In his acceptance speech for the 1949 Nobel Prize for Literature, the American laureate writer, William Faulkner provided insight to what he felt is the only important subject worth writing about; “the human heart in conflict with itself.” After reading the entire speech and putting that phrase in context, I believe he was referring to a shift authors were making at that time in writing about external forces, which are not universally relevant. William Faulkner believed it more important to write about the struggles each of us face with the human spirit and the lessons available through reflection. This struggle or conflict within us creates interest by providing an instrument in which the reader can relate to what the character is experiencing. I believe this is what draws the reader into the story and keeps their interest. To help examine this this probability, I have chosen two stories from this course’s reading requirements. The first story I have considered is by Leo Tolstoy titled “The Death of Ivan Ilych”.
Sixty-three years before Faulkner received his Nobel Prize, Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy wrote the novel titled the “Death of Ivan Ilych”. In this story, Tolstoy tells us of the life of the protagonist Ivan Ilych Golovin. An unremarkable man in most every way, Ivan is a judge, who values material possessions and social standing above all else. Ivan’s passion lies with his career and the material objects his salary provides. His family is nothing more than an amenity needed for achieving the positions he strives for.
In chapter one, Ivan Ilych has already died from an unsuspecting injury incurred while hanging drapery and his friends and family have gathered to pay their respects. Tolstoy cleverly lends this chapter to display the nature of the novel’s characters. Ivan’s business associates inconvenienced at having to pay their respects and use his funeral as an opportunity to signal to one another with a wink and a grin that their card game is still on. Ivan’s wife Praskovya is self-serving and questions Ivan’s close friend and fellow judge Peter Ivanovich concerning benefits available to her and her children. Ivan’s daughter Lisa, is a lot like her mother, self-centered and spoiled. Her father’s illness and eventual death is little more than an inconvenience for her. Ivan’s son Vladimir is portrayed as a quiet, compassionate boy, who truly loved and mourns the loss of his father.
After receiving a promotion, Ivan and his family move to a new town and while hanging drapery in his new residence, Ivan falls injuring his side. Ivan soon becomes ill and his condition worsens. Ivan begins to experience an unusual taste in his mouth and his doctors cannot agree on the cause of his illness. His mood begins to deteriorate and he becomes irritable and hateful. Ivan’s condition eventually worsens to the point where he must live in a separate room and a young boy named Gerasim becomes Ivan’s caretaker. As his condition worsens,...