One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn is about the daily life of Ivan Denisovich Shukhov (referred to in the book as "Shukhov") in a Soviet gulag, or forced labor camp. While Denisovich's life is harsh, and he is being detained unfairly (as he was a prisoner...
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn is about the daily life of Ivan Denisovich Shukhov (referred to in the book as "Shukhov") in a Soviet gulag, or forced labor camp. While Denisovich's life is harsh, and he is being detained unfairly (as he was a prisoner of the Germans during World War II but is deemed a spy), he finds joy and companionship at the gulag. The author portrays the indomitable spirit and willing companionship of the Russian people.
For example, even though Shukhov is tired and sick at the beginning of the book, he industriously goes to work: "Now that Shukhov had a job to do, his body seemed to have stopped aching" (page numbers vary according to the edition). He and the other workers at the camp also take delight in very small things, such as new shoes. After Shukhov is able to get a pair of heavy work shoes that have enough room for two rags in each shoe, "He'd walked around for a whole week as though it was his birthday, making a clatter with his new heels. Then, in December, felt boots had turned up as well: life was a bed of roses, no need to die just yet" (page numbers vary by edition). Part of the reason that Russians in the gulag are able to enjoy these small comforts so greatly is that their lives are generally harsh and unrelenting. However, the grueling nature of their lives allows them to be joyful and appreciative of small things.
Another source of comfort for the people in the camp is companionship with the full range of nationalities that comprise the workers in the camp. For example, Tsezar, a former film director, is described in the following way: "Tsezar was a mixture of all nationalities. No knowing whether he was Greek, Jew, or gypsy" (page numbers vary according to edition). Tsezar is well-educated, and he at first doesn't know how to survive in the camp. However, over time, Tsezar and Shukhov become friends, although they are very different. After all, Shukhov is a farmer and carpenter, but he helps Tsezar survive and develops a friendship with him. This is another aspect of the indomitable and companionable Russian spirit that Solzhenitsyn shows in the book.