World Lit #1:Can the Human Spirit Be Imprisoned?

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  • Topic: Gulag, Sense, Novel
  • Pages : 6 (1919 words )
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  • Published : May 21, 2013
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World Literature #1: Comparative Essay
Can the human spirit be imprisoned?
A Doll’s House and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

NAME: Shelley Lima

IB CANDIDATE NUMBER: 000091-032

TEACHER : Kate Goldberg

DISCIPLINE OF ESSAY: English

WORD COUNT: 1 492

Both Ivan, the protagonist from the novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich written by Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Nora, the character from the play A Doll’s House written by Ibsen, are two characters whose lives are imprisoned, either physically or mentally. The character Ivan is physically imprisoned in a gulag camp in Russia where he has to find escape routes from his imprisoned life to find pleasure in his everyday life. The character of Nora is figuratively imprisoned in her marriage and she has to find aspects of her life that let her escape and find her own self somewhere in her caged situation. In the novel by Solzhenitsyn, Ivan uses many physical escape routes, such as food, tobacco, work, and human relationships to take a step away from his imprisoned life. In the play by Ibsen, Nora’s primary escape route to her imprisoned life is her secret work life where she can earn money on her own for her family and for herself. Both of these imprisoned lives, in two different pieces of world literature, pose the question--can the human spirit be imprisoned?

Alexander Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is a short novel centering on one prisoner's experiences during a single day in a Soviet labor camp. The four walls of the camp physically imprison Ivan and the only way his mind can be free from this confinement is if he finds mental escape routes in his everyday life. Food, tobacco, work, and his relationships with his friends inside the camp are the principle mental escape routes that are prominent in this novel.

When Ivan is put in a situation where living is a burden, he needs to find little pleasures in his life that help him overcome his imprisonment. Food plays a main role in Ivan’s life because the sensory value of individual foods let his spirit be free. A spirit is the non-physical part of the human body, which Ivan tries to keep free in his confined life. Although Ivan’s physical being is confined within the four walls of the camp, his mental state, or his spirit, escapes when he enjoys certain aspects of life. The descriptive sense of taste is vividly described in the passage on page 19: “Pavlo handed him his bread ration from the table. There was a little white heap of sugar on top of it. […] He scooped up the sugar with his lips, licked the bread clean with his tongue, and put one leg on the ledge to climb up and make his bed. He looked at the ration, turning it, weighing it in his hand as he moved, to see if it was the full point due to him.”[1] The small sensation of flavor when he eats the tasty food gives the reader a sense that his spirit is free throughout those minor moments. Ivan makes the best of the minute ration he has. All living beings have senses, yet one does not always appreciate these senses when the spirit is free. When the spirit or physical being is imprisoned, the body embellishes on the senses and takes into consideration all the senses throughout life. Although Ivan is the protagonist in this novel, you can tell that food is a main part of the other prisoners’ lives too. This theme of food is like a ritual for the prisoners. These moments of eating are also a time when Ivan’s only concern is himself. When the author uses description and senses, the ritual is clearer to the reader. The pleasure of food is ostracized when one is a prisoner of everything else.

Tobacco and the process of smoking also free Ivan’s spirit and becomes one of his escape routes from his confined life. According to Ivan, smoking tobacco is a relief because in that moment all he...
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