich attempts to continue to follow doctor's orders, apparently hoping that by going through the "proper channels" the desired result of full recovery might be assured. Thus, his first attempts to come to grips with his illness resemble the efforts that he made within the system to seek redress when he was, unfairly as he thought, passed over for promotion. On that occasion following the approved procedure had availed him not at all; his recovery of his appropriate (in his view) position in the service came about almost miraculously, through an entirely unexpected and, from Ivan Il'ch's point of view, extremely fortunate change in the leadership of the ministry. So here in dealing with his illness the prescribed, approved measures will fail to produce recovery; before the end, Ivan Ilich will consider going to a religious shrine to seek a miraculous cure. Even this second major failure of the artificial system of life to which Ivan Ilich is dedicated, however, fails to lead him at once to the obvious conclusion--that his pleasant, seemly, official life is not a real life and offers no help for or protection from the vicissitudes of that real life. At this point Ivan Ilich can still derive some comfort from the thought that he is doing what he is supposed to do and still hoping that this seemly action within the system will produce the desired results. ↵
8. Thus, it is suggested that all of his efforts to recover by taking approved steps within the limits of the life which he has developed for himself are just so much self-deception, and the implication of this would naturally be that his life as a whole is just as much a self-deception as his attempts to follow doctor's orders. ↵
9. From this passage one might well infer a connection between Ivan Ilich's illness and the episodes of Praskovya Fyodorovna's first pregnancy and his being passed over for promotion at work. All three have in common that they reveal that Ivan Ilich's understanding and expectations of life are entirely faulty and not congruent with life as it actually is. Life is actually not analogous to a game of cards, but Ivan Ilich seems quite unable to understand this! ↵
10. Ivan Ilich's underlying belief that vint is a perfect analogue of life is made virtually explicit here. This passage emphasizes yet again the point that the card game, the symbol of Ivan Ilich's life as he has lived it so pleasantly until now, is ridiculously incommensurate with life as it actually is. The further implication is that the pain and the putrid taste in his mouth, the symptoms of his disease, are functioning as symbols of the call away from the false life of the card game and, by implication, toward the true life. In this sense, Ivan Ilich's illness brings him into life as much as it leads him out of it. This apparent confusion can only be resolved by supposing that the text is suggesting that there are two forms of life--one false and the other true. The card game stands for that false life of pleasant superficiality and the other a true life where suffering and illness are real and personal, but so also, potentially, are joy and well-being. ↵
11. Here is one of the first signs that Ivan Ilich is at some level aware of the idea that he may be not just sick, but dying. His unanswered question for the doctor, "Is my condition dangerous," hinted at this, but here he feels that something is killing him, and that "something" is the imperfection of his life as he understands it and also his own unrestrainable anger at those imperfections. In this way the text introduces the first subtle suggestion that what is killing him is the life he leads. ↵
12. Ivan Ilich means to say that his shilly-shallying over which of the various treatments to follow has come to an end and that he is resolved to stick faithfully to one treatment in order to treat his illness. In other words, he has decided that he is only ill and that the treatment, if followed strictly, will make him well. And yet this thought, "Now it is finished," is phrased so as to foreshadow exactly the words that Ivan Ilich, at the moment of his death in Chapter Twelve, will hear spoken above him: "It is finished." The phrasing suggests that perhaps Ivan Ilich is at this point not just sick, but in fact already as good as dead. We remember his feeling that the little upsets of his life at home and work were "killing" him. This suggestion that Ivan Ilich is already as good as dead, even though he is still alive, will be offered again and again in the next couple of chapters and may well lead to the conclusion that Ivan Ilich's "life" is in fact really a form of death. ↵
13. Ivan Ilich means, of course that he will spend no more time considering which of the various treatments to follow. But the reader is becoming more and more familiar with the by now familiar device of suggestive contrast between the superficial, conventional, contextualized meaning of a statement and its more pointed underlying significance. Here that underlying meaning is "I will stop thinking"; that is, Ivan Ilich resolves to deal with his troubles by abandoning the only mechanism which has any chance of alerting him to the fact that his real illness is that his life, as he has lived it, is no more genuine and substantial than a game of cards. Fortunately for him, Ivan Ilich proves unable to stop thinking. The final four chapters of the novel, in fact, are mainly an extended record of his thoughts, and it is that persistent thinking which finally leads to the resolution of "that which had been besetting him from all sides." ↵
14. It has been noted that references to the passion of Jesus are to be found in this text. This paragraph has two of them: the Russian words "sovershalos'" and "koncheno" are the equivalents to the words of Jesus from the cross which English-language Bibles translate as "It is finished" (John 19:30). "Sovershalos'" is the word used in the text established for use in the Russian Orthodox Church in Tolstoy's time; "koncheno" is the word used by Tolstoy in his own translation (in the early 1880s) of the Gospels in "Soedinenie i perevod chetyrex evangelij" ("Harmonization and Translation of the Four Gospels"). ↵
15. It is noteworthy that it is Schwartz--the person who is most vibrantly alive--is most irritating to Ivan Ilich. A bit later we will find that another character--the servant Gerasim--possesses this same "aliveness," as shown by his perfect teeth, his unfailing energy, and his springy step, and yet Gerasim has quite the opposite effect on Ivan Ilich. He is comforted by Gerasim, and only by Gerasim, rather than irritated by him. We wonder: what is the difference between Schwartz's "aliveness" and Gerasim's. Perhaps it is that Schwartz's life is "playful" (lit., like a game) and comme il faut (conventional, artificial) and therefore unreal, an illusion, just as Ivan Ilich's life had always been "ten years ago," before he got sick. The logic of this is oblique and deeply buried, but its effect is to suggest that Ivan Ilich's life as he has known it is not really life at all, and it is sickness that is showing this to him. ↵

This page titled 4.4: Chapter 4 is shared under a CC BY-NC license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Gary R. Jahn (Minnesota Libraries Publishing Project) .