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bmadnick eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The basic question of the novel is how a person can keep his humanity in a system that is designed to take his humanity away. Shukov and the other prisoners are able to somehow keep their dignity, individuality, and create some sense of community under the worst of circumstances. This is where the complexity of the novel lies, within the hearts and souls of the prisoners. Shukov is delighted at the end of his day that he was able to construct something of value and to work with his fellow prisoners in a common effort to build the wall. The fact that he can find happiness in the face of the stark reality of the many more days he must spend in prison is a remarkable feat. The complexity of the novel lies in its simplicity. It should be simple for each of us to take one day at a time and be grateful for the small things, but most of us don't. Shukov is able to do this in spite of the many more hardships ahead of him.

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