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One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Essay by   •  December 13, 2016  •  Book/Movie Report  •  1,065 Words (5 Pages)  •  1,558 Views

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In the book, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, it is clear that the main character Shukhov’s personal pride and dignity are essential to his survival in the Gulag system. Although he is in prison, he still holds true to his morals throughout the entire novel. From start to finish, Shukhov is prideful, hardworking and has plenty of dignity. His dignity and work ethic earns him respect and it's allows him to be given extra food from his fellow inmates.

Even after many years of living the harsh conditions of the Soviet Gulag, Shukhov still holds on to his personal pride. For example, Shukhov retains the respect he has for himself by being civilized and holding himself to a high standard. This is demonstrated during breakfast when he takes off his hat before eating. The text states, “however cold it might be, he could never bring himself to eat with a hat on” (16). Even in an environment like a prison, Shukhov has proper etiquette. His personal pride allows him to retain this level of etiquette because he is too proud to act uncivilized. In contrast, many prisoners in the camp end up letting go of their personal pride and start to act almost barbaric.

One such prisoner who had let go of their personal pride and dignity is Fetiukov. Throughout the story, Fetiukov has not shown much self-respect and dignity. In the story, Fetiukov begs Tsezar for his cigarette and Shukhov resists looking greedily at it, “‘Tsezar Markovich,’” slobbered Fetiukov,...’Give us a puff’... Tsezar turned to Shukhov and said: “Take it Ivan Denisovich’” (29-30). Shukhov had enough dignity to not beg or stare right at Tsezar’s cigarette. Fetiukov on the other hand was very open about his desire for the cigarette. Tsezar did not give the cigarette to Fetiukov because he looks down him. Instead he gives it to Shukhov, a man he respects. As you can see, Fetiukov is disliked in the camps because he acts like a beggar.

Many prisoners feel a lot of contempt for Fetiukov because of his shameful and undignified behavior. In the camps, people like Fetiukov are treated with little to no respect. For example, Fetiukov gets beaten for licking bowls in the mess hall. The text states, “Fetiukov walked through the barracks. He was sobbing… his mouth was smeared with blood. So he’d been beaten again -over the bowls’’ (150). In the camp, licking the bowls is looked down on and prisoners such as Shukhov despise it. So when Fetiukov was caught, he was immediately beaten. Fetiukov has almost no dignity or self respect, in contrast to Shukhov who acts in a civilized manner. All in all, Shukhov’s pride allows him to escape the same fate as Fetiukov therefore it increases the survival in the camps.

Shukhov’s personal pride and dignity are also reflected through his work ethic. Just like Shukhov’s manners, his work ethic is also respected in the camp. Shukhov has always been a man with a good work ethic. Shukhov describes the work he wants as a job that makes him feel productive. Shukhov provides examples of such jobs when he states, “he'd find work as a plumber, a carpenter, or a repairman” (42). In other words, Shukhov’s personal pride is to high for him to have a job that will not let him be productive. This level of good work ethic is demonstrated at the camp when he is working with his squad. The narrator provides an example of Shukhov’s work ethic with, “Shukhov broke into sweat- he hadn't stretched his string over the blocks yet. He was rushing… But Shukhov made no mistakes” (92-93). As you can see, Shukhov refuses to see himself as a prisoner, but rather sees the work he does as productive and useful. This motivates him to try his best to increase the squads productivity.

Shukhov’s good work ethic not only helps his ability to survive, but

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