The Similarities Between 'Good Old Neon And' The Death Of Ivan Ilych

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Kamran Shah Mr. Gutlerner IB English January 3, 2023 Word Count: 1400 max Your Jordans are Fake Mario. Fake AF Some of the most profound books I’ve ever read have been detailed diatribes about how one should live, including my favorite book, A Room with a View. The desire for authenticity and one’s craving for social acceptance often stand opposed, a theme explored by David Foster Wallace and Leo Tolstoy. Both Wallace’s novella Good Old Neon and Tolstoy’s novella The Death of Ivan Ilych portray a man’s struggle to come to terms with their misled lives in the face of their looming deaths. While their journeys are vastly different, both reach a state of acceptance, showing the similarities in Wallace’s and Tolstoy’s views on the right way to …show more content…

As his pain grows unbearable, Ilych hurls questions at God, asking “‘Why hast Thou done all this? Why hast Thou brought me here? Why, why dost Thou torment me so terribly?’” (Tolstoy, 143). By addressing these questions to a higher power, Ilych demonstrates his ignorance as to the cause of his misfortune, shifting the blame to anything other than himself. Ilych is unable to reflect on his life as a whole, instead searching for some grave sin that would have enraged God. Compared to Neal, who is ever aware of his misguided life, Ilych’s fraudulence is arguably greater, having convinced even himself that his life is proper. Whenever he questions if he lived as he ought to, Ilych “at once recall[s] the correctness of his whole life and dismisse[s] so strange an idea.” (Tolstoy, 145). In his mind, propriety equals correctness, and having lived a proper life, there’s no way he could have lived an improper life. The reader can see the fault in this logic, as they’re repeatedly reminded all he has achieved through his inauthentic propriety has been “pleasantness,” and not happiness. Ilych too is subconsciously aware of this, proven by the question as to how he ought to have lived’s recurrence. With his condition steadily worsening, Ilych revisits the question two weeks later, seeking to “‘understand what it is all for!’” (147). However, he …show more content…

Finally confronting the question gnawing at him, Ilych honestly asks if “[his] whole life has really been wrong,” concluding that “‘Yes, it was all not the right thing’” (148, 151). As he at last answers the question correctly, he recognizes how he should have lived, and “what had been oppressing him … was all dropping away at once from two sides, from ten sides, and from all sides.” (152). The description of walls dropping away from all sides around him to end his oppression draws to mind a cage or prison cell, indicating that Ilych, much like Neal, felt trapped by his constant facade. However, unlike Neal, he was able to release himself from confinement, providing a more hopeful example for those who relate. Unfortunately, it was too late for Ilych to recover by this point, but in his last moments he experienced a sort of spiritual rebirth. He speaks to his family with true compassion before they leave his presence. Now when he reflects internally, he is aware of the physical pain he’s in, but accepts it without searching for a greater cause. When he “sought his former… fear of death,” he “did not find it” (152). Ilych's revelation and subsequent liberation shows Tolstoy’s belief that even if one realizes the manner in which they lived was wrong long beyond the point of no return, they can face their death with

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