Tolstoy: The Death of Ivan Illych & Master and Man


Tolstoy brings us to one of the high points of 19th Century Literature. He explores with such uncompromising depth, issues of profound human concern. What we have explored in Austen, Dickens, George Eliot, Matthew Arnold and others here comes into focus with a white heat. Life and death and the ultimate meaning of all our lives on earth are here brought powerfully into focus. How can we read about Ivan’s death or the death of Brekhunov and not be stirred into an examination of the way we are living our own lives? It is this kind of direct confrontation that Tolstoy produced for himself in his writing and inevitably for all his readers. This is Literature and Life with  a capital.

Blog topics for week 10.


You are Nikita. Write a short paragraph describing what you really feel about your master Vasily Brekhunov.


What can you find out about Tolstoy’s belief in the value of the working class?


You are Ivan’s wife Praskovya Fedorovna. Tell a friend what you really think about your husband.


Can you find out what the social context was from which Tolstoy wrote either “The Death of Ivan Illych” or “Master and Man”?


You are Gerasim. What do you really think about helping your master? Write a short paragraph.


Write a short paragraph describing how Tolstoy satirizes the world of the law courts.


You are stuck in a snow storm (or a sand storm), or you are lost in the bush. Describe your last moments. How will you react?

CRITICAL/CREATIVE Create your own topic drawing on any of today’s readings and on your personal experience.

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