August 20th 2012
AP European History
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
“One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich,” the Nobel Prize winning novel by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, describes life in a Russian gulag during the mid-20th century. The novel describes one day in the gulag through the eyes of Ivan Denisovich or “Shukhov” as he is referred to in the book. It shows how Shukhov’s day begins with waking at five in the morning to negative forty degree temperatures. He then eats breakfast, which consists of “skilly,” a watery soup made of old vegetables, and moldy bread. After breakfast, he proceeds to be forcefully marched to the work field where he and his “gang” toil in the freezing cold constructing a power plant. While dressed in nothing but rags, and some felt books, Shukhov lays mortar while being buffeted by the harsh winds of the Siberian tundra. After a full 12-hour workday, he is then marched back to the gulag where he has dinner, which is again skilly, and old bread. This particular day ends up being a good day for Shukhov because he is able to get two portions for lunch and dinner, and a small pinch of tobacco. This routine is repeated every day for Shukhov’s “light” ten-year sentence.
This novel gives the reader a glimpse of life in a “gulag.” It shows the reader how during Stalin’s Communist reign over the USSR, those people considered socially dangerous, disruptive, suspicious, or disloyal were thrown into labor camps to serve out there sentences. The novel gives us an idea of how harsh these camps were and how they were used to provide the communist regime with cheap labor. In addition, the book gives the reader a taste of the distrust that was circling around the USSR at the time. We see that many of the prisoners thrown in the gulag were considered spies or anti-communists. However, it is shown that the majority of these prisoners, including Shukhov, were in fact innocent. This gives us an idea of how oppressive...