One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Start Free Trial

Student Question

What attitudes and factors help prisoners survive the gulag in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Ivan's cleverness and resourcefulness are one aspect of his character that helps him to survive. When a guard was going to sentence Ivan to ten days in the guardhouse, he discovers the guard just needs someone to mop the guardhouse floor, and Ivan convinces the guard to let him off of his punishment and go back to his barracks. Ivan's skills allowed him to live a little better since he didn't get packets from home. He hides his own trowel for laying bricks, and he's able to steal extra bowls of oatmeal. Even though he's not super intelligent, he spends much of his time thinking of ways to survive. Ivan won't do certain things, such as taking bribes or begging. He knows what he has to do to survive and is determined he will survive. He's decent and perseveres against all attempts to take away his humanity.

Most important to Ivan and his fellow prisoners is their ability to keep their dignity no matter what's done to them. They are still able to have a sense of identity even when they're referred to as numbers instead of names. They also depend on and help each other, showing how important dignity and the community are.

At the end of his day, Ivan is pleased that his day went well. He survived another day, just one of thousands in his sentence. He survives each day by being satisfied with small victories, such as getting extra food.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial