Wednesday, January 22, 2020
Love and Death in Mitch Albom's Tuesdays with Morrie and Leo Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilych One story is distinctively American in its optimism and characteristic of the 1990's in its tone; the other shows the unmistakable disposition of nineteenth century Russia. The more recent book follows the actual life of a sociology professor at Brandeis University while the other explores a product of Leo Tolstoy's imagination. Tuesdays with Morrie and "The Death of Ivan Ilych" portray two characters who sit on opposite ends of the literary spectrum but who share the dark bond of terminal illness and advance knowledge of their deaths. One views the knowledge as a blessing and as an opportunity to make his final good-byes, the other writhes in pain and begs for an end to his vicious sentence of suffering. In the face of identical fates these two men show stark contrasts, all for the simple reason that only one of them found a way to love. Ã Ã Ã Though illness stripped both Morrie Schwartz and Ivan Ilych of their hope for survival, their dissimilar lifestyles led each to a much different end. Morrie found himself in an overflow of compassion while surrounded by family, friends and colleagues. Ivan, on the other hand, found only the obligatory company of his wife and the painful awareness that no one really cared. Both characters ended their lives the way they lived them, as Ivan acknowledges: "In them he saw himself" (Ivn, 149). While Morrie poured himself into every moment of life and every relationship he pursued, Ivan skirted the dangers of emotion to live "easily, pleasantly, and decorously" (Ivn, 115). In the spirit of such an opposition, the two stories become somewhat like responses to each other. Morrie Schwatrz, proclaimed... ... such books? Ã Ã Ã All things considered, the answer is a confident "Yes." No law of literary comparison mandates that the works in question hold the same level of scholarly repute. These two stories focus on death, the great equalizer, one of the most terrifying facts of human existence and one that we will all someday face. Though the paths vary, both characters meet the same epiphany in the end. Morrie savors most of his life with an understanding of "the secret" while Ivan receives it only hours before dying. What really matters, however, is that they both find it. Works Cited Albom, Mitch. Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and LifeÃ¢â¬â¢s Greatest Lesson. New York: Doubleday, 1997. Tolstoy, Leo. "The Death of Ivan Ilych" and Other Stories. Afterword by David Magarshack. Trans. J. D. Duff and Aylmer Maude. New York: NAL/Signet Classic, 1990.