Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Political and Prison novel

The novel "one day in the life of ivan denisovich" is categorized as political novel and prison novel.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

literary devices and limitations to analysis.

Similar to the usage of diction, Solzhenitsyn keeps the utilization of linguistic features at a minimum, thus keeping the language of the book simple, and thus emulating the language the zeks use. The writing in casual and straightforward. The description is frank and to the point:"Shukhov was delighted. He thanked the Tartar for letting him go and said,"From now on i'll never get up late again"

A limitation to analyzing linguistic features is that the translation of the text could have lost some of the stylistic features such as alliteration. This includes russian based allusions or metaphors. The translator would have translated them out in familiar metaphors or allusion, while Solzhenitsyn would have used features native to Russia.


Solzhenitsyn uses colloquial language to effectively capture the philistic nature of the zeks.The reader assimilates himself in the prison society by getting acquainted to the word choice of Solzhenitsyn. The translator also plays a big role in the diction of the novel. The original was written in Russian and the translator, in this case, has chose to include some Russian and Ukrainian words in his translation, perhaps to increase the veritability of the interlingual rendition.

narrative voice.

The Narrative voice of Solzhenitsyn, in One day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is in third person. The narrator seems to be omniscient concerning Shukhov however in concern to the other zeks, he seems to have the same knowledge Shukhov has. This plays in increasing the ambiguity between Shukhov's own thoughts and the narration.At points in the novel, it seems that they are the same person. There seems to be no clear distinction between Shukhov and the narrator.

However the narrator has exhibited qualities that differ himself, or herself for that matter, with Shukhov. Even though Shukhov is 'intellectual' in comparison to the other zeks as shown in(quote), he still did not understand the concept of poetry.The narrator,however, does. This exhibits the difference between the narrator and Shukhov, however, especially in the latter stages of the book, there is certain equivocalness between Shukhov's and the narrator's voice.

The narrator seems in conversation with the reader as shown in the quote,"Ah,but who's warder today?" and he seems to be explaining the situation of the GULAG to the reader. It is as if the reader is a new inmate and the narrator a experienced zek as shown in "You could never do the deal empty handed, of course.Have to slip the senior work-assigner half a kilo of fatback. Maybe a kilo, even.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009




• He is 41 and has spent 8 years out of his 10 years sentence in a labour camp
• Accused of being a German spy, sent to arbitrary camp
• The earlier part of his sentence was spent in a camp called Ust-Izhma, where he met his foreman Tyurin.
• He is from a small town called Temgenova.
• Emotionless- he lacks any sense of nostalgia for his family
• Adaptable
• na├»ve
• Has self respect
• Takes pride in his work ( eg. Works in the brick wall, as if he owned it)
• Reflective
• Has the instinct of survival
• Smart-knows how to get by- eg. How to get book.
Role in The story:
• He makes the most out of the camp, he doesn’t give up , makes the best moment out of the worst.
• Shows effort and determination in his work, making him a good model for his inmates.
• He represents a peasant with dignity and individuality even in the face of abasement.
What does he symbolize?:
• He represents an ordinary Russian-“ Ivan” is a common Russian name.
• He can represent the uneducated peasant of the soviet society
• He is a classic victim of injustice- relates to Gulags being unjust due to the soviet regime.
• He is a metaphoric “hero”, he accepted the situation and just dealt with it.
Other Information:
• He is part of gang 104
• He is married and has 2 daughters
• He is illiterate
• He doesn’t expect nor hope for a better life.


• Son of a rich peasant a “ kulak” a class that Stalin vowed to eliminate.
• Tough and heroic, at the beginning he is distant and an authoritative figure
• Later on he transfors into a more sympathetic character when he tells his life story at the power station
• He is honest, straightforward and respected by his work group.
Role in story:
• Not part of a social group
• His experiences show that a life of a camp officer might be worse than a camp prisoner’s.
• He is treated as a representative of the soviet state even though he is still a zek.
• He is a fair person with good attitude
• Shows the level of respect for the foreman of the group

Relationship with Shukhov:

• Foreman of the labor camp
• Was with Shukhov in the previous camp

What the character symbolizes:

• Victim of injustice
• His character shows camps lack of justice, as he was thrown in there undeservedly
• His shift in character from an imposing authoritarian to an accessible COMRADE shows the humanity hidden deep within soviet law enforcers


• He is a babtist.
• He has a copy of the new testament in his notebook.
• Quite, timid almost
• Helpful but never rewarded.
• Generous and passionate about religion
• He is in jail and makes the best of it.
• Masochist?
• Very charitable also if he has nothing
• Role in story
• Proponent of faith
• And religion
• Even if gvt is against them

Relationship with Shukhov

• In the same gang (104)
• Talks to shukhov about religion.
• he is in same dorm room and bunk neighbor

What the character represents or symbolizes

• Christian faith in the ussr?
• Loyal…subdued maybe due to pacifist nature?

• Passion- for faith
• Blind faith? –according to shukhov

Other information

• Prison allows him to regain himself
• Spiritually-no temptation-he has a lot of time



• He learned Russian when he was a child, from russians living in the village near by.
• Ha has been in the camp for two years.

• He has a positive attitude.
• Cheerful, funny, humorous

Role in story

• One of foreign workers (Latvian)
• Humorous and respected.

Relationship with Shukhov:
• They are in the same gang
• They call each other Vanya
• Shukhov likes to work with Kildings
• Prisoner friend

What the character represents or symbolizes.

• Humanity of the prisoners
• Optimistic side of the prisoners but with resignation of getting out of the camp and dealing with the situation

Other info:
• Latvian
• He is fluent in Russian
• He doesn’t smoke


• Not completely but partly deaf
• He used to be a comic
• Even though he can’t hear, he tries his best to get the message.
• Shukhov and other inmates like him
• Hard worker
• Respectful
• “ A tough old devil he was”

Role in the story

• Another example in HQ and his life

Relationship with Shukhov
• Prisoner with shukhov, they work together in the power station
• Respectful: waits for shukhov for lunch, because they are in it “together”

What the character represents or symbolizes:
• Dignity
• Respect


• Western Ukranian
• Assistant gang boss
• Former forest sniper

• Speaks politely even in the camps
• He is strict but kind
• Has good leadership skills
• Responsible and is willing to work

Role in story
• His character shows how to survive in the camp, he gives the captain an extra bowl of kasha.
Relationship with Shukhov
• Deputy foreman of gang 104
• Shukhov admires him
• Important to shukhov more than the camp commandant

What the character represents or symbolizes

• Represents survival?
• Willing to work and finds a way to survive in the camp


• Ex-captain –second rank

• Not afraid to speak his mind
• At the beginning after being discovered to have had a waistcoat or cummerbund he says: “ you have no right to make people undress in the freezing cold! U don’t know article 9 of the criminal code!
• Strong, tough
• Has a somewhat bad reputation
• He is well educated
• Interested in Russian films
• Enjoys bringing back bad news.

Role in the story:
• He is just like any other prisoner
• Follows orders and tries to get through the day alive

Relationship with Shukhov
• A fellow prisoner friend
• In gang 104
• What the character symbolizes or represents
• Nothing majorly
• Just one of the educated prisoners fighting for survival which he might use his knowledge for
• Other information:
• He gets sentenced to 10 days in the guardhouse “hole”



- use to make films (put inside before finishing his first picture)
- had a heavy black walrus moustache
- rich
- mysterious connections
- from Moscow
- mixture of all nationalities
- young
- worldly
Role in story:
- receives regular food parcels
- others are envy of him
- gets special privileges inside the camp
Relationship with Shukhov:
- Shukhov respects him
- Shukhov gets extra food from him
What the character represents or symbolizes:
- connection to the outside world
- cultural achievements, abundance and privilege
- bribing/corruption
Other information:
- smokes a pipe


- desperate
- greedy
- dependant
- follower
Role in story:
- one of the lowliest members of the gang
- know as the “scavenger”
- earns extra food from the pity of others
- beggar
Relationship with Shukhov:
- first Shukhov looks down upon Fetyukov
- towards the end Shukhov pities him (because he gets beaten up)
- opposite of Shukhov
What the character represents or symbolizes:
- loss of dignity
- loss of self-respect
- degradation
- represents what the Gulag camp can make the prisoners succumb to
Other information:
- Fetyukov had 3 children
-Solzhenitsyn separates Feyukov from other characters as he lacks dignity


- provided milk to Ukrainian nationalist rebels hiding in the forest
- ‘As pink cheeked as a piglet” (pg 49)
- young and still healthy
- 16 years old
Role in story:
- he is 16 years old and represents innocence
- works with Shukhov and gets wire for the pipes
Relationship with Shukhov:
- Shukhov asked him to get wire for the pipes
- Once Gopchik has the wire, he and Shukhov hid it so they can make a spoon later
What the character represents or symbolizes:
- represents innocence
- the fact that the Soviet imprison such young people, shows the inhumanity of the situation

Monday, March 23, 2009

Themes, Motifs, and Symbols


• Since survival is one of the most important issues of camp life, food is very special throughout the story.
• They cherish every bit of bread and meat.
• The men in the prison camp would trade, steal, or even kill for food.
• Shukhov thinks of meal times as sacred moments.
• Throughout using his spoon, he takes control of the meal, making it some way his own.
• Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn says he agrees with the biblical quotation, “Men do not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” - men need bread to physically survive, but they also need a sustaining spiritual vision.

• The book depicts a life of beating, food deprivation, and harsh weathers.
• Volkovoi can make irrational demands (Eg. strip men in the freezing cold)
• No matter how horrible camp life is, their dignity has not been lost.
• Even though he starves, Shukhov still balks at eating fisheyes and men still clean the fish bones from their table as an act of politeness.
• Shukhov finds joy in a job well done.
• They share with those who have less.
• Alyoshka still prays.
• The living conditions are nearly intolerable: mattresses don’t have sheets, they only get 200g of bread per meal, guards force them to undress in the cold (-40°)
• Camp also degrades them spiritually by replacing their names with letters and numbers (Eg. Shukhov = Shcha-854)

• A zek’s main enemy is another zek.
• The author depicts the way in which competition and conflict between prisoners can worsen a prisoner's life.
• A hierarchy that exists between prisoners who work inside and those who work outside the camp prisoners with power (cook, building foreman) abuse that power by taking from and/or punishing other prisoners.
• Prisoners turn against each other to survive.

• Authorities control the prisoners’ entire day.
• They’re not given any choice in what work he does and isn’t paid (but Shukhov takes pride in his work).

• They get convicted of activities that don’t seem criminal to us (Gopchik took milk to freedom fighters hiding in the woods, Shukhov was captured by Germans and then was accused by the Russians of being a spy, and Tyurin was the son of a rich peasant father).
• Shukhov gets into trouble and is threatened with 3 days in the hole for being ill.
• Buynovsky receives 10 days in the hole for trying to bundle up against the cold with a flannel vest.
• The camp treats both as deep violations of the law, worthy of severe punishment.

• Alyoshka reveals that faith can be a means of survival in the camp.
• Shukhov’s interest in Alyoshka’s discussion of God, faith, and prayer marks Shukhov’s expansion beyond his usual thoughts of work, warmth, food, and sleep.
• Shukhov’s sense of inner peace in the last paragraph demonstrates that religious faith offers strength in the face of adversity.


• The Soviet regime makes private events open to public in order to show their power over the individuals. This makes the inmates of the prison camps have no space to call their own, and every move they make is monitored. It is quoted that even walking to the latrine has become a public event, and cannot be made alone. The fact that the prisoners’ names have been replaced by numbers and letters indicate that they are not an individual, but rather symbols in a public system. However, the elimination of privacy is not totally successful, as the prisoners still have possessions. Examples of this are Shukhov’s spoon, Tzar’s package and Alyoshka’s notebook. In an environment where the state is trying to dehumanize the prisoners, each individual try to preserve their humanity by keeping their own private world.

• In this novel, “cold” is represented in different ways, which the prisoners of the camp have to face with. One is the physical manifestation of the coldness with which the leaders of the labor camp treat the prisoners. The other type is the extreme climate in which the prisoners have to work in, and get their body checked. Shukhov have to concentrate on avoiding the punishment, but at the same time, protect himself from the cold.
• The author continuously emphasizes the significance of the extreme weather , which suggests that Shukhov is not only a political prisoner in the labor camp but also a prisoner of nature as well. The combination of the hard camp life and the forbidding weather creates the sense that the whole universe is against Shukhov and his inmates, and that their lives are hindered by both humans and nature. This sense of oppression highlights the suffering of the human conditions, and the fact that they can not escape from the extreme conditions.

• The labor camp is designed to discourage friendship and camaraderie, but many of the inmates form bonds which helps them survive through the difficulty. Even though the inmates come from different countries, social classes, educational backgrounds and are encouraged to spy on one another, they still create trust within each other.


• The spoon that Shukhov hides in his boot represents individuality. The spoon is not only useful, but it also makes him feel unique because it’s something the other prisoners don’t have.
• The spoon also represents the unjust system of the Gulags that stripped the prisoners of an identity and guiltlessly placed them into forced labor.
• A third representation the spoon makes is Shukhov’s way of surviving without the unrequited help of the guards.
• When Shukhov is cleaning the floor, the narrator makes a special note of the care he takes with his spoon as he removes his boots. “Though he’d made himself ready for the guardhouse in a hurry, he hadn’t forgotten his spoon”. He shows unification between him and the spoon, and protects his spoon just like he would himself because he feels it holds a part of him.

• Bread symbolizes physical and spiritual sustenance. Even though the physical sustenance that bread gives is more important to the prisoners, Alyoshka’s reference to ‘our daily bread’ in the Bible alludes to the spiritual food that bread offers.

• The satisfactory food inside Tsezar’s parcel symbolizes the worldly pleasures in life, because in the camp, hunger controls the prisoners, forcing them to scrounge and beg since those are the only alternatives to starvation.
• The mysterious parcel Tsezar receives from the outside world makes the rest of the camp envy him. Apart from that, Tsezar also gets special privileges from the guards and officers in exchange for a share of his food.
• The name Tsezar is a Russian version of the name Caesar. Alyoshka urges Shukhov to look beyond his life, which is symbolized by Tsezar’s parcel; this is an allusion to the New Testament, where Jesus urged his disciples to “render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s,” – pointing out the difference between worldly riches and spiritual well-being.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Historical Context

This is a short video of the life in the Gulag camps with real footage from the time.

Timeline of major events in Solzhenitsyn's life and Soviet Union
1918 – December 11, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
1919- Vladimir Lenin implemented the Gulag system
1922- Formation of Union of Soviet Socialists Republics (USSR)
1924- Lenin dies, Joseph Stalin comes into power 
1928- Stalin's introduced his first act "The Five Year Plan" (initiates enforced collectivization)
1928- Stalin started to expand the Soviet economy by issuing a series of industrialization tactics
1933- a breakout of widespread famine
1936- The start of Stalin's second act "the Great Purge"1938- The end of the Great Purge
1945- The end of Second World War in defeat of Germany
1945 – Solzhenitsyn was accused of anti soviet propaganda, and sent to 8 years to a special labor camp for political prisoners
1951- Cold war between USSR and USA intensified
1953 – Released from the camp, and sent to internal exile in Southern Kazakhstan (common for political prisoners)
1953- Stalin dies and Krushchev comes into power of the Soviet Union1956- Free from exile and exonerated. (Also discovered that his wife had remarried another man during his imprisonment)
1958- Kruschev becomes the prime minister in addition to Communist Party chief.
1962 – Publication of One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich
1970 – Won the Nobel prize of Literature (however did not receive it until 1974 when is was deported from Russia)
1971- Death of Krushchev
1974 – Deported from Russia, and stripped of Soviet citizenship
1985- Mikhail Gorbachev rises to power
1986- Gorbachev begins policies of Perestroika and Glasnost
1990 – Reinstated Solzhenitsyn's Soviet citizenship
1991 – Collapse of Soviet Union
1994 – Returned to Russia
2008 – August 3, Solzhenitsyn died
-In 1945 when Solzhenitsyn was writing a letter to a friend he made a joke about Stalin, for that reason he was sentenced to 8 year in a Gulag camp, his experience in the Gulag camp became his inspiration for One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich, his experiences are closely related to the protagonist of the novel
-In 1962 One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich sold out in one day when it was published by Novy Mir, because everyone was curious to know how life in the Gulag camps were; Nikita Krushchev used this as an advantage to de-Stalinize the society of the USSR.
-Solzhenitsyn was viewed as a threat to the Soviet government because of the works he wrote but he couldn't be imprisoned or sentenced to death because he won the nobel prize of literature and was an acclaimed writer so instead he was deported from Russia in 1974 and later lived in USA until his citizenship was reinstated in 1990

Stalin's Sovereignty

Joseph Stalin implemented the Gulag system in order to reduce any threat to the USSR at all costs. The first of his acts was the Five Year PLan where he forced the farmers to collectivize their lands as well as increasing the quota in which they had to return to the state.
 Subsequently, a great famine broke out which distraught the peasants, causing 14.5 million deaths.
The next act was the Great Purge. The early 1930s was a period of significant growth in the population of the prison camp. In the period of the Great Purge from 1937-38, at least 9.5 million individuals were arrested and sentenced to long imprisonment. During the act, he also eliminated all the communist part
y who brought him to power and eradicated military leadership.
Ever since the OGPU (the infamous secret service "Cheka") gained power in the 1930s, the growth of the camps corresponded with the Soviet industrialization campaign. When the camps transferred into economic labor camps, in order to fulfill the economic goals, the OG
PU was assigned a certain arrest quota to sustain the efficiency of labor. To surpass the quota, the secret police deteriorated some scenarios and detained innocent people. In fact, most of these arrests were held during the night.


Joseph Stalin was responsible for the deaths of almost 50 million people during the years of 1924-1953. The majority of deaths were caused by the harsh conditions and meager food rations in the Gulag camps. The Gulag was the government agency that controlled the punitive labor camps of the Soviet Union. They were established for two main reason: to create a sense of fear in the society in order to stabilize the nation, and to improve the economy. At first, the camps were designed as an ordinary penal camp however, after 1930 the camps were transformed into economic empires based on forced labor. The Gulag aided the economy as its labor was used for most of the countries lumbering, the exploitation of natural resources, colonization of remote areas and infrastructural constructions. It imprisoned millions of people varying from politicians, dissidents, former aristocrats, businessmen, large landowners, basically anyone who was regarded a threat to the government. The paranoia of the Soviet police caused them to suspect minor crimes and to even investigate unexcused absences to work. Nearly half of the prisoners were immediately sent to the camps without trial. Thus, the citizens lived in constant fear that they would be next to be sent to the Gulag camps. In fact nowadays, one in every four adult men in Russia was a former prisoner.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Social Context

Social Context-

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote “One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich” to portray the cruelty of the soviet regime, and the degradation of the Gulag camps. This is represented by the mass number of arrests that were made during Stalin’s era, and how easily someone could be sentenced to the Gulag camps. Also the Gulag camp that is clearly described in One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich show the cruelty of the Soviet regime as the labor was grueling and made harder by the extreme climates. The prisoners “zeks” succumbed to such degradation as they were limited to so much, food, clothes and freedom.
Solzhenitsyn demonstrates the corrupted state of the Soviet government at this time through describing one day in the Gulag camps. It was especially descriptive and personal as Solzhenitsyn served in a Gulag camp for 8 years for writing a joke about Joseph Stalin. He had to write the novel, One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich in secrecy as it was during the time of the cold war and when his novel was published the soviet rulers felt threatened, thus banned all works of Solzhenitsyn until the Gorbachev era.
The novel demonstrated the exposed truth of the Soviet regime. Solzhenitsyn wanted to demonstrate that the Soviet Regime was directly responsible for the Gulag camps. This is shown in the novel by the extreme conditions that the prisoners had to endure to carry out the labor that was assigned to them. Because the labor that the prisoners of the Gulag camps had to do, significantly aided the countries economy, as the Gulag labor was used for most of the countries lumbering and for the mining of coal, gold and copper. Stalin was dependant on the labor camps that’s why the influx of new prisoners was so high, as Stalin was continually increasing the number of projects for the camps.

The title: One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich
By using the name Ivan which is a very common name in Russia demonstrates how the typical person could be sentenced to the Gulag. Also by writing the novel on a single day helps to enhance the idea that time in the Gulag camp always felt so extended, especially when the prisoners in the camp never knew when they would actually be released. Also in the title the protagonist is referred as Ivan Denisovich, however throughout the novel, he is recognized as Shukhov. Solzhenitsyn most likely does this to show how once people were in the camps, they could become a different person. Their true identities were lost because the camp forced them to become a completely changed person to be able to survive in the Gulag. Also, it could be that the Soviets wanted to diminish each identity as a human but modify them as a pure laborer. This is evident through the names which the foremen calls the prisoners which are replaced with codes and numbers, for example Shcha-854 for Shukhov.

Solzhenitsyn writing this novel during the Stalin era is represented in “One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich” through Koyla writing poetry in the Gulag camp. Creative expression of thought was almost impossible in both the book and in Solzhenitsyn’s life. Any criticism or threat towards the Soviet regime would mean a sentence to a Gulag camp. Therefore, the representation of Kolya hints a subliminal message that secure censorship of writings and the restriction of the freedom of speech caused suffering and misery to many writers.

Solzhenitsyn illustrates many ways in which the prisoners of the camp maintain their sanity and also preserve their self-dignity. For example, many prisoners like Shukhov and Kuzyomin do not lick their bowls, as they do not want to succumb to the degradation that the Gulag camp compels them to. However, Solzhenitsyn symbolizes the loss of dignity through the character Fetyukov. He is seen as a low life, as his desperation leads him to beg for food and tobacco. Another important aspect that Solzhenitsyn tried to include in his book was never ending uncertainty of whether they would get enough food, whether they would be punished, whether they would be sent to the hole, whether a parcel would come for them and most of all when they would get out of the Gulag. Their food depended on if your group whole group met the quota, and punishment could be given from such acts as licking the bowl of soup, talking back to the guards or not lining up in the columns correctly. The worst punishment though was being sentenced to the hole. Solzhenitsyn describes how 10 days would mean tuberculosis and 15 days would mean death, with this vivid statement in the book readers can gain a sense of knowledge of the harsh conditions of the camp. Also the important message that Solzhenitsyn portrays in the end of the book is to show what a good day means to a prisoner in the Gulag camp. It was a good day to Solzhenitsyn because he got extra rations and he wasn't sent to the hole. And it demonstrates how different we would view a good day to how the prisoners would view it. This emphasizes the conditions that the prisoners lived, and the message that the author wanted to give: that you can make the best from what you have.

Who is Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn?

Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn was born in Kislovodsk, southern Russia on 11th December, 1918. His father studied philological subjects at Moscow University although he did not complete his studies since he enrolled as a volunteer during the war in 1914. He became an artillery officer on the German front, however he died in the summer of 1918, six months before Aleksandr was born. He was raised up by his mother, who worked as a shorthand-typist. He spent his entire childhood in the town of Rostov on the Don. His dream of becoming a writer started ever since he was a young child. In the 1930s, he attempted to publish his writings but none of the companies were willing to accept his manuscripts. He wanted to receive a literary education, however such an education was not offered in a minor town like Rostov. He could not move to Moscow either since his mother was alone and sick. Thus, leaving him with no other option, he began to study at the Department of Mathematics at Rostov University where he discovered his talent in this field. On one hand he found the subject easy, he did not want to devote his entire life on mathematics. However, it turns out that this area of study benefited him later on in his life.
After graduating from the department of Mathematics and Physics at Rostov University, he worked for various jobs that mainly involved the production of artilleries. In February 1945, he was arrested in East Prussia for writing disrespectful remarks on Stalin in a letter to a friend. Luckily, the reason was insufficiently inadequate to sentence death, therefore he was imposed an eight year sentence in one of the Gulag correction camps instead. This is where his exclusive knowledge in mathematics and physics became beneficial, as it eased his life in the camps. During his eight year of sentence, he was transferred to several specialized correctional work camps. In 1946, he served as a mathematician at a scientific research institute of the Ministry of State Security (MVD-MOB) in the so-called “Special Prisons” which only incarcerated political prisoners. In another camp located in the town of Ekibastuz in Kazakhstan (where ‘One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich’ was set) he served as a bricklayer, a miner and a foundry-man. Then in 1953 was sentenced to a life of exile because his writings deemed threatening to the government.
Although his health was never that good, it was getting worse as his cancer grew rapidly towards the end of 1953. He could not sleep or eat due to the unbearable pain. Luckily, he was able to visit a cancer clinic and was cured within a year. During all the years of exile, he taught mathematics and physics at a primary school to earn him some money. He also continued writing in secret to pursue his dream. Until 1961, he never showed his works even to his close relatives because he feared that the information would leak somehow.
At the age of 42, he finally became less wary of publicizing his works and decided to emerge to offer 'One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich'. On one hand he was afraid that the content might risk his entire manuscripts to be abolished, things turned out to be successful. After one year, A.T. Tvarvdovsky was able to print the novel.
Later in 1970, he won a Nobel prize of Literature and actually recieved it four years later when he was deported form the USSR. He was deported because his manuscript for the first part of 'The Gulag Archipelago' was found. Him and his family first moved to Germany, then Switzerland, then to the United States of America. The US offered him a different life style, which made Aleksandr feel very comfortable and secure. In total, he spend two decades in the United States.
In 1990, his Soviet citizenship was restored. Four years later, him and his wife moved back to Russia leaving their sons behind in the US for educational reasons. On August 3rd 2008, he died of heart failure at the age of 89.
(Picture below - Solzhenitsyn's funeral)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Significant Quotes

1.   “Outwardly the gang all looked the same, all wearing identical black jackets with identical number patches, but underneath there were big differences.” – Pg. 11


·      Explanation: The camp aims to make everyone the same (because of communism in Russia?), through the similarity of their appearances, and by naming them with numbers. Their bad treatment of the prisoners is shown by the fact that they are all given a number, which they use instead of their names. The fact that they are forced to look exactly the same and have their names replaced by numbers shows that they are losing their identities by being in the camp. Identity is one of the freedoms that people have, and as stated before it is one of the main ways to survival. Therefore when the camp tries to get rid of all of their identities, they’re again limiting their freedom.


2.   “The two Estonians sat like two brothers on a low concrete slab, sharing half a cigarette in a holder. They  were both tow-haired, both lanky, both skinny, they both had long noses and big eyes…On the march, on work   parade, are going to bed at night, they never stopped talking to each other, and their slow quite way. Yet they weren’t brothers at all – they met for the first time in gang 104” – Pg. 40


·      Explanation: This shows that there was separation between nationalities in the camp, the fact that they weren’t   brothers yet still looked very similar and were really close shows that they felt a connection because they were both   Estonian. Their close bond helps them keep their identity by always being with each other and never being alone.   This gives us a sense of their ambition to survive and keep their dignity, a common thought shared by the prisoners.   It is one of the other ways that keeps a prisoner stays alive. (Links with 'identity' section) 




1."Next, he removed his cap from his shaven head—however cold it was, he wouldn't let himself eat with his cap on—and stirred up his skilly, quickly checking what had found its way into his bowl."- Pg. 12 (Shukhov)


·      Explanation: The fact that  Shukhov takes off his cap before eating shows his ambition to stay civilized and keep his dignity. Also, when he stirs the soup it shows that he wants to keep some sort of control because the camp takes away so much of it. This is important in the novel, for it  shows how little freedom they have.  (can also link with 'freedom' section)


2."It’s the law of the taiga here lads. But a man can live here just like anywhere else. Know who pegs out first? The guy who licks out bowls, puts his faith in the sick bay, or squeals to godfather.” -Pg.2 (Kuzyomin, Shukhov's first camp's foreman)


·      Explanation: Prisoners know what they have to do in order to survive, and they have their own unspoken set of rules, which are different from the ones they have to obey in the camp. This shows that it is hard to survive unless the prisoners have the strength to keep their dignity; this is extremely hard when they are being put through such harsh situations.


3.“Quick, catch up with Senka. He’s only run a hundred yards. Wouldn’t go any farther without me. Never leave anybody in the lurch, Senka wouldn’t. If there’s going to be trouble, we’re in it together – that’s Senka.” – Pg.93 (Shukhov)


·      Explanation: Out of the characters we are introduced to in the novel, Senka is probably the most caring in the sense that he thinks of others and not only about himself. Senka is deaf, but still doesn’t allow people to take care of him and takes care of himself. Although deafness is a major difficulty, he still continues to survive and doesn’t let it get in his way, most likely because of his caring and tenacious personality. Overall this shows that personality plays a role in survival.




1.“The good thing about hard-labor camps is that you have all the freedom in the world to sound off. In Ust-Izhma you’d only have to whisper that people couldn’t buy matches outside and they’d clap another ten on you.” – pg. 131 (Shukhov)


·      Explanation: There is irony when Shukhov says that ‘freedom’ was being able to speak (‘sound off’) because that is normal our society. It shows that the old camp had less freedom than HQ. This also shows the instability/ corruptness of the Communist regime.

2. "A convict's thoughts are no freer than he is: they come back to the same place, worry over the same thing continuously. Will they poke around in my mattress and find my bread ration? Can I get off work if I report sick tonight? Will the captain be put in the hole or won't he? How did Tsezar get his hands on his warm vest? Must have greased somebody's palm in the storeroom, what else?


·      Explanation: The lack of freedom affects not only what the prisoners do, but gets into their minds and even limits their freedom of thinking. It demonstrates the severity of the control over the prisoners and of the gulags overall.




1.    “Shcha- eight hundred and fifty four,” the Tartar read out from the white patch on the back of the black jacket. “Three days in the hole, normal working hours” ’ – pg. 4


·      Explanation: Reveals the punishment the prisoners receive if they don’t follow rules. Usually the punishment is not appropriate and they don’t deserve it. Such as in this quote Shukhov is being punished for oversleeping. Similarly shown on pg. 27 when Buynovsky gets punished for having a waistcoat:


 ‘ “Ten days strict regime!” He shouted. “With effect from this evening.”’ (the Tartar)


·      This also shows the relationship between the prisoners and the guards. Which shows that most of the guards have no sympathy for them and treat them badly. This is also shown by the fact that they are all given a number, which they use instead of their names.


2.   " 'Come on men, let's get on with it!' Pavlo called to the bricklayers. It was a job to take pride in." - pg.53


·      Explanation: This proves that Shukhov and the other camp inmates were optimistic - they focused on the bright side of the camp work. Shukhov was a proud bricklayer - working harder than everyone else. This also links with the next quote:


  "But now Shukhov tackled the wall as if it was his own handiwork" (pg.92)


·      This quote is very important because it shows how they still take pride in their work since it’s one of the only things they have. It distracts them from the cold and they do it because they get rewarded (for example they receive extra food rations) if as a group they meet the quota.


3.   "In the camp things are arranged so that the zek is kept up to mark not by his bosses but by the others in the gang. Either everybody gets a bonus or else they all die together. Am I supposed to starve because a louse like you  won't work? Come on, you rotten bastard, put your back into it!" - pg. 49 (Shukhov)


·      Explanation: It shows the tactics that the camp used to get the workers to work. It kind of forces the prisoners to make relationships with each other. It stops any prisoners from not working, and gives them a reason for their hard work. 'why, you may wonder, will a zek put up with ten years of back-breaking work in a camp? Why not say no and dawdle through the day?' The answer is quote #4. The quote shows that the punishment is severe in the   camp, if anyone doesn't do their work. So they all motivate each other to work together and get the best out of their  horrible life at the camp.


4.   "Your foreman matters more than anything else in a prison camp: a good one gives you a new lease of life, a  bad one can land you in a wooden overcoat." - Pg. 36 (narrator/Shukhov)


·      Explanation: Shukhov is lucky to have a respectful foreman: Tyurin. He is a good one, who sticks up for the gang  and helps them to survive the camp. The quote explains itself. A situation at the camp can be different for different gangs, because the foreman can control the future of the prisoners. e.g. choosing food rations, clothes, jobs, etc.




1."Shukhov was so happy it hurt when he spotted what looked like Senka Klevshin's head right up by the porch." - pg.121


·      Explanation: Even in the tough situations of the camp, the prisoners still managed to make friends and have good  relationships with other prisoners. Shukhov's happiness is a good example of one of his friendships  with a fellow  prisoner and the effect it has on him - happiness. This helps him keep his humanity by  expressing emotions. The  relationships are another factor that encourages the prisoners to maintain their  dignity, identity, and continue to  survive. They consider fellow prisoners in gang 104 'friends' as shown on page 58, when Kildigs mentions them as    'friends'. But the friendships between most of the prisoners is different from the real friendship between Senka and  Shukhov.



2."Buynovsky kept looking sideways at him (Fetyukov), and suddenly barked: "Why do you pick up all that foul stuff? You'll get syphilis of the mouth before you know it! Chuck it away!" page 41


·      Explanation: This quote shows that the prisoners take care of each other, even through the hard times when taking care of themselves is more important. This signifies how people were not greedy or selfish, and looked after  one another. It also shows that they had good relationships with each other, but not only because of friendship, but  also to have as many men alive so that work conditions are easier for everyone. This friendship between prisoners  is based on the fact that they are all 'at odds with one another'.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

The first book we read for our world-lit essay was "A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. This novel about the life of the GULAG prisoners sparked controversy in 1960s Russia and today is one of the most celebrated novels concerning GULAG literature. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is an nobel prize winning russian author and has revolutionized Soviet-era literature.

The novel focuses around Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, an average zek living an average day. The novels gives an insight of the life in the GULAGs: A prison system that consumed 12,000,000 lives in its operation period.

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