One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s novella One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich describes the working and living conditions of a Russian labor camp by examining the lives of its prisoners.  All of these men ended up in the camp by being deemed enemies of the state, and the purpose of the camp is to reteach them how to be productive members of the Communist party.  However, some of the values that are prominent in the camp ironically go against those of Communism.  The prisoners are viewed as below so-called “comrades” in the outside world to the point that they are dehumanized.  There is also a distinct hierarchical structure within the camp, which is emphasized when Solzhenitsyn describes how Shukhov refuses to take certain jobs because “there were others lower than him” (15).  The niceties that are enjoyed by the prison staff come at the expense of the labor of the convicts, who are not allowed to use the facilities which they have built (38).   Bribery through gifts of extra rations is also a common method of getting out of having to undertaking work projects with poorer conditions.  Overall, the idea of all citizens being equal is not enforced within the camp, and the only value it shares with the idealistic view of Communism is the importance of hard work.  Does the hypocrisy of the camp accurately portray the hypocrisy of the Soviet government at the time in which the novella takes place?

One thought on “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

  1. Good ideas similar to the one of the previous posts. You make interesting assertions about being communist and being a Soviet is different. I like the evidence you are able to pull out of the book to back up these ideas. The accuracy of the hypocrisy within the Soviet system is a good question to ask. I think that being written from a first and account makes his argument a good but biased perspective. His work is fiction so he obviously takes liberal bounds with his work and personally was a very outspoken anti Soviet. I wonder if A Day in the Life of Solzhenitsyn as an autobiography would have been considered a better source and understood as more factual.

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