The story is also a metaphorical journey toward illumination, in that, Ilyich only truly understands the failure of his erstwhile existence upon the shock of facing death. In this sense his approach toward his finality is an awakening to his own repressed reality. In his case the repression is so internalized and automatic that he carried a feeling of living a successful and responsible life. This feeling was nothing but an illusion which gave respectability to the mundane and trivial existence. By not heeding to what his true calling in life is, Ilyich had lived “the most simple, the most ordinary and therefore most terrible” life. This individual experience highlights a broader social phenomena, namely, the refusal to accept death in a gracefully and pragmatically. We have, in our culture,
“an unspoken agreement not to speak about our own death. Mention of it is withheld lest we appear tactless, self-indulgent, neurotic, morbid, or even cowardly. There is no precise language to name death, to accept death and our dead. Without such a language we cannot integrate it. Integration requires metaphor and ritual. When as a group we are confronted with an image of dread, the group mind clangs shut. It is through the symbolic, the metaphors and rituals, that a group is able to integrate its fate collectively and individually.” (Klement, 1994, p.73)
- Bozovic, Miran. “Auto-Iconicity and Its Vicissitudes: Bentham and Plato.” Helios31 (2004): 223+.
- Klement, Vera. “An Artist’s Notes on Aging and Death.” Art Journal1 (1994): 73+.
- Tolstoy, 1981. The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Trans. Lynn Solotaroff. New York