Climbing up the ladder of social position has not led to joy, fulfillment, and a pleasant life, but to misery, emptiness, and death. Throughout Ivans life, he has isolated himself from genuine human relationships, whether by plunging himself into his work, playing a game of bridge, or finding other escapes from lifes unpleasantness. It occurred to him that his scarcely perceptible attempts to struggle against what was considered good by the most highly placed people, those scarcely noticeable impulses which he had immediately suppressed, might have been the real thing and all the rest false. And his professional duties and the whole arrangement of his life and of his family, and all his social and official interests might all have been false. He tried to defend all those things to himself¦ There was nothing to defend (Tolstoy 2473).
With this realization came a sensation of grinding and shooting pain and a feeling of suffocation (Tolstoy 2474), which is what precipitated Ivans three days of nonstop screaming. Once again, some force struck [Ivan] in the chest and side (Tolstoy 2475), and he struggles through a black sack and into a bright light. The moment Ivan falls through the black sack and into the bright light, the questions and doubts that have been haunting Ivan since the beginning of his illness becomes fully resolved. Ivan realizes that even though his life is not what he intended for it to be, it can still be corrected. Ivan asks himself, What is the right thing? He feels pity for his son and his wife. With this awakening and spiritual rebirth, Ivan is freed from death and excruciating spiritual suffering which led to his three days of screaming is over.