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One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich - Analytical Essay

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Russia, has a lowest ever temperature of –44ºC, and an average of 104 days a year above 0ºC and a yearly average of 261 days below 0 ºC. It is the second coldest continent in the world only behind Antarctica, it snows on average 111 days of the year. It is dark, gloomy, freezing and miserable in the winter, and in the summer, cold, dark, and gloomy. Camps for political prisoners seemed even colder, especially with no real heating and limited clothes to wear on these wintriness days.

The camp which was the bases of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s novel A Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich was initiated by Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union from 1953 until 1956. Stalin, which means “man of steel”, constructed one of the tightest and toughest communisms in history. He is such a dominant figure in Russian history, even though he will always be remembered to heavily contributing to bringing Russia down.

This was no general camp, but a so called “special” camp for long term prisoners. Shukhov was a political prisoner, in fact not one of these prisoners were common criminals. Stalin had established many camps like this, full of spies, prisoners of war, and those who rebelled against his system of government. The camps were in poor condition, the government spent as little on them as possible, all the repairs and erections of new buildings was all done by it’s inhabitants.

The primary theme in this nobel prize winning novel is the endurance of humanity and fight for survival. Survival is a fight every human must take part in, although ones fight is much easier than anothers. The fight for survival is tough in the camp especially under the severe conditions, the cold and the brutality of the guards and camp life. The author has paid special and close attention to the weather, the bitter cold, it is not made an extremity, but the facts. A prisoner had 1 grubby blanket, covering his mattress, which incidentally was made of sawdust, this blanket was supposed to help them keep warm through those winter nights. “No one ever took his wadded trousers off at night- you’d grow numb with cold unless you wore them under your blanket.”

The amount of work the prisoners were required to do was enough to keep them going, but then to have to worry about the cold, and completing the task to the captains expectations, man life for prisoners was tough. Although prisoners maintain the...


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...as all over other parts of the camp.

The camp has no real source of heating, and if you are lucky a bit of heat may be thrown your way. The work was labor intensive, with all of it one by hand. The days where a lot of work was done, when it was warm, when the team worked together were the good days, they were the easy days where the stolen time didn’t seem so bad. However the days when it was miserable cold and the jobs weren’t completed to satisfaction were the long days, the hard days to survive.

Although at the end of each day, there was dinner, a time where each prison had a few scared minutes to himself, and was only concerned for himself. The significance of a piece of bread and a bit of kasha was extraordinary. This novel is living proof of the struggle of survival for prisoners in communist countries. It illustrates problems we all face in our everyday lives, especially cultural and religious conflict. It was published to awaken the world to the horrendous conditions Stalin put these prisoners in, and shows what kind of man he really was. The novel consists of cold hard facts about Stalin’s prisoner camps, and a story of courage and hope despite the conditions and odds.


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