Ivan Denisovich Term Paper

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Ivan Denisovich

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is considered to be one of the most representative writers of the modern Russian literature. Throughout his work, he focused on addressing political issues that influenced the development of the Russian society as well as philosophical problems that dealt with the human strive for introspection, for personal and spiritual analysis; however, his creative genius has enabled him to combine the two aspects of his analytical perspective and offer a dynamic and complex point-of-view on a certain matter under discussion. This is the case of the novel "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" which joints together both a political issue and a psychological analysis in one of the most successful pieces of writing of the communist period in Russia.

This approach of a somewhat common and rather ordinary subject, a day in a man's life transforms it into a complex depiction of the socio political reality of the communist system, while, at the same time, giving an insight of the intimate changes the man suffers under the pressure of the factors that also modify the society as a whole.

The subject revolves around the detailed description of one day in the life of a prisoner of a "special" political camp in Siberia, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov.

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Firstly, the novel presents itself as a historical statement. Placed in a wider context, its aim is that of drawing the attention on the realities of the communist regime with a particular regard to the Russian society but, in extensor, appealing to all nations under the influence of the soviets. For instance, through indirect recollections and personal reflections, the author presents the situation of the common Russian peasant and his conditions during the kolkhozes system or collective farms, a characteristic of Stalinist control. The interference in controlling the land of the people and their forcing to work in other occupation only adds to the grim and hopelessness picture of the Soviet society.

Term Paper on Ivan Denisovich Assignment

Solzhenitsyn uses different means for expressing his point-of-view on the matters he presents. For instance, he creates the voice of Shukhov's wife in order to present in a more realistic manner the way the Russian society is changing and the dramas the peasants were living under the oppressive rule. It is presented in grim perspectives, by associating them to the newly established Stalinist system on kolkhozes. The complete control of the state is exercised as this level as well, by dividing private land, influencing the reorientation of men towards other lines of occupation. Moreover, the author also points out, indirectly another negative aspect of the Soviet government, through a joke made by one of the characters, Buynovsky, who tells Shukhov that "Since then it's been decreed that the sun is highest at one o'clock. Who decreed that? The Soviet government," an obvious allusion to the pretensions of the government to have supremacy over everything (Solzhenitsyn, 1963)

The world presented by Solzhenitsyn in his novel can be considered as being a universe in miniature, more precisely the world the prisoners had left when they were brought in the gulag. The structure of the human environment surrounding the main character is representative for the outside world as well, especially the one under the influence of the Soviet Union. Thus, Solzhenitsyn placed together exponents from different areas of the Soviet Union. In the camp there are two Estonians, a Lett, a Baptist, a former naval Captain, and men from many walks of life. (Solzhenitsyn, 1963) This comes to point, somewhat metaphorically, the forced annexation of all the territories represented in the gulag, as the prisoners themselves were brought against their will, so too were countries such as Estonia or Latvia placed forcefully under the soviet rule.

Solzhenitsyn was a master in presenting facts through very refined understatements. This is just one of the achievements that brought him the Nobel Prize for literature in 1970. Taking this into consideration, one can see the gulag, a secluded isolated place surrounded by powerful control as being expression of the Soviet Union itself, in its battle with the political isolation it was subject to in the early years of the post Stalinist regime.

An evident reference is also made to the corrupt system of the society as a whole, but by referring to the preferential treatment inside the camp. Starting from the distribution of food at mealtimes to the receipt of packages to the transmission of work reports and assignments, Solzhenitsyn indirectly points to the lack of the equality that the communist system was aspiring to. The socialist ideal that of perfect equality among men cannot be seen inside the Soviet society; by analogy to the camp hierarchical rule, it is itself a corrupt system and therefore it cannot support but corrupt governing members.

Therefore, it can be briefly summed up that Solzhenitsyn tried on the one hand, to indirectly create a historical perspective of the Russian society during the communist rule. Because the state apparatus did not allowed explicit and upfront criticism pointing out the horrors of the regime, these sorts of allusions and parallels were rather common and frequently used by writers who wanted to escape censorship.

On the other hand, however, Solzhenitsyn also gave the story a philosophical perspective. Seeing that the oppressive measures were quite common, and that the strengths of the control the authorities exercised was constantly increasing, one would wonder to what extent could a man keep his human side, and not fall in the trap of primitive behavior, loosing all signs of belonging to the human society.

In his attempt, Solzhenitsyn made use of both his own personal experience as a former detainee of the gulag, and his fiction creating abilities; therefore while placing his character, Shukhov, in a more abstract environment, he endows him with a more profound meaning of being. Solzhenitsyn creates the connection between the political perspective and the philosophical one, as he tries to encourage the maintenance of the human soul despite the conditions one must endure in order to stay alive in the gulag.

It is quite easy to notice the fact that Solzhenitsyn's experience as a prisoner was a source of inspiration for the close presentation of the conditions in the prison. However, it may seem strange his choice of character, as Shukhov is in fact a peasant, while Solzhenitsyn was an intellectual; however, it is this very lack of matching that created the special impact. Solzhenitsyn uses Shukhov's character in order to present, from an educated point-of-view, the life and torments of a common and somewhat intellectually limited individual. By simply pointing out his limitations, the author draws the attention on his moral and human qualities of which he tries to have a constant reminder.

Throughout the story, Shukhov's actions betray a need to be loyal to the beliefs he held before coming to the gulag. One of the messages the author tried to convey is that, the treacheries of history notwithstanding, man must be faithful to his belonging to the human spirit. In doing so, he is deemed to keep his hope and take joy in every moment. Shukhov considers his moments of silence and detachment from the world of the labor camp in simple actions such as eating "his cold stew with his usual slow concentration. Apart from sleep, the only time a prisoner lives for himself is the ten minutes in the morning at breakfast, five minutes over dinner, and five at supper."(Solzhenitsyn, 1963). It is through those simple actions that he manages to keep his strengths and his contact with the real world in awaiting his fate.

The issue of being able to keep ones human side intact is presented throughout the text. In achieving this, Solzhenitsyn portrays the other characters of the story as to emphasize Shukhov's nature and his small success in managing to keep his faith in the eventuality of better days. The rest of his companions soon forget their habits or even their religious beliefs; in this sense the scene in the mess hall is representative "There at the table, before dipping his spoon in, a young man crossed himself. A West Ukrainian, that meant, and a new arrival too. As for the Russians, they'd forgotten which hand to cross themselves with."(Solzhenitsyn, 1963) This points out the degree to which most of the prisoners had fallen pray to the means of oppression used by the communist rule which wanted to influence them in forgetting their social origins, their national past and even their human values.

He does tend to adapt to the conditions imposed and changes his attitude towards his family. Writing letters was in the beginning the only means of keeping the contact with the real world, through the information received about the social and political developments in the country. However, it became obvious to Shukhov himself that, although the memory of his loved ones is constantly in his mind, they do not represent a point of support for the actual life he is forced to endure "Writing letters now was like… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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