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One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

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Life can be extraordinarily difficult at times; practically everyone experiences a period of time when conditions become insufferably punishing. Imagine being sentenced to ten years of continuous and humungous destitution, as is the unfortunate situation of the main character in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. This novel depicts in detail merely one day of Ivan's ten-year condemnation in a Russian labor camp in 1951. Throughout this day, which is similar to every other, he is famished, almost frozen, exploited for labor, and disciplined unreasonably; nevertheless, as the day progresses, it is apparent that Ivan will never surrender and never give up. Ivan Denisovich Shukhov is a representation of the human spirit and its immeasurable will to survive, even during the harshest of conditions and among the toughest tragedies.

During the day, the readers observe numerous deeds of humanity that facilitates Shukhov and his fellow inmates to maintain a piece of their dignity despite the fact that the labor camps are purposely planned to totally demean and humiliate their captives. Denisovich, uses minor acts of selflessness and thoughtfulness to help him and his gang get through the day. Shukhov frequently gets up ahead of schedule so that he can have some time alone and so he can "bring one of the big gang bosses his dry felt boots while he was still in his bunk, to save him the trouble of hanging around the pile of boots in his bare feet and trying to find his own" (Solzhenitsyn 2). Though Shukhov may do various odd jobs such as "running around to one of the supply rooms where there might be a little job, sweeping or carrying something" (Solzhenitsyn 2) or "going to the mess hall to pick up bowls from the tables and take piles of them to the dishwashers" (Solzhenitsyn 2) with the purpose of receiving an extra ration, this can also be perceived as an act of principle. Instead of doing a dishonest act for example stealing rations from blameless prisoners the way the camp officers do, Shukhov attempts to earn his food through honorable jobs such as repairing shoes, crafting items to sell, or completing additional work.

One of the largely significant things to the prisoners in the novel is their meals. The allotment and eating of food demonstrates massive insight into the kindness, compassion, and the efforts made by the inmates to preserve their principles. Solzhenitsyn depicts the commitment of the men to each other's welfare by putting the characters in circumstances where they have to depend on one other for their food. In the beginning of the novel, Shukhov misses his breakfast however the men in his gang "... keep his breakfast for him and didn't have to be told" (Solzhenitsyn 8). While the gang has their noon meal, Ivan manages to get two extra bowls of gruel for his gang. Although there a many prisoners in the gang that would desire to have extra food, Pavlo, the assistant gang boss, chooses to offer it to an inmate who is new to the camp and has not yet "learned the ropes." (Solzhenitsyn 91). How Pavlo determines who the extra ration should go to is gracious itself, never mind the fact that the other prisoners do not complain about or pester him about their right to the spare ration. The undersized bowl of gruel raises the men's morale and Shukhov even wishes that the new inmate gets an additional extra bowl of food, instead of keeping it for himself. The gang members demonstrate consideration for one another and essentially they are maintaining their humanity by not permitting their circumstances to tarnish their benevolence. The men are not wholly self-centered and keep an eye on one another.

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