Ivan Denisovich Essay

Ivan Denisovich Essay

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The crimes of Stalinism in Europe are endless. The experience of the people who lived under the Soviet regime after the end of World War II lived in a time of terror, hopelessness and misery. For Soviet citizens and the prisoners life was miserable. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, a short novel written by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, is a story about the one day in the life of a person caught between the chaos of the war and the faceless entity that controls their lives. The story takes place somewhere in Siberia in 1951 at a “special” (forced labor) camp. Ivan is sent here after escaping from the Germans that captured him and some other men on the northwest front. Due to the control and paranoia of Stalinism, instead of being welcomed as a hero, he is accused of being a spy for the Germans and is forced to “confess” or be killed (71). During this one day of Ivan’s life the iron clad control Stalin has is apparent in daily life and there are little touches of humanity, faith and hope that give him and the others on the 104th the strength to get through each day at the camp.
Ivan is representative of mainstream Soviet society; he is an uneducated, peasant Russian man. Ivan has an average name and does not aspire for much and his needs are fairly simple. The first suggestion of Ivan being uneducated is at the beginning of the story when Ivan goes to the dispensary in hopes of getting out of work for few days. From the masonry work that the squadron does during the day we know that Ivan is a skilled laborer. The other prisoners in his squadron long for freedom but Ivan views freedom as home. Ivan received a sentence of ten years but learns later that there is a chance that they could give him another term at the camp or he woul...


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...world and after the work day ends continues to work. This is only space that Ivan feels he can claims as his own. The prisoners quietly fight the system by holding onto anything that makes them feel they still have individuality and control.
Solzhenitsyn illustrates the life of an average Soviet citizen. Stalin controlled everything about a person’s private and public life. Individuality was taken away through various methods such as making giving numbers instead of names and taking away personal belongings. Families were torn apart by sending men away to camps and letters were censored. People were deprived of all things that made them feel human. The story emphasizes the importance of having faith to endure hard times and to keep the human spirit intact even in one of the most ominous regimes in history. Ivan concludes that it was “almost a happy day” (p 159).

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