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Solzhenitsyn’s “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” Essay

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Three instances in Ivan’s “one day” that provide him sufficient satisfaction to sleep well at the end of the day

At the very beginning, Shukhov, who accidentally falls ill, is happy that his late wake up was not punished by the commander of the camp: “Shukov …always got up at once, for the next ninety minutes, until they assembled for work, belong to him, no to the authorities” (Solzhenitsyn 3).

Why Ivan Denisovich found each event satisfying

He is pleased with the fact that he has just to wash the floor, despite the humiliating remarks on the part of the GULAG’s guards. He also comforts himself with the fact that his punishment is not as severe as other prisoners might have in the camp: (Solzhenitsyn 3). Shukhov remains positive, he works harder, and tries to get up earlier; he never ignores the guard’s orders and tries to accomplish all the work in the camp. Probably, he believes that active participation will give him a chance for a better life.

How much satisfaction you would find in each event

People do not value those things because they enjoy those every day and take them for granted. However, deprived of such simple needs, I would start feeling extremely uncomfortable because of the constant thinking of sleeping a little more. Besides, I would also wish to get up a bit earlier than others to enjoy the silence and the minutes that belong to me only. This is the time when I could think of everything pleasant, or my own problems and thought that can go far beyond this camp. Finally, it would also give me an opportunity to think that there are still several minutes I can sleep and no one could make me wake up.

Three instances where he considers the feelings of the guards and why he feels “they don’t have it easy,” either

By filling his life with positive moments, the protagonist wants to remain his dignity and humanness. Though prisoners receive only 200 grams of bread per meal, the protagonist also strives to enjoy this meal and considered it a ritual: “…his clean-shaven head however cold it might be, he could never bring himself to eat with his hat on and stirred the cold stew” (Solzhenitsyn 14).

Why he does not consider the guards any safer from arbitrary punishment than the prisoners

He eats slowly to enjoy every second of consuming food, although it was incredibly poor. Getting pleasure from having a meal distracted the hero from the horrible reality of daily routine in the camp. Each day would have been unbearable if Shukhov had not made attempt to get benefit from each thing and event (Solzhenitsyn 14). In such a way, the protagonist managed to remain human and behave in a civilized way. It also helps him sustain his faith that survival in the camp is not in vain. So, everyday ordinariness seems to be less dim and severe as soon as you search for little good things in life.

Why he suggests that the most sadistic guards should be more circumspect in dealing with the prisoners? What might turn the tables on any of the guards at any moment?

If I were in place of Ivan Denisovich, I would have extreme difficulties in adjusting to these horrible conditions because food and other physical needs are not considered luxury under normal circumstances. No place is left for spiritual and moral fulfillment because I do not have extra time for myself. I have no other choice but to get pleasure from the simple things that we do not notice in normal life under normal conditions. Enjoying simple things is also a kind of method for survival in the camp.

Living in the GULAG as functioning on a “cigarette and salt pork economy”

The hero accepts the inevitability of his horrible existence, there is no other way, but to enjoy the little things that life presents. When Ivan Denisovich receives new boots, his happiness is beyond expectations: “Shukhov had received…a pair of ordinary, hard-wearing leather boots, big enough for a double thickness of rags inside” (Solzhenitsyn 11).

How Ivan Denisovich makes his way through this economy

The hero achieves goals at the material level and, therefore, it is possible to witness his extreme wisdom and experience. The author depicts Shukov as the one who embodies different life principles that are beyond evil and good. The protagonists, therefore, attain general ethical values. Thus, by finding the sense of life in clothes, food, and everyday needs, Shuckov discovers his own way of living. In such a way, the prisoner strives to fulfill his spirituality by means of material values, since there are no other values left within the boundaries of GULAG.

Considering the risks involved should things go wrong, do these acts seem to be worth it? Why? Why not?

Living in cruelty and with no hope of being liberated from the camp, I would be completely frustrated. However, I still need the slightest reasons to continue living. If I were lucky to relieve myself from extra punishment I would consider it as a sign that there are still kind people who can understand you. Receiving a new boot would also be another positive moment in my life. I would feel grateful to people because they would help to relieve my tortures during the cold winter.

Finally, to remain human, I would strive to remain my dignity and recall all social and moral values. All these material values will remind me of the world outside the camp. By observing all norms, it would provide me hope of liberation and freedom from repressions. More importantly, it would allow me to prove to myself that I am strong enough to remain human.

Works Cited

Solzhenitsyn, Alexander. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. US: Signet Classics, 1998. Print.

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IvyPanda. "Solzhenitsyn's "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich"." March 31, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/solzhenitsyns-one-day-in-the-life-of-ivan-denisovich/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Solzhenitsyn's "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich"." March 31, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/solzhenitsyns-one-day-in-the-life-of-ivan-denisovich/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Solzhenitsyn's "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich"'. 31 March.

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