Realism in Europe followed the literary Romantic Movement. With science being the basis of new thought, imagination is thrown out the window and Realism is developed. It was an attempt to describe surroundings and behavior of mankind exactly as they appear. The author's way of telling realistic stories. In "The Death of Ivan Illyich" the Russian author Leo Tolstoy uses description, psychological and social realism and the power of the senses to convey a portrait of a dying man's life. .
In the first pages of the story, Peter, a friend of Ivan, attends the funeral. Tolstoy uses great descriptive power in illustrating Peter"s reaction to the dead man's expression in the casket. It lets the reader visualize what the character is thinking and the motivation of his reaction. Tolstoy subconsciously draws attention to the widow's persuasiveness in deterring Peter from a game of Bridge in order to try to increase her husbands pension. Remarks and gestures he includes in his description do this. .
The author also uses description to explain the idea of life. This is done however, through the power of the senses. Tolstoy uses senses to prove our life is a biological process but also having a purpose. When Ivan Illych is lying in the casket, the reader gets an impression of how Peter feels to see this dead man, how it smells, what expression he has. Evoking Peter's own thoughts of mortality. Tolstoy shows how one knows by our senses. How one grows and develops, hopefully to a better life.
However, in "The Death of Ivan Illych", Ivan looks back on his life and remembers what steps he took to better his life. He followed the social guidelines of the day. His life was ordinary and simple from middle class parents. So he attended the proper School of Law, marries a "thoroughly correct", pretty woman and strives for promotion and advancement in work. His social circle was complete. Everything was fine until his wife becomes pregnant.