Ivan Denisovich (ee-VAN deh-NIH-soh-vihch), sometimes called Shukov (SHEW-kov), a prisoner in a Soviet camp. He is serving a ten-year sentence for having escaped from a German prisoner of war camp in World War II. Even though his actions were heroic, he had some contact with the West and so became suspect. He is not sunk in misery at this injustice; he remains tough, resilient, and determined to survive his sentence and preserve his own integrity. He does odd jobs to get a little tobacco or an ounce of bread. He has served eight years of his sentence, but he is careful not to anticipate freedom; he concentrates on surviving this one day. There are some defeats during the day. He is sent for punishment because he is sick in his bed at reveille. In addition, soon after this he cannot get on the sick list because the allotment already has been met. The rest of the day, however, is as good as it can be for a prisoner. He manages to steal some felt, which helps keep him and the others warm on the job. He feels useful and confident when he builds a wall with mortar and bricks. He tricks the cook and gets an extra bowl of gruel for lunch. Finally, when he returns from a day of hard labor, he stands in line to earn a bit of food from Caesar and buys some tobacco from the Latvians. He will not allow his wife to send him packages because that would decrease the amount of food for his family. He has something more important than outside help: the skill and intelligence to survive without compromising himself, even in...
(The entire section is 665 words.)