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Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 251

Although the system of penal camps ended even before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Solzhenitsyn's novel remains a powerful hymn to the endurance of the human spirit. Its compactness — less than 200 pages — makes it suitable for thorough discussion in an evening. Because of its universal theme...

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Although the system of penal camps ended even before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Solzhenitsyn's novel remains a powerful hymn to the endurance of the human spirit. Its compactness — less than 200 pages — makes it suitable for thorough discussion in an evening. Because of its universal theme and manageable size, it is a fine choice for small or large groups and for serious or casual readers.

1. Near the conclusion, Shukhov muses, "The end of an unclouded day. Almost a happy one." What has made him think so?

2. What are some of the daily tasks of living that most of us take for granted but upon which Shukhov spends much time and energy?

3. The world of the camp is a self-contained world. What are its most important rules?

4. The camp dehumanizes inmates at every opportunity. What are the guards' favorite ploys for accomplishing this?

5. In response the zeks maintain a kind of guerrilla warfare to preserve their humanity. It is most successful when the guards are unaware it occurs. What are some of the zeks' most important, unnoticed victories?

6. What are the special terrors of the isolation cell?

7. Among Shukhov's fellow prisoners, who is least likely to survive long? Who is most likely?

8. At the center of the novel Tyurin tells the story of his train ride home. Why is that story so meaningful to his squad?

9. The tone of the novel is understated, almost detached. How does this laconic tone actually enhance the novel's anger at the injustices of the system?

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