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Ivan Denisovich Shukhov

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Ivan Denisovich Shukhov

The wind whistles by as he steps out on the snow. It crunches beneath his feet. He shudders. Its seventeen below outside and the sun isn't up yet. In the distance, men march and line up in fives. Guards circle the men as a beast circles its prey, with no forgiveness or mercy. He is in no mood to work, as his stomach still yurns for food and the thought that he still has to face a day's hardship filled with work, orders, and the harsh cold begins to set in his mind. Hope and any means of happiness are lost. He starts to walk out, trying to avoid any trouble, keeping his thoughts to himself; minding his own business. He reaches his place and stands appropriately in line, again, trying not to make any mistakes. He hears whispers and chatter all around. His eyes elevate from the ground searching the premises to see what's going on. The head guard ridiculously ordered the men to take off their jackets in the cold to be searched. With no say or power in this, the men accept their "orders" and reluctantly remove their warm outer covering; the only thing between them and the cold had to be removed. The day had just become even worse. Men like these were no ordinary men, but they were Zeks, prisoners of the gulag in Russia up in Siberia. A man, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, was capable of surviving this horror thanks to his civilized guidelines and his strenuous work habits; his ways earned him respect as an individual in a society full of other Zeks and as an individual who's part of a squad. His survival became inevitable.

To get placed in this gulag, for some, was like a death sentence, while for others it was like a challenge; a goal that was to be achieved; a summit to be conquered; an opponent to be defeated. Life is harsh and one can't do much about it and escape was far from question; that's where the defeaters and the defeated were separated. It was the people who always found use of everything that were going to survive. As for Shukhov his doorway to "freedom" lay in the strenuous path of work. "He worked with drive, but his thoughts were elsewhere." (76). Shukhov has work of his own, but that doesn't stop him from going over to help someone else as a means of making sure that everything will be perfect. "Listen, men, give your trowels to Gopchik. Mine's not on the list. So I won't have to hand it in. I'll keep going." (87). Despite this, the truth behind it is that Shukhov wanted to continue the work because he did not want to waste anything; he wanted everything to be perfect. Although, it is because of this that the men respect him and know he is a man of quality; the squad is an important aspect of survival and for Shukhov to have those kind of men on his side was another reason for the inevitability of his survival. Although, the relationship with his squad will always, more or less, be positive, unlike his relationship with other Zeks and men. When it comes down to survival one doesn't see past what benefits him, and in this case, his squad as well; squads and people fight and compete all the time, whether it be for tools or food, to ensure their own survival (people are not more important than one's self). Even though every squad is assigned to different areas, there still is always competition between Shukhov and others, even some who are in his squad. The reality of this is that not one person can really be trusted; men may look out for the good of the group, but that still doesn't mean that they don't want the good things or tools they can get their hands on. That's why no matter where Shukhov is, stealth and deviousness will always be his companions. "The first thing he did on reaching the power station was to take his trowel out of its hiding place and slip it under the length of rope he wore around his waist. Then he took off for the machine shop." (68). As obvious as it maybe, one has to come to realize that if it weren't for this 'competition' between the Zeks, survival could not be ensured; ones' level and ability at competing in this 'game' is what differentiates the strong from the weak; the survivors from the others.

After a day's work, one can only look forward to the hot, life-replenishing meals he gets three times a day. "That bowl of soup- it was dearer than freedom, dearer than life itself- past, present, and future." (105). Really, all one has to look forward to is those three meals; that's what keeps the Zeks going and that's why, for example, when people like Buinovsky who don't know how to survive out there are sent to the cells are given extra helpings; without this, it'd be starvation that would be inevitable (the squad again is involved here as they know it will be hard on Buinovsky and so they look out for him). And so food, another key aspect of survival, has to not only be consumed wisely, but deviously at the same time. Most men, as they are hungry all the time, would not care to save food and that's what separates them from Shukhov. He gets bread, eats half, and saves the other half for later. This is wise consuming; when the time comes when Shukhov really does need the extra energy, his extra savings will come in handy. Then, when it is said that food should be consumed deviously, its not meant to consume it while trying to avoid other's attention, but it means that one should be quick and know what's what and take the ration's with the bigger helping size. "Some of the bowls had been filled while the



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