The Subject of Death by Tolstoy (Essay Sample)
The task was about exploring the subject of death in TOLSTOY'S "three deaths" and connecting it with his ARTISTIC and personal life.source..
The Subject of Death by Tolstoy
How Tolstoy explores the subject of death in “Three Deaths”
In this piece of work, Tolstoy narrates a story that explores three types of deaths in his four numbered sections. He tells a story of two people from different backgrounds. One person is from the lower class while the other one is from the upper class social status of the society. Marya Dmitriyevna is escaping the harsh Russian winter to the warm Italian climate, hopeful that she will find relief for her ailment. In the same vein, uncle Fyodor is lying critical in the final stages of his sickness. He is also travelling in the carriage, which stops at the post station with lower class employees. All passengers disembarked from the carriage to have a meal except for Marya. Later on, Edward and Vasily discussed about what they could do to salvage Marya’s situation since the doctor had told them that she would not live to see Italy. Serega, the young driver of Marya’s carriage had promised Uncle Theodore that upon his death, he would provide a headstone for his grave. According to Tolstoy, there are three types of deaths. The one that exists when the body stops to perform its normal activities, the one that occurs when people bury the body of the deceased individual in the graveyard and the one in which the deceased’s name is mentioned for the final time.
Tolstoy clarifies about the death that exists when the body stops to perform its normal activities. This is evident in the third section when he narrates about Marya’s worsening condition (Baillie, 200). She was bedridden at a Moscow house after her health deteriorated. Fortunately for her, her family together with a local priest were present upon her death. “That same evening the invalid was already a corpse”. A deacon read David’s psalms in a lonely vigil at her wake. “...when thou takest away their breath they die and return again to their dust...” In addition, Tolstoy talks of the physical death of Uncle Theodore which happened in his sleep. “By morning, he was quite still”. Nastasya had spent her better part of the day trying to make him feel comfortable but all her efforts were futile.
Tolstoy talks of the second death that occurs when people bury the body of the deceased. In section two, Uncle Theodore was buried in the new church yard behind the wood the next day after his death. On the other hand, when Marya died, her body was buried in a tomb (Hudspith, 1056).
Tolstoy narrates about the third death where the deceased’s name is mentioned for the final time. On the tomb where Marya was buried, her family members erected a marble monument easily as she was from the upper class group of the society. Here, her name was mentioned for the final time, in her final resting place. This was not the case for Uncle Theodore whose grave had no head stone. Apparently, green grass covered the grave that existed as evidence that a man once lived on earth (Love, 748). It was unfortunate that Serega had failed to fulfil his promise to the deceased that he would erect a tombstone on his grave upon his death. Nastasya constantly reminded Serega to fulfil his promise. One morning, he took an axe and went into the woods to look for a cross to put on Theodore’s grave.
How Tolstoy’s Exploration of Death is personally connected to him
The subject of death became interesting to Tolstoy especially in the 1870s. He experienced death firsthand, which he considered bizarre for a man of his time. While on duty as a soldier in the year 1854 to 1855, he witnessed the slaughter of the Crimean war. Apparently, innocent people lost their lives because of the tensions between the French Catholics and the Russian Orthodox. Both countries wanted to control the religious sites (Lovell, 300). In this case, France and Britain teamed up against the Russian navy, killing people. Similarly, in the year 1856, Dmitry, Tolstoy’s brother suffered from a tuberculosis attack and lost his life abruptly. His death was distressing to the author since he watched him suffer and was in no position to assist him. Shortly after Dmitry’s death, Tolstoy experienced another incidence of death.
In the year 1857, Tolstoy witnessed the execution of a man in Paris and this was the beginning of his opposition towards death penalty. Pachmuss (80) asserts that hardly had he recovered from this devastating event, than more than five of his children with Sonya died before reaching the age of ten. These reasons prompted Tolstoy to dwell deeper into the subject of death. Furthermore, he crafted questions for his readers to demystify the supernatural event. For instance, “what was the point of living when people would die eventually?” He further expressed his concerns about death in the novels The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Confession.
Leo Tolstoy’s death was itself a mystery. Apparently, he experienced a pneumonia attack while travelling in a train, only to die at the railway station of Astapovo in Russia. He died aged eighty two in November of 1910. His death was a mystery in such a way that he predicted it. The author wrote a letter to his wife Sonya explaining his reason for leaving home in the middle of the night. He stated that he was abandoning worldly life to spend his last days in isolation and calmness (Parthe, 302). True to his word, Tolstoy had not gone long enough when he met his death, which became an international event.
How Tolstoy’s Exploration of the subject of Death connects him artistically over the course of his life
The Death of Ivan Ilych
Tolstoy in his artistic piece, The Death of Ivan Ilyich narrates the story of the final days of one Russian judge. He portrays him as prosperous, reasonable and living an ordinary lifestyle that on the first glance, one could not tell that he was a judge (Rice, 94). Ivan moved into a new apartment. While he was hanging curtains from the chair he was standing on, he fell down and injured his side. This was the beginning of his distress. Physicians of all manners with different medicines and diagnoses attended to Ivan but to no response. His death was untimely. He died a lonely man and in agony. Not only did Ivan’s friends, colleagues and family think that his death was upsetting and troublesome, but they also thought deeply about their deaths. Shepherd (404) states that; Tolstoy highlights the concept of kindness and humility through Gerasim, a young servant. Apparently, he faithfully cared for his master at his point of death by wiping his excrement and changing him into comfortable sleeping positions, something his friends and family could not do (Rusell, 640).
Through his artistic work Confession, Tolstoy narrates of his firsthand experience watching the execution of a person in Paris. This situation led him to condemn death penalties as a form of punishment for people through his other artistic pieces (Tolstoy, 20). Through Confession, the author opened up to discussing his own predicaments of suicide. Furthermore, he expressed his quest for discovering the correlation between life and death. Out of this quest came the foundation of the novel The Death of Ivan Ilych. Tolstoy accounted about his spiritual journey right from rejecting religion at a young age, discovering the Orthodox Church in his youth and rejecting the myths of the established church at his old age (Steiner, 780). The author decided to abide by the moral teachings of Christ. He demonstrated this practically by embracing the lifestyle of the poor in society.
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