The novel, Death Be Not Proud, by John Gunther, is the story of the struggle of a child to stay alive. Johnny Gunther Jr.’s constant hope got him out of bed every morning with a positive attitude. His outright opposition to the fact that he was going to die and his determination not to, kept a fiery spirit in him so that he didn’t give up. Johnny’s stubborn determination to not accept defeat at so early an age, along with the tremendous courage he showed when realizing that he must accept his defeat, is a strong point portrayed in this novel. Johnny’s hope, determination, and courage kept his death at bay. One of the main reasons that Johnny remained alive for so much longer than he should have lived, was the hope that he possessed. He hoped every day of his illness that he would get better, that his parents would be spared their grief, or that some doctor would come up with a revolutionary idea that would heal him. Because of his hope, Johnny never complained or protested during the entire course of his illness. He always obeyed the doctors’ wishes and followed their instructions to a “T” because he wanted so desparatly to get well. Although he realized that eventually his life would end, he still never gave up the hope that perhaps he could outsmart his fate to die, if just to steal a few extra hours. Each day, until his last, the determination Johnny had to get well, live a normal life, and even maintain his schoolwork was phenominal. After being away from school for sixteen months, being tested constantly by doctors, and having a rapidly deteriorationg brain, Johnny still managed to graduate with his class and be accepted into Harvard. Throughout his illness, Johnny always had an unwavering will to survive, to awake the next morning and find that he was well, that he had only been dreaming the nightmare of his illness. When Johnny awoke each morning however, he felt the bandage on his head and realized that he was living this horrific nightmare. But even through this tremendous disappointment, Johnny kept fighting, determined to recuperate. Johnny should be admired for not giving up under the intense emotional burden of knowing that each breath may be his last. Johnny’s story is one that will be remembered because of the courage he had.
The Death of Ivan Ilyich: Spiritual Awakening
The Death of Ivan Ilyich: Spiritual Awakening
He went to his study, lay down, and once again was left alone with it. Face to face with It,
unable to do anything with It. Simply look at It and grow numb with horror” (Tolstoy, 97).
Death takes on an insidious persona as it eats away at Ivan Ilyich, a man horrified at the prospect of losing his life. Even more horrifying is the realization that despite his prominence and prosperity as a Russian high court judge, Ilyich has done nothing to make his life worth saving.
The Death of Ivan Ilyich begins at the end, with his associates receiving the news of his passing. Here, Tolstoy emphasizes the diffident attitude the living often have toward the dead and their unintended insensitivity to what they can’t comprehend. His colleagues are more preoccupied with what kind of personnel changes his death causes and getting in a game of whist than the loss of this individual. Even his wife, while playing up her bereaved widow status, considers how she can profit from his passing. Aside from the realistic portrayal of his truly devastated son, those who survive the dead man seem to consider him an inconvenient corpse.
The story then flashes back to develop Ivan Ilyich as a living man. At first, the indifferent attitude of his loved ones seemed justified, since he leads a rather empty, superficial life common to the late 1800’s. It appears that if someone else died, his first thoughts would turn to whist as well. Propriety, not morality, dictates his actions and he relishes power and glory. He is a consummately impervious individual, impervious to conscience, empathy, and understanding. This does not make him an evil man. More i…
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…back the family has. Both of them suffer from false expectation brought on by their commitment to propriety over conscience or morality.
As Ilyich’s condition worsens, he begins to notice the hypocrisy upon which he has based his life. At first, he sees those around him as perpetrators of a “great lie,” insisting that he will get better and making light of his condition. Later, he comes to accept that in the past he has lied to himself, and forgives his family of all his petty grudges.
His realization and spiritual awakening in the moments before his death ultimately draw the greatest audience sympathy. We feel his denial and fear, his unending physical pains and emotional misery, and are able to accept, as Ilyich does, the unalterable course of our lives.
Tolstoy, Leo. The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Translated by Lynn Solotaroff. Bantam Books:New York, 1981.