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One Day In The Life...

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In One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, many elements of the novel demonstrate disagreement with matters concerning the Soviet Union, especially the main character, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. Shukhov's survival is contingent upon his Russian roots in opposition to the principles of the U.S.S.R. His interactions with the concentration camp officials, focus on food, relationship with other comrades, and theological views all play a vital role in his hatefulness towards the U.S.S.R.

Shukhov's survival in the Soviet Union camp heavily depends on how well his relationships with the camp officials are. Upon entering the camp, Shukhov soon discovers that by getting on the good side of the leaders in the camp, especially certain officials, that camp life becomes quite a bit easier. Shukhov also realizes that certain leaders are much more difficult to warm up to than others, such as the Tartar. From the very beginning of the novel, the Tartar would find anyway he could to make life difficult for the prisoners. The way that the book portrays the Tartar makes him seem very harsh and seldom lets ordinary events or mishaps affect him. The story exemplifies these characteristics when the narrator describes how "the cold meant nothing to him". (Solzhenitsyn, 22) Lieutenant Volkovoy, another important camp leader, also finds ways to make life difficult for the prisoners. Throughout the story, Volkovoy faces all sorts of situations during camp making him eventually immune to everyday camp situations while also preparing him to confront even the toughest of individuals about matters. An occasion when this characteristic is clear in Volkovoy is when Buynovsky, the new captain, argues with Volkovoy about the laws protecting prisoners, and immediately gets punishment for his statement. Critic Andrej Kodjak, who wrote Alexander Solzhenitsyn, comments that all through the novel, there is really no point in bringing up anything that Volkovoy would not agree with because Volkovoy has seen just about every problem or complaint before.(Kodjak, 35) Outside of the concentration camp, a major political figure supporting the Soviet Union controls Russia: Joseph Stalin. Because Stalin is the dictator during this time, some would associate the Soviet Union's problems to Stalin, creating much dislike towards him. Critic Rosemary Neiswender who wrote the critical essay, "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich", originally published in the Library Journal, believes that the novel is not in fact anti-soviet, but is actually an anti-Stalinist book. (Neiswender, 261) This belief is common among many critics since opposition towards the Soviet Union can easily be transferred over to Stalin's errors during his reign.

Shukhov's attempt for survival often exemplifies the faults in the political system of the Soviet Union as well. Like most of the characters in the novel, Shukhov has been put in the prison camp even though he is innocent. The camp also sends people to different sections of the camp depending on what crime they were accused of. For example, the "prisoners who were in under article 58 were transferred from general camps to special ones."(Solzhenitsyn, 52) In the novel, the special camps usually mean camps that are more harsh than the normal ones, creating an unfair system which randomly selects each prisoner's placement. Helen Muchnic, who wrote Russian Writers Notes and Essays, comments that the Soviet Union not only charges Shukhov with high treason, but many of his comrades have similar convictions. The crimes that the U.S.S.R. charges towards each of the prisoners are also not proven true and the purpose of the novel containing so many unreasonable convictions is to show how unfair the Soviet government system is. (Muchnic, 407) The pointless tasks that the camp assigns to the prisoners are yet another example of how the Soviet Union has unjust concentration camps. Scrubbing floors and laying cement blocks are two examples of these tasks. Shukhov tolerates the work and sometimes even enjoys the work because he finds some hope in it. He finds work as a resemblance to his freedom from the camp because it is something that he will always do even once he is out of the concentration camp. (Muchnic, 402)This outlook on life helps him and his labor mates to stay focused on the job until it is done.

The quantity and quality of the food at the concentration camp greatly influences Shukhov's attempt for survival at the camp. When Shukhov sometimes compares the food rations he receives at the camp and the previous abundance of food at Shukhov's old village, this is yet another comparison the book makes between Soviet Russia and the past history of Russia. The meals at the camp mainly consist of very watery soup. Critic Edward Ericson comments in an excerpt from his book, Solzhenitsyn: The Moral Vision, found in Readings On One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, that the soup should be thought of as "pitifully inadequate gruel"(Ericson, 64). This statement depicts how every aspect of life in the U.S.S.R. is being reduced in quality and quantity. Soup is not the only thing that prisoners receive for meals; the camp also rations out bread. The bread is so meager in amount that when the camp takes part of it away because the work effort is not up to standards, prisoners find themselves starving if they do not use special methods to make their individual portion last as long as possible. In order to not starve to death, Shukhov develops a method of eating habits to savor his food. Critic Andrej Kodjak notes in an excerpt from his novel, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, found in Contemporary Literary Criticism volume eighteen, that by so much emphasis on Shukhov eating throughout the novel, it exemplifies one of the main three themes in the novel: starvation. (Kodjak, 496) By starvation being such a main part of the book, it directs a lot of criticism towards the improper amounts of food that the Soviet Union distributes all over Russia.

By comparing the amount of food that the prisoners receive in the Soviet Union camp to the amount of food in the rest of Russia, it is clear to see that the prisoners, such as Shukhov, are going through unnecessary starvation, making survival difficult. Several times during the novel, Shukhov has past memories of his village and their ways of doing things. During one of the memories Shukhov remembers how he and his fellow village people used to eat. Instead of savoring each tiny piece of bread or small bowl of gruel, the village ate "whole pots full of potatoes, pans of oatmeal...and chunks of meat" (Solzhenitsyn, 55) in excessive amounts. By remembering the way of life



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