In Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn describes in three volumes the Russian prison system known as the gulag. That work, like Kafka's The Trial, presents a culture and society where there is no justice - in or out of court. Instead, there is a nameless, faceless, mysterious bureaucracy that imposes its will upon the people, coercing them to submit to the will of the state or face prison or death. In One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich, we are presented with exactly what the titles tells us, one day in the life of Ivan Denisovich. However, Ivan Denisovich spends his days in the gulag in Siberia, freezing and starving with the other prisoners while he serves the remainder of a ten year sentence. Ivan is not a hero or extraordinary. Instead, he is an ordinary example of the type of individual who spent their days in the gulag. What emerges from these ordinary individuals is the strength and will to survive and at the end of the day, a day that millions of others spent just like Ivan, still find the courage to conclude "Almost a happy day" (Solzhenitsyn 159). This analysis will focus on the historical significance of the event covered in this work, i.e., the daily life of an ordinary prisoner in a Siberian work camp in communist Russia. A conclusion will discuss how a novel provides the reader with a different viewpoint of history than that provided by the pundit or historian.
There could be few books written on any level (historical, psychological, social, etc.) that reveal as much significance about the historical period when the Russian gulag was in operation under a communist regime than the fiction of Aleksandr Sol...
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...ng and surviving extraordinary conditions much like the victims convicted unfairly to prison work camps across communist Russia in the twentieth century. Thus, the title of Solzhenitsyn's novella is apropos to the historical event described because while we are only witness to Ivan's day and Ivan is an ordinary inhabitant of the gulag, millions of other human beings endured and survived similar days, day in and day out. Thus when Ivan concludes at the end of the novella "Almost a happy day", we see the considerable abilities and capacities of ordinary human beings to retain hope and survive against extraordinary circumstances (Solzhenitsyn 159).
Solzhenitsyn, A. One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich. (Only authorized edition). Introduction by Marvin L. Kalb. Foreward by Alexander Tvardovsky. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1963.
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