Richard Lovelace's To Althea from Prison: Paradoxical Nature of Freedom

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Ivan Denisovich essay

In his 17th century pem, "To Althea from Prison", Richard Lovelace tells us that "stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage." Thus Lovelace introduces and makes the reader familiar with the paradoxical nature of freedom. This paradox is raised again when comparing two legitimate visions of the modern world: Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and Alexander Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich vividly describes and allows the reader to live through life in a prison, where an individuals rights are stripped away, and Brave New World introduces the reader to a fantasy world filled with sex, drugs, and a total lack of inhibition and self-reserve. Although apparently unrelated, both novels together describe what could be considered a modern hell. In Solzhenitsyn's novel Shukov is stripped of his rights and his free will, while Huxley's characters are stripped of independence of thought and brainwashed into mindless decadence. A comparison of the worlds created by Solzhenitsy and Huxley prompts us to redefine imprisonment of freedom, yet the brain that is enslaved in Huxley's novel is truly less free than the body enchained in Solzhenitsyn gulag.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn carefully and tediously depicted what life is like in a prison. Ivans monotonous life prompts the reader initially to think that Ivans day is a living death of tedious details. Yet, in truth, Ivan is able to have free-flowing coherent and individual thoughts about the events of the day, despite the lack of excitement. An example of Ivans ability to engage in rational thought occurs early in the story. Ivan is forced to clean the floors of the guard room, requiring him to get the floor wet and possibly get his valenki wet as well. Realizing the importance of his valenki in the cold weather he decides to take his valenki off and put rags in them while he cleans the floor, so that they will be dry in the future....
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