The Death of Ivan Ilyich

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Curriculet Details
15 Questions
22 Annotations
3 Quizzes

This free digital curriculum for 11th grade students contains interactive videos exploring how themes emerge, how characters develop, and how authors use motifs throughout a story, as well as annotations describing 19th century Russian life, Tolstoy's structural techniques, and questions to help you reflect more deeply with the text. Students will explore the themes of the inevitability of death, the artificial versus the authentic life, and the importance of spirituality. The Common Core aligned questions, answers and quizzes in this free online unit will increase student engagement in the book while supporting reading comprehension.

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Chapter 1

Did you know that this curriculet has a "Define" tool that will give you definitions for most words? Click on any word, and select the "Define" option to bring up a list of definitions. Practice with this word, "vehemently."  
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What can be inferred about Ivan's colleagues based on their response to his death? 
This scene in which Pyotr senses a "reproach or a reminder to the living," and hurriedly leaves the room, has some kind of moral impact on Pyotr. When characters encounter a moral lesson, the author is most likely trying to communicate a theme. Watch the following video on themes, and answer the questions in the video to yourself by keeping this scene in mind.  (This annotation contains a video)
This conversation between Pyotr and Praskovya is ironic. As readers, we know Pyotr is NOT Ivan's "true friend", but Ivan's wife does not know this. Why do you think Pyotr feels the need to lie? Is this a statement about Pyotr's culture or human nature?  
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Which of the following themes does the author, Tolstoy, MOST convey through Pyotr's response to Ivan's death? 
Pyotr's inner conflict--to acknowledge death or minimize its inevitability--represents the emergence of a theme that we will explore in this story. How does he cope with the overwhelming fear of death at the end of this chapter? What does this tell you about him as a person? 

Chapter 2

This French term means that Ivan's family believes he is the family member who is most likely to succeed. It also has a figurative meaning, and relates to the concept of the phoenix, a mythical creature who dies and is resurrected from the ashes after a fiery death. Think about how structurally Tolstoy has done this with Ivan--he was dead in the last chapter, and now we resurrect him and begin to look at his life from the beginning. An image of a phoenix is shown below.  (This annotation contains an image)
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Based on his actions among his professional peers, the young Ivan is MOST concerned with  
In order to break up the medieval feudal system of Russia, Czar Alexander II (shown below) initiated the Code of 1864 to create a unified justice system that dealt with all four social classes in Russia. Our character is alive in a time period in which there a definite social hierarchy, and he happens to be near the very top. How do you think that instituting this new code for all four social classes makes Ivan feel about himself and his work?  (This annotation contains an image)
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Why does Ivan gain such a strong interest in work?  
Ivan's life is speeding before us. Tolstoy focuses in on how Ivan is changing to do everything "pleasantly and properly." This is called character development, and it will help us gain a better understanding of those themes we talked about finding and exploring in the annotation in Chapter 1. Watch the video below on character development to learn how it works and its impact on the rest of the story.  (This annotation contains a video)

Chapter 3

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What theme does Tolstoy convey through Ivan's obsession with a "five thousand rubles" job?  
Pay attention in these upcoming chapters to how the setting mirrors the inner conflict Ivan faces. The more he gets, the less he really has. How is this evident in the passage you just read? 
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Why does Tolstoy repeat the phrases that everything is "just fine" and "pleasant and proper"?  

Chapter 4

Everyone in this story is so concerned with keeping up appearances. Ivan wants to appear "proper." Praskovya wants to demonstrate "self-restraint." What is it about human nature that makes a person so concerned about appearing to have it all together?  
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Ivan's obsession with his physical health, is MOST likely meant to convey 
This French expression means, "correct in behavior or etiquette." It is repeated throughout this story. Why does Tolstoy use this expression so frequently? What does it imply about Ivan? 
Part I Quiz 

Chapter 5

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What does this moment MOST importantly represent in Ivan's development? 
The caecum is part of the digestive system (shown below). It is the beginning of the large intestine. Its Latin meaning is "blind." Think for a moment about whether or not this word has a connotative meaning in this story. Could the doctors all be blind to what is really going on with Ivan? Is Ivan blind to his own real problems? (This annotation contains an image)
One of the major themes in this novel is the artificial life versus the real life. How does this highlighted passage reveal the poignant way that Tolstoy conveys the pervasiveness of artificiality in Ivan's relationship with his wife?  

Chapter 6

Take a moment and think about American literature you have read that deals with the theme of the inevitability of death. Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls, is a story about Robert Jordan, a young American, who is sent on a doomed mission and lives out the last three days of his life uncannily aware of his imminent death. Another novel that deals with this theme is Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle, which structurally begins in a very similar way to this story--the tragic ending first and then an explanation of how they got there. Both protagonists have a heightened sense of death's inevitability, much like Ivan does.  
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Which meaning of "screens" is Tolstoy MOST likely conveying in the context of this highlighted passage? 
Tolstoy's use of repetition in this chapter emphasizes how affected Ivan is by his thoughts of death. What tone does the repeated use of "It" (and its capitalization, too) create?  

Chapter 7

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How does Tolstoy use Gerasim to MOST affect Ivan's character development? 
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Ivan's "falseness in himself and in those around him," relates to his growing sense of  

Chapter 8

The structure of this novel plays an important role in the development of Ivan's character and the emergence of themes. Watch the following video on structure and answer the question that follows about structure.  (This annotation contains a video)
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Which structural element MOST contributes to the overall feeling that death is around the corner for Ivan? 
Take a moment and think about why Ivan resents his wife so much. She appears to be concerned and compassionate towards him. What is she doing, or not doing, that infuriates him so much? What larger theme does this tie into? 
Part II Quiz 

Chapter 9

As Ivan moves from a materialistic view of the world to a more spiritual one, this inner monologue creates a tone of despair and highlights his progress towards spiritual rebirth. Interestingly, Ivan is experiencing many of the stages of grief that one goes through when a loved one dies. Based on what you've read, can you pinpoint these stages?  
Motifs play an important role in developing themes and characters. The motif that we see here is about reversal. Watch the following video, and then think about Tolstoy's use of reversal in this story.  (This annotation contains a video)
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Which of the following is NOT an example of the reversal motif that Tolstoy uses in this story? 

Chapter 10

Here is another example of how Tolstoy is shrinking the spatial dimensions in which Ivan exists. He has gone from his own house, to a family member's house, to an apartment, to a room, and now to the couch. Why is his relationship to the material world shrinking so quickly? 
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The following quote is from Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls. It is a dialogue between Robert Jordan, Hemingway's code hero protagonist, who lives his life, too, by trying to follow an ethical code, and Pilar, his motherly mentor. "And you have no fear?""Not to die," he said truly."But other fears?""Only of not doing my duty as I should." (Chapter 9, For Whom the Bell Tolls)How is Tolstoy's treatment of impending death different than Hemingway's?  
In this highlighted passage, Ivan wonders why he must die. Notice what he says about living the right life. Why must a good man, in his opinion, die? Answer the question that follows, and use this passage to help you make a decision. 

Chapter 11

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How does Tolstoy BEST create tension in the character development and plot line of this story in Chapter 11? 

Chapter 12

Notice, again, how Tolstoy calls our attention to the dimension of time. His references to time continue to shrink. Years turn into months, which turn into weeks, which turn into days. The pace of the plot is gaining momentum. What affect does this have on the tone and your understanding of Ivan? 
Tolstoy resurrects Ivan by starting the story out when he's dead, and resurrecting him, so to speak, in Chapter 2. Tolstoy gives Ivan a chance, then, to have his rebirth. Do you think Ivan has done this? 
Part III Quiz