By: Alexander Solzhenitsyn
The novel “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” written by Alexander Solzhenitsyn illustrates the harsh conditions of a Stalinist prison camp for those sentenced there. This novel portrays insightful details as to how these prisoners lived during their stay in these camps. The main prisoner being followed throughout this novel is Ivan Denisovich, or more commonly referred to in the book as Shukhov, and gives a realistic view of a typical day in the life of this prisoner. The prisoners were sentenced to these camps because they either refused to or were unable to comply with the hard line communism brought about in the 1950’s era by Joseph Stalin. Shukhov was sentenced to ten years after being captured by the Germans in the Second World War. He had already served eight of his ten year sentence, but he feared that his sentence would be extended or he would be exiled when he finally was released. Although those eight years were grueling, he learned ways to survive in such a horrible environment.
The prisoner Ivan Denisovich is one of the members of Gang 104. Early in the novel, you learn about the cruelty and inhumanity of the doctors and guards when the prisoners are sick. When Ivan is ill, the doctors deny him treatment stating that the clinics are closed in the morning hours. They order him back to work because he was not sick enough to demand attention. When Ivan seeks medical attention, he is denied: Why’ve you come so late? Why didn’t you report sick last night? You know very well there’s no sick call in the morning. The sick list has already been sent to the planning department” (Pg. 17). This represents the first of many cruel and inhumane obstacles that Ivan and the other prisoners must undergo as political prisoners of the Stalinist regime.
The grim nature of life in a Soviet prison camp was horrific; the climate alone was enough to kill a man. Upon waking up for work... [continues]
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