russia 2

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“One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” is a decorated evaluation of the life in a Stalinist labor camp during the 1950’s. The story, which is written by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, one of the most notable writers in Russian history, depicts one day of Ivan Denisovich’s three thousand six hundred and fifty-three day sentence in the Siberian labor camp. The story follows Ivan Denisovich from the moment he wakes up achy and feverish to the time he goes to sleep that night, thanking God for getting him through another torturous and brutal day. Alexander Solzhenitsyn literature mastery is demonstrated through the various themes and symbols that arise throughout the story, which include the outrage of unjust punishment, the importance of faith, the lack of privacy, the symbol of bread and the symbol of Shukhov’s spoon. One other theme that that has one of the most powerful impacts on the story and the reader in general is that of the struggle for human dignity. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich exemplifies the dehumanization impact that these Stalinist prison camps have on its prisoners; the following is an evaluation of this recurring theme that Alexander Solzhenitsyn enacts so powerfully.
The Stalinist labor camp seems to attack both the physical and spiritual dignity of its prisoners. Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s first attempt at illustrating the struggle for human dignity in the prison camps is expressed in his description of the living conditions of these prisoners. The prisoners are forced to sleep in a four-bunk setup where the mattresses are described “as hard as a board from long wear” (7). Solzhenitsyn describes how these mattresses give no comfort to the inmates of the prison and creates uncomfortable sleeping conditions. ...

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...ed his hat from his clean-shaven head—however cold it might be, he could never bring himself to eat with his hat on…”(16). Unlike Fetyukov, Shukhov never scrounges for food, which is another sign that Shukhov refuses to submit to the dehumanization process and is maintaining some of his human dignity. Solzhenitsyn uses the spoon as a symbol of Shukhov’s effort to preserve his humanity and maintain some privacy in the prison camp. The spoon that Shukhov uses during his meals is hidden in his boot and represents his effort to conceal what is left of his individuality. It is clear that Shukhov faces a challenge to fight against the struggle for human dignity, and this fight is only portrayed in one of the “three thousand six hundred and fifty-three days” (167) that he has left on his sentence; a very powerful illustration of life in the prison camps by Solzhenitsyn.
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