Our popular culture still owes a lot to the Romantics. Since it was published inin Volume 12 of Tolstoy's collected works edited by his wife, Countess Sofia Tolstoyit's been hailed as a masterpiece by critics and readers.
Followers began showing up at his estate Yasnaya Polyana like pilgrims to hear his pronouncements on life and see his experiments in practicing his ideal with his peasants.
It's no surprise, then, that he also enjoyed the reputation of being one of the greatest writers in the world at the time. The light is comforting. It is one of the most lacerating works of literature ever written, a hard, pitiless stare into the abyss, not just of death, but of human nature.
Writing about death was nothing new, to be sure.
It is one of those works that's essential: not because reading it means you can tick off a cultural milestone much in the way that people imagine that one day, perhaps in retirement, they can tick off War and Peacebut because without it you're missing part of the picture of what it means to be human, and not just in late 19th-century St Petersburg, but now.
He is unquestioningly admiring of those in high station, and seeks to imitate them however he can.
His hatred for these people, especially his wife, increases as his death approaches. His hand falls onto his nearby son's head, and Ivan pities his son.