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The 20th century inappropriately called the Modern Age in my opinion, brought feelings of alienation and despair out in authors. They infused a sense of helplessness and despondency into their works and their depictions of humanity leave little hope for the future. Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) was one of the greatest novelists of his age. Though he lived most of his life in the 19th century, his writing often reflects more closely the Modern Age. We certainly see self-centered people who care for no one but themselves. We see a fictional world where life and death have no real significance. Interestingly enough, Tolstoy himself was a Russian Count who gave up his material possessions to live the life of a Russian peasant. Both he and Dostoevsky became staunch Christians and incorporated Christianity into their works. The hope of faith does not fit into the wasteland of modernity, but the isolation and despair of the novel we read does. The Death of Ivan Ilyich begins with the news of Ivan’s death and the reactions of his “friends” and acquaintances. They are only concerned with how the death affects them. One of them goes to see the “grieving” widow who has to share how much she suffered. In Chapter II we find out about Ivan. His “life had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible.” Why? Do you understand this insight from our narrator? Ivan has lived a proper life, always doing what he is expected of him. Marriage is agreeable until his wife becomes demanding, and Ivan distances himself from her and family life. Devoting himself to his work, he is moderately successful. What causes his death? It is an accident so trivial that it could not and should not be fatal, but it is. T.S. Eliot is the most important voice of modernity. His poem “The Wasteland” introduces the main images and symbols and themes of the age. Not only does it paint the twentieth century as a complete wasteland because of the apathy of humanity, but he also clearly shows his opinion of his modern reader by writing footnotes every bit as long as the text. He clearly thinks that his reader is not knowledgeable enough to understand his references. We did not read “The Wasteland”, but the two poems of Eliot that we did read introduce us to the main ideas. Interestingly enough, Eliot became a Christian and his works completely changed in tone, but those works are not nearly as well known. “The Hollow Men” and “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” are alike in many ways. You probably noticed that the picture of modern man is similar in both. He is impotent, unable to act, hollow, empty, whose voices even when put together is “quiet and meaningless.” Prufrock is not someone who can ever really hope to “disturb the universe.” He cannot even decide whether to “eat a peach.” Do not dwell on these poems, but read them through for their images and ideas. We will discuss further in team forums. Leo Tolstoy The Death of Ivan Ilyich http://www.tc.umn.edu/~awalzer/3302/readings/tolstoy_death.pdf T.S. Eliot The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock The Hollow Men QUESTIONS: 1.How would you characterize J. Alfred Prufrock? Use specific quotes from the poem to show how you came to your conclusion. 2.Ivan is brought to an awareness of IT. What is IT? How is IT significant to Ivan but not to anyone else? Can you feel the suffering and isolation of the dying Ivan?