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'.


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