Commentary One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

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Suzanne de Ridder
English A1
May 11, 2005

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Commentary on pages 69-70

During Soviet times, it was common use for the government to censor writers on what they wrote in order to restrict them from expressing opinions that might hurt the sovereignty of the Soviet State. Sometimes, this close scrutiny even resulted in imprisonment, which when one remembers the cruel nature of the Soviet labour camps, meant an almost certain death. Even writers who are now praised around the world for their ingenious writing skills and magnificent minds, were then seen as an eminent threat. Alexandr Solzhenitsyn was one of them. Solzhenitsyn's novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich barely passed the censorship. It took an intense round of scrutiny by Party officials and a final decision made by Kruschev himself before the novel, which describes one day in the life of a labour camp prisoner, was allowed to hit the prints. When reading the novel now, it appears as if the scrutiny of the time was highly lacking, for the novel is filled with bitter critique towards the Soviet State. An example of the latter can be found on pages 69-70, where Solzhenitsyn uses a prisoner as mouthpiece for his opinions on propagandistic art.

Throughout the entire novel, Solzhenitsyn finds a myriad of ways to critique the treatment of the prisoners in the camp and the general state of the Soviet Union. The same counts for the passage indicated. Solzhenitsyn strongly emphasises how the prisoners were seen as inferiors- a fact that can be derived from the euphemism he uses to indicate the latter. He calls all prisoners by their numbers, pointing out that the prisoners are nothing more than insignificant parts of a whole. "Beyond him, prisoner B-219…opposite him sat Kh-123…" (p.69) By mentioning how Tsezar does not notice Ivan, he shows how the guards do not see the prisoners as individuals and often do not notice them at all. "He had his back to...
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