Alexander Solzhenitsyn's One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich

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Between 1923 and 1961, the Soviet Gulag system forced 18 million people into free-labor camps. These people were prisoners, some of them not even guilty of committing any crimes. They worked in unspeakable conditions, sometimes even to the death. One prisoner, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, was lucky enough to make it out of The Gulags alive. He has used his experiences in these camps to write memoirs and non-fictional novels. Alexander Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich uses symbolism to make a statement about the murderous injustices of Russian labor camps and about man’s inhumanity towards civilization in the twentieth century. In the prison camp, Ivan made himself a spoon from aluminum wire, this is symbolic of him resisting…show more content…
At the beginning of the novel, bread is simply a means of nourishment for Ivan, as it makes up a majority of the prisoners daily ration. Like many inmates, Ivan admits that he has never really thought much of his religion, “he tells the Baptist Aloysha, 'I don't believe in paradise or in hell ... ' [20] But, as he himself says, he is not 'against God' and he is ready to believe in Him” (Ollivier). Ivan’s bunkmate, Aloysha, teaches Ivan about the importance of religion. Ivan goes through a sort of spiritual transformation in the novel, “'First he only drank the liquid, drank and drank. As it went down, filling his whole body with warmth, all his guts began to flutter inside him at their meeting with that skilly.’ [24] He learns to love his neighbor: he gives Aloysha his slice of sausage. In the ordeal, in the experience of destitution, Ivan has shaped his character” (Ollivier). Ivan understands the prayer, 'Give us this day our daily bread', in his own way, “adapting it to his condition: 'Our ration, you mean?' [23]” (Rothberg). Towards the end of the novel, Ivan gives away one of his biscuits with no hope of receiving anything in return, this action was seemingly unthinkable at the start of the novel. As he reflects on this, he feels more than content. He understands that men…show more content…
Soviet officials oppress their people in a communist governing system, similarly, inside of the camp are guards who oppress those confined. The tension between the prisoners and the guards can be thought of as almost tangible, “the sadistic guards or warders swirl around him [Ivan] and the prisoners scramble to survive physically and psychologically” (Bolan). This leads back to the severity of oppression held over the prisoners. Law violators in the Soviet Union are subject to grossly harsh ramifications. Instances where prisoners break the strict rules of the Gulag System result in the same abhorrent. A situation mentioned in the book in which a prisoner is found with an illegal item (a jersey) results in ten days of solitary confinement. The cruelty of this is apparent in that “[prisoners are given] a hot meal only once every three days, [which] could easily mean death” (Napierkowski). The problem of racism is prevalent. Similar to the country, the camp is rich with diversity and includes a variety of different ethnic and national groups such as Estonians, Latvians, Ukrainians and more. “The racial tension is as clear in the camp as anywhere else outside of it” (Landrum). Certain races are favored more than others in the camp, this gives way to an unspoken pecking order consequenting which prisoners are given advantages such as more rations or getting their choice of work

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