Chapter Two begins with an important claim: "Ivan Ilyich’s life had been most simple and commonplace-and most horrifying." Why might Tolstoy consider Ivan’s "simple and commonplace" life to be "horrifying"?
As Ivan rises in his career, he fails in his personal life. What might Tolstoy be suggesting here? Why does Ivan find so much pleasure in playing bridge?
Several times over the course of the novella, we find statements very much like this one: "So that on the whole Ivan Ilyich’s life proceeded as he felt it should-pleasantly and properly" (p. 52). One’s first, instinctive reaction to such comments might be, "Well, what’s wrong with that?" What, according to Tolstoy, is wrong with that?
What sort of person is Praskovya Fyodorovna? Why did Ivan Ilyich marry her? How would you characterize their relationship? Does his attitude toward her seem justified by her personality and behavior?
At the beginning of Chapter 3, we are told that 1880 was "the most difficult year in Ivan Ilyich’s life" (p. 53). What difficulties does he face, and what does he seek by way of a solution to them? How is the situation resolved, and what are his reactions to that resolution? What does this whole experience tell us about Ivan Ilyich’s character and his values?