Ivan Ilyich

1208 Words5 Pages
The Story of the Stone and The Death of Ivan Ilyich both present rigidly organized social settings. Jia Baoyu struggles against his role as a first son in a society informed primarily by Confucian academia while Ivan Ilyich seeks to better his position in the Tsarist bureaucracy. These characters react very differently to their respective societies but, regardless of their willingness or ability to exist within these social structures, the obligations and expectations put upon them by social convention causes them equal unhappiness. Social obligation is tied to a few key themes in both works: family roles, personal relationships, sympathy, attachment and death. Both play with the idea of the "reality" of social construction and the release…show more content…
However, neither Baoyu nor Ivan Ilyich can be said to be satisfied with their circumstances. Neither Baoyu's rebellion nor Ivan's complaisance lead to happiness within their social structures. After Baoyu passes his exams and promptly disappears, his younger sister Tanchun comments that: "it's best to be ordinary. Baoyu was always different. He had that jade of his ever since he was born. But looking back I can see that it's brought him nothing but bad luck" (Stone, 307). This is in direct contrast with the introduction of Ivan Ilyich: "Ivan Ilyich's life had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible" (Death, 818). Baoyu's family comes to the conclusion that the extraordinary circumstance of his birth did not lend itself to good fortune. Ivan Ilyich comes to loathe his previous dedication to the "right" way of living. Baoyu eventually dedicates himself to fulfilling the role he's so long avoided after a mysterious encounter in a dream convinces him that the only possible way to see his beloved Lin Daiyu is through living properly. Wasting his life pining for his dead love would be considered suicide of sorts and he would therefore be banned from heaven. His attachment to Daiyu rouses in him a final application to civic studies. Ivan's accident and subsequent decline reveals to him a great unhappiness with the way in which he's lived his life, which he previously put great stock in. He begins to worry that he's not lived his life as he should have: "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, 848). The dutiful Ivan comes to suspect duty as causing him unhappiness and the rebellious Baoyu comes to rely on duty in hopes of happiness
Open Document