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Comparison of “The Death of Ivan Ilych” and “Metamorphosis”

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Ivan Ilych’s death was like Gregor’s Metamorphosis; in that, they were both powerful introductions to the stories. In both stories the character’s Gregor and Ivan Ilych are introduced in a state in which it wouldn’t be possible to know their character. Therefore the novellas both look back to the past in order to show us who the main characters really are. “Praskovya Fedorovna Golovina, with profound sorrow, informs relatives and friends of the demise of her beloved husband Ivan Ilych Golovin…”(p.15) Even though these similarities exist I think Kafka and Tolstoy’s meanings and reasons for these two first scenarios were supposed to have different effects.

In the “Metamorphosis” the very fist sentence is Gregor waking up a dung beetle. This is an unbelievable sentence and premise, even for a fictional book. The effect is to make it hard for the reader to accept the plot at first. Yet as the story goes on and the emotional metamorphoses take place within Gregor and his family, the original metamorphosis is just accepted. Now it is the other Metamorphoses that are more unbelievable. How Gregor finally realizes what being human is, and yet he is a bug. Grete’s change from caring to irritable and ultimately destroying her brother emotionally.

Also the mother’s change from denial to acceptance and the father’s gradual change from being angry to violent hatred.

Now the mention of Ivan Ilych’s death in the beginning is meant more for you to feel sorry for him. Tolstoy wants the reader to feel what any person would feel after a loved one died and then show them the shocking reactions or Ivan’s loved ones. “Gentlemen,” he said, “Ivan Ilych has died” (p.15). Then the lack of care and respect for him from his family and friends after his death further emphasizes our pity for him. Peter Ivanovich best show’s this because of what he says and thinks about right after he hears of his best friend’s death. “‘Now I must apply for my brother-in-law’s transfer from Kaluga,’ thought Peter Ivanovich.”(p.15) Peter also was upset when he found out he would have to miss his bridge game to go to the funeral. Then when his wife who acts upset to talk to her husbands boss, not about the death of her husband, to talk about the money she was entitled to. Lastly, the way she got so serious after being told she would have to pay 200 rubles
for Ivan’s cemetery plot.

This is in no way a metamorphosis or even an unbelievable event. But it is used to be shocking and to make the reader suddenly fee a certain way. In Ivan Ilych’s case it would be sadness and pity for him.

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