Thanks for the post. I am always looking for primary accounts for my history classes. This one is right on time as we are starting on the Stalin & the USSR.
Review of “One Day in the Life…”
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, was a book that portrayed the daily life of a prisoner in the Soviet GULAG system. It explained in detail the harsh life of the camp; the difficult labor, the constant hunger felt by all prisoners, the hatred and abuse shown by the guards, and most notably, the bitter coldness of the Siberian Tundra. The author, Alexander Solzhenitsyn was essentially portrayed himself through the main character Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. Solzhenitsyn sought to explain his experience in the prison, through the pretense of a “made up” character. This book sheds light on a topic that is not often talked about within the realm of a classroom. One of the outlying themes of the novel, is the struggle for the prisoners to maintain their dignity. Loyalty is also an expressed quality through out the novel.
The GULAG system is the equivalent of hell on earth. Due to its location in the Siberian Tundra, temperatures at the camp were extremely cold. In addition, food was highly praised through out the camp, being that it was extremely limited to the prisoners. The main character, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov presents himself as an outstandingly resourceful person. For example: his use of bread crust to make sure he got every scrap of gruel out of his bowl. He is always on the lookout for making life in camp better for himself. Shukhov also represents all that is loyal. He displays loyalty to his squad mates, and most importantly, to his squad leader. He is willing to do anything for his squad leader, and shows the utmost respect for him.
One of the most important themes addressed in this novel, is the struggle for the prisoners to maintain their dignity. When one is thrown into a difficult situation, they will do almost if not everything to get out of it. The GULAG prison camps were some of the most fowl places on the planet. Men were starving to death, falling ill to various sicknesses, and were exhausted with the arduous hard labor. In the beginning of the book the character of Kuziomin (Shukhov’s first squad leader) stated, “Here, men, we live by the law of the taiga. But even here people manage to live. The one’s that don’t make it are those who lick other men’s leftovers, those who count on the doctors to pull them through, and those who squeal on their buddies”. The first part of the quote, “…those who lick other men’s leftovers…”, addresses the desperate want for food by the prisoners. In common society, people do not usually eat a random person’s leftover food. But in GULAG society, people are truly tested on their dignity. The want to satisfy hunger is so heavily present in the prisoners that most give in at the sight of leftovers. They are not able to maintain their dignity because the thought of survival and an extra meal overcomes them. Finally, the last part of the quote, “…those who squeal on their buddies”, addresses the fact that prisoners would report other prisoners infractions to the guards. The reported prisoners would often face harsh punishment as a result of this betrayal. The reporter most likely would expect better treatment or some form of reward from the guards. In this case, some prisoners were so desperate to survive, that they would turn on their friends for a chance at a slightly improved life.
Through out this novel, Solzhenitsyn displays his own account of the GULAG through the eyes of a separate character. Solzhenitsyn portrays his character as a highly resourceful inmate, with the creativity to survive in such a harsh environment, as well as loyal to the bone. In addition, he characterizes the struggle for human dignity that the prisoners faced within the camps. The constant hunger and hardships the prisoners faced were often too great to maintain such dignity.
Are teachers now using the B&N discussion boards as vehicles for their students to submit classwork? I'm having trouble understanding why you are posting a book report on One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich on a thread devoted to an entirely different book by an entirely different author - a thread, BTW, which has been dormant for a year and a half.