Dehumanization is a psychological process when people view others as less than human, thus making them feel like they are less deserving of moral consideration. Ivan Denisovich and all of the men in Gang 104 are dehumanized by the Majors and gang leaders at the labor camp HQ. In One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alezksandr Solzhenitsyn, this Stalinist labor camp in which Shukhov is imprisoned is designed to attack its prisoners’ physical and spiritual dignity, thus systematically establishing the novel.
The workers are physically dehumanized. They are constantly pushing and shoving to get a bowl of what the Majors call “soup”. The fact that “the cook shouted though the hatch, and people were shoving them at him from the other side (86)” represents how much the workers have to fight for their food. The prisoners are savages, and the cooks treat the men like they are dogs, throwing them one bone among a large crowd, thus making “the dogs” fight for their food. The dehumanization is also revealed as Solzhenitsyn writes, “the prisoners knew all about that sort of thing so they started backing away from the gates” (142). The Captains make the workers line up by fives again…for the third time, as if they are cattle. This is the third line up, that night; it has wasted at least an hour of these workers precious free time. The workers’ uncivilized ways are demonstrated when the Captains and guards allow the workers to trample, push, and shove to get a bowl of watered-down bland “soup” (169). As much as Ivan’s inhumanity is represented by what these men do physically, it is also shown by how much they are forced to work.
The guards use forced labor and inhumanity to dehumanize the zeks and the reader sees this when the workers strive to do everything perfectly for the Captains. Dehumanization is shown in the quote “the fellows bringing the mortar were winded like horses (124)”. Not only were the prisoners compared to as horses, but also mules, hawks, and...
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