The Death of Ivan Ilych PDF Summary

The Death of Ivan Ilych PDFSome stories are unbearable because they sound too artificial. Others are unbearable because they sound too authentic – and because they face us with some painful truths, we’d rather keep under the rag at all times.

None is better in doing the latter than Leo Tolstoy’s “The Death of Ivan Ilych.”

Who Should Read “The Death of Ivan Ilych”? And Why?

There are many books which can help you live a better life, but there are very few which can change your outlook on life altogether, transforming the very core of your beliefs.

Leo Tolstoy’s “The Death of Ivan Ilych” is one of these books.

Read it sooner rather than later.

Because you don’t want to find out in the end that you’ve lived all your life falsely.

Leo TolstoyLeo Tolstoy Biography

Leo Tolstoy – or count Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy in full – was a Russian novelist, essayist, and short story writer, almost unanimously acclaimed as one of the greatest writers in the history of world literature.

He was born into an aristocratic family in 1828 and lived to be 82 years old. By the end of his life, his fame was such that many people in Russia and in the world saw in him both a prophet and a sage.

In fact, his later ideas about nonviolent resistance, developed after an existential crisis under the influence of Henry David Thoreau, would have a profound effect on Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi.

Before he turned all-didactic, Tolstoy wrote two of the greatest realist novels ever written, “War and Peace” and “Anna Karenina,” ranked #3 and #1 in Time’s respected 2007 poll of 125 contemporary authors’ outtake on the best books ever written.

He also wrote many novellas, short stories, plays, and philosophical essays.


St. Petersburg, Russia, the end of the 19th century.

Three friends – yeah, let’s call them that for now – sit in a law court and have the usual chitchat colleagues may have at the beginning of the workday.

Usual soon turns to somewhat awkward when they learn from the newspapers that a fourth colleague of theirs, Ivan Ilych, has died, or, as the British would say, is bereft of life, has ceased to be, is no more!

And when we say “awkward” we mean “now-that-he’s-dead-maybe-I-can-get-his-job” awkward.

So, not exactly great friends these colleagues of Ivan, wouldn’t you say that?

To make matters worse, one of these three, Peter Ivanovich, seems to have been Ivan’s best friend: he knows him from college and has been around him ever since.

He’s close enough to him that… well, he has to go to his funeral!

But, wait a minute!

If a person who comes to your funeral out of a sense of obligation is your best friend, what does that say about you?

Well, to quote Leo Tolstoy, that you have lived the “most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible” life imaginable.

Case in point: when Peter arrives at the funeral service, there’s basically not one person who cares one bit about the fact that a fellow human being has left the world!

And that’s especially true concerning Ivan’s wife, Praskovya Fëdorovna Golovin. She does cry a lot at first but make no mistake: just a second after that, she takes Peter aside and asks him quite directly if he knows some way for her to milk more money out of her husband’s death.

Peter doesn’t – not because he’s unknowledgeable, but because Praskovya has already researched the matter quite thoroughly.

In other words, in Praskovya’s case, option B was actually option A all along – too bad that Ivan had to live so long!

And when we say long, we mean forty-five years long! It may seem just a few, but, boy, they can seem like an eternity if you want your husband’s money!

So, what did Ivan do to deserve this?

Spoiler alert: nothing.

And that may be the problem!

It wasn’t always like that.

When young, Ivan was quite the fellow: smart, witty, good-humored. In other words, one of those destined to climb the social reader at a faster pace than most.

And he does.

While doing that, he meets Praskovya Fedorovna and, after a while, he marries her; though it’s not because he loves her or anything; but, because, well, people marry at a certain age, and a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.

And things are going just fine at first, but they take a turn for the worse during Praskovya’s first pregnancy.

She becomes a little too moody for Ivan’s taste, so he starts focusing on those things which make him happy: work and playing bridge with his friends.

And yes – these are the same people who weren’t that impressed with the fact that they were obliged to go to Ivan’s funeral!

Anyway, after a while, Praskovya gives birth to Lisa, and after that to Vasya.

And this checks another box in Ivan’s list!

So, as unfulfilling as it is, life is not too shabby either.

And it seemingly gets even better when at around the age of 40, Ivan finds a new job with a better salary and a new apartment to prove it to the folks who know him!

What’s the point of earning more money than your peers if they don’t know that, right?

With a new apartment on the table, Ivan’s suddenly all about a new passion: interior decorating!

Unfortunately, however, that passion will prove too much for him.

Once, while working on the window drapes, he falls from the ladder he’s standing upon. It’s nothing much at first, but after a while, Ivan starts feeling a persistent pain and a bad taste in his mouth.

You know the ending, so you already know where this is going, right?

As time passes and Ivan’s pain slowly exacerbates, his “life’s-pleasant” mood deteriorates as well.

He doesn’t hear just a second opinion, but also a third and a fourth and a forty-seventh!

Unfortunately, not one of the doctors would tell him if his condition is serious and if there’s something he can do to fix it.

One thing’s for sure, though: the pain won’t go away, and pills help not one bit.

And then, one day, Ivan Ilych realizes that he’s going to die.

And, of course, it’s a very painful feeling!


the example of a syllogism that he had studied in Kiesewetter’s logic (“Caius is a man, men are mortal, therefore Caius is mortal”) had throughout his whole life seemed to him right only in relation to Caius, but not to him at all.

This realization, coupled with the continual pain Ivan’s feeling, takes away all the pleasure from Ivan’s life, and he likes neither bridge nor works anymore.

Eventually, he’s incapable of even going to bridge or work – and is pinned down to his bed.

Even reading these parts is an agonizing experience – trust us!

What makes it worse is the fact that neither Praskovya nor Lysa understand what’s going through Ivan’s mind or even acknowledge the fact that he’s about to die.

The only exception, the light at the end of the tunnel (before the actual light at the end of the tunnel) is Gerasim, the young butler of the Golovin’s family.


Well, first of all, because unlike the rest of his family, he’s not “false”: he doesn’t beat around the bush hiding the obvious facts behind a veil of clichés and picked-up emotions (“Everything will be fine, Ivan… the disease will pass…”)

And, secondly, because he genuinely cares – even though that part is not in his job’s description.

So, Ivan tries to spend as much of his time as he can with Gerasim – something which gives him the opportunity to see, for once, the things as they are.

And they are not shiny!

One night, tormented by pain, Ivan looks back upon his life and realizes that he hadn’t lived that much differently from the “false” people who he currently hates:

Can it be that I have not lived as one ought?” suddenly came into his head. “But how not so, when I’ve done everything as it should be done?


A frightening word.

According to whom, Ivan?

Who’s to say how you should live your life?

The Death of Ivan Ilych Epilogue

The realization anguishes Ivan right until the last day of his life when he is finally able to make the distinction between what it means to live a false life (like him and the rest of his family) and an authentic life (like Gerasim).

Put simply, in a false life, there’s a lot of “I”-s and “getting what I want”-s; in an authentic life, there’s nothing but compassion and sympathy.

For once, that’s exactly what Ivan feels.

His son Vasya kisses his hand, and he feels as if a stone has been lifted from his chest. Suddenly in the presence of a bright light, Ivan looks around him and starts thinking about how much of a burden he has been to his family.

His death will be both his and their salvation.

With joy, he dies.

And, just like John Donne once sang, moments before him, death dies as well:

He sought his former accustomed fear of death and did not find it. “Where is it? What death?” There was no fear because there was no death.  

In place of death there was light.

So that’s what it is!” he suddenly exclaimed aloud. “What joy!  

To him all this happened in a single instant, and the meaning of that instant did not change. For those present his agony continued for another two hours. Something rattled in his throat, his emaciated body twitched, then the gasping and rattle became less and less frequent.

It is finished!” said someone near him.  

He heard these words and repeated them in his soul.  

Death is finished,” he said to himself. “It is no more!  

He drew in a breath, stopped in the midst of a sigh, stretched out, and died.

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“The Death of Ivan Ilych PDF Quotes”

’Can it be that I have not lived as one ought?’ suddenly came into his head. ‘But how not so, when I've done everything as it should be done?’ Click To Tweet

He sought his former accustomed fear of death and did not find it. ‘Where is it? What death?’ There was no fear because there was no death. In place of death there was light. Click To Tweet

The example of a syllogism that he had studied in Kiesewetter's logic: Caius is a man, men are mortal, therefore Caius is mortal, had throughout his whole life seemed to him right only in relation to Caius, but not to him at all. Click To Tweet

The very fact of the death of someone close to them aroused in all who heard about it, as always, a feeling of delight that he had died and they hadn't. Click To Tweet

Death is finished, he said to himself. It is no more! Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

You’ll need no more than two hours to read this novella – and just as many to reconsider your time here on earth.

That’s the power of “The Death of Ivan Ilych,” possibly the best example of what the word “novella” means.

Also: if you have the time, please watch Kurosawa’s “Ikiru” – a film based on the book, one of the best examples of what films should be all about!    Take this summary with you and read anywhere! Download PDF:   

Anna Karenina PDF Summary

Anna Karenina PDFAnna Karenina.

We all know her as the woman who did something unacceptable in her time and threw her life on the railroad tracks.

But what made her give up? What did she think? What went wrong?

Who Should Read “Anna Karenina”? And Why?

From the master of realism, we get yet another story that is as much about the personal turmoils of the characters, as it is about the social changes that shake Russia in the nineteenth century.

“Anna Karenina” is a story about self-discovery and adultery, as well as about the importance of family and the perplexing emotions and hardships that people experience when trying to comprehend and realize their wishes.

We recommend it to all lovers of classics, readers that love well-rounded characters, and those that do not mind reading long works of fiction.

Leo Tolstoy Biography

Leo TolstoyLeo Tolstoy (Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy) was a Russian aristocrat, who is considered as one of the most prominent and significant authors of realism (and overall) of all times.


The story starts with the introduction of the heroine of the novel, Anna Karenina, who travels to Moscow to mediate in the marriage of her brother Stiva and Dolly, that is torn apart because of his adultery.

The introduction of the adultery theme from the very beginning foreshadows the events of the heroine’s story, and the novel’s main premise.

In the meantime, the readers are introduced to the main character of the subplot of the novel: Kitty. Kitty is Dolly’s sister, who at the moment has two suitors into consideration: Konstantin Levin and Alexei Vronsky.

Kitty does not want to accept Levin’s hand in marriage, and so he returns to his house in the country. However, soon she is left without the other option, since Vronsky, the handsome military man, falls in love with Anna instead.

The problem is that Anna is married.

Yet, this does not stop him from courting her.

On her return to her home in St. Petersburg, he follows her and continues trying to charm her. He loves her, as he tells her.

Not long after, Anna starts romantically thinking about Vronsky as well.

We already summarized one other book with a similar premise: Madame Bovary. However, in Anna Karenina, Karenin, the husband of the heroine, is not naïve and senses her interest in Vronsky.

Anna is bold: she admits that she loves him and that she is having an affair.

The events of the main plot are interrupted when we take a look at the subplot about Kitty and Levin, who after some time has passed, fall in love and get married.

Meanwhile, Karenin, although is aware of the affair of his wife, would instead that they keep the image of a happily married couple in front of the public, and thus he refuses her request for a divorce.

This does not stop her from keeping to see Vronsky, but their relationship changes when she reveals to him that she is expecting a baby.

One day, Karenin faces Vronsky in his home, and he finally cannot bear it anymore and agrees to a divorce. However, this time, Anna does not want to divorce him and begs for his forgiveness.

He grants it, but she is again not satisfied. Instead, she hates him for his niceness and generosity.

Instead of asking for a divorce, or becoming a dutiful wife, she just moves to Italy with Vronsky where she leads what readers would consider an aimless life.

When she returns to Russia, she and Vronsky are judged by Russia’s society, who consider their affair and Ana’s adultery disgraceful.

However, Vronsky is not in as a bad position as she is. She has a son and a husband whom she has left, and therefore she can no longer participate in society.

So she becomes jealous of her lover, which further complicates her psychological and emotional state.

Kitty and Levin’s life, in the meanwhile, is also not without complications.

Levin feels perplexed about the changes he faces, like for example his lack of freedom.

Even more, surprises come when he and Kitty move to the city to await the birth of their baby and face the expenses of the city lifestyle. When the baby is born, Levin is also confused about the feelings he has towards his child.

However, their issues are nowhere near as big as Anna’s.

She constantly drinks sedatives to sleep and grows paranoid starting to doubt Vronsky’s love. Whenever he goes somewhere, she cannot bear her doubts.

This growing paranoia finally overburdens her and makes her do the desperate act of throwing herself under a train to kill herself.

Anna Karenina Epilogue

After Anna’s death, Tolstoy gives us a resolution to the lives of the other characters as well.

Vronsky goes to Servia to help Slavic people to free themselves from the Turkish influence.

Levin starts questioning life and its meaning, and finally finds the transformation he seeks for through faith. He realizes that he loves his son when he is in danger, and his wife Kitty seems pleased.

It looks like the future of the characters is bright.

This kind of ending proves Tolstoy’s idea about the bliss of family life – and puts a satisfactory ending that answers to the opening sentence of the novel.

However, although he was emphasizing the importance of family, he did not avoid mentioning the hardships in it as well, which makes the story real and balanced.

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“Anna Karenina PDF Quotes”

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Click To Tweet If you look for perfection, you'll never be content. Click To Tweet He stepped down, trying not to look long at her, as if she were the sun, yet he saw her, like the sun, even without looking. Click To Tweet Respect was invented to cover the empty place where love should be. Click To Tweet Is it really possible to tell someone else what one feels? Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

“Anna Karenina” is one of the best books I have read. However, I started it many times, and only now I read it until the very end.

Do not get me wrong, it is not that the book is not interesting, but it is painfully long for modern-day readers that are used to thinner books and faster reads.

In any case, one must read it at some point in his or her life, so I recommend that once you feel that you have the time – you put it on your reading shelf.    Take this summary with you and read anywhere! Download PDF:   

Leo Tolstoy Quotes

Leo Tolstoy QuotesLeo Tolstoy’s aura and presence continue to inspire new generations years after his death. His words echo through time, forging new relationships and building fortresses made of famous quotes and insights.

The enigma of his existence added to the everlasting fire of wisdom continues to support the uprising of rebels, who question the system of power and influence.

Tolstoy is hailed as one of greatest novelists of all time; his legacy rises above the concept of “time” and other philosophies which failed to prove beneficial.

Born in a Tsardom of Russia, he quickly faced hardship, poverty, and trouble. He was the son of a veteran who participated in one of Russia’s bloodiest patriotic clashes in 1812.

The transformation from an army man, to a pacifist who despised the aftermath of war, is an unexplainable mix of events that shaped the course of his life.

Before enlisting in the army, he tried his luck at the Kazan University, where he studied law.

The teachers there labeled him as stubborn, and ignorant to absorb the teachings. He quickly became inspired to dive deep into the essence of human existence and exploit its real mysteries.

In 1861, Leo met Victor Hugo, who helped to climb up the ladder, and inquire into the political and social agenda of 19th century Europe. His views were sharpened and his mind superior, ready to embark on an unparalleled journey.

Ignited by passion and determination take the measure of the society and social order, he began his writing career.

In this article, we unveil only the most life-altering, thought-provoking, and captivating quotes.  

Stay tuned!

Leo Tolstoy Quotes – Top 10

He stepped down, trying not to look long at her, as if she were the sun, yet he saw her, like the sun, even without looking. Click To Tweet There is no greatness where there is no simplicity, goodness, and truth. Click To Tweet Art is not a handicraft; it is the transmission of feeling the artist has experienced. Click To Tweet Even in the valley of the shadow of death, two and two do not make six. Click To Tweet I sit on a man's back, choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by all possible means - except by getting off his back. Click To Tweet All happy families resemble one another; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Click To Tweet All violence consists in some people forcing others, under threat of suffering or death, to do what they do not want to do. Click To Tweet Joy can only be real if people look upon their life as a service and have a definite object in life outside themselves and their personal happiness. Click To Tweet A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite. Click To Tweet He never chooses an opinion; he just wears whatever happens to be in style. Click To Tweet

We are not through yet! Leo Tolstoy as a figure of the 19th century brought to life many ideas that were not known to the ordinary peasant.

Instead of adhering to violence, and war – he satirically speaks against those who assume that they have the right and power to choose on behalf of those who are weak.

Remember, your life is in your keeping alone, you mustn’t point your fingers at someone else and accuse them for your misfortune.

Let’s crack a bottle open and celebrate with more quotes:

Quotes by Leo Tolstoy – Anna Karenina

Respect was invented to cover the empty place where love should be.

If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.

He stepped down, trying not to look long at her, as if she were the sun, yet he saw her, like the sun, even without looking.

Spring is the time of plans and projects.

Is it really possible to tell someone else what one feels?

Rummaging in our souls, we often dig up something that ought to have lain there unnoticed.

Be bad, but at least don’t be a liar, a deceiver!

Love. The reason I dislike that word is that it means too much for me, far more than you can understand.

All the variety, all the charm, all the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow.

Anything is better than lies and deceit!

Quotes by Leo Tolstoy – War and Peace

We can know only that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom.

Nothing is so necessary for a young man as the company of intelligent women.

It’s not given to people to judge what’s right or wrong. People have eternally been mistaken and will be mistaken, and in nothing more than in what they consider right and wrong.

You can love a person dear to you with human love, but an enemy can only be loved with divine love.

Everything I know, I know because of love.

Man cannot possess anything as long as he fears death. But to him who does not fear it, everything belongs. If there was no suffering, man would not know his limits, would not know himself.

Human science fragments everything in order to understand it, kills everything in order to examine it.

Everything depends on upbringing.

Pure and complete sorrow is as impossible as pure and complete joy.

Quotes by Leo Tolstoy – The Death of Ivan Ilych

The example of a syllogism that he had studied in Kiesewetter’s logic: Caius is a man, men are mortal, therefore Caius is mortal, had throughout his whole life seemed to him right only in relation to Caius, but not to him at all.

The very fact of the death of someone close to them aroused in all who heard about it, as always, a feeling of delight that he had died and they hadn’t.

It can’t be that life is so senseless and horrible. But if it really has been so horrible and senseless, why must I die and die in agony? There is something wrong!

It is impossible that all men have been doomed to suffer this awful horror!

Always the same. Now a spark of hope flashes up, then a sea of despair rages, and always a pain; always pain, always despair, and always the same.

What tormented Ivan Ilych most was the deception, the lie, which for some reason they all accepted, that he was not dying but was simply ill, and that he only need keep quiet and undergo a treatment and then something very good would result.

There was no deceiving himself: something terrible, new, and more important than anything before in his life, was taking place within him of which he alone was aware.

It occurred to him that his scarcely perceptible attempts to struggle against what was considered good by the most highly placed people, those scarcely noticeable impulses which he had immediately suppressed, might have been the real thing, and all the rest false.

Death is finished, he said to himself. It is no more!

Quotes by Leo Tolstoy – Resurrection

Every man and every living creature has a sacred right to the gladness of springtime.

It was clear that everything considered important and good was insignificant and repulsive, and that all this glamour and luxury hid the old well-known crimes, which not only remained unpunished but were adorned with all the splendor men can devise.

The whole trouble lies in that people think that there are conditions excluding the necessity of love in their intercourse with a man, but such conditions do not exist. Things may be treated without love; one may chop wood, make bricks, forge iron without love, but one can no more deal with people without love than one can handle bees without care.

There are many faiths, but the spirit is one — in me, and in you, and in him. So that if everyone believes himself, all will be united; everyone be himself, and all will be as one.

Military life in general depraves men. It places them in conditions of complete idleness, that is, absence of all rational and useful work; frees them from their everyday human duties, which it replaces by merely conventional duties to the honor of the regiment, the uniform, the flag; and while giving them on the one hand absolute power over other men, also puts them into conditions of servile obedience to those of higher ranks than themselves.

Final Notes

We want to finish this in high-fashion and leave you to pick your favorite one! Leo Tolstoy sure did leave a mark on humanity, and through the written word he gave us a piece of wisdom that will last for ages.

Use your time wisely, contemplate and discover your mission in this world.    Take this summary with you and read anywhere! Download PDF: