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The Indestructibility of Human NatureA Comparative Analysis of the Novels We by E. Zamyatin and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by A. Solzhenitsyn

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Moscow Economic School Michael Rodzianko 000904-005 English A1 SL World Literature Assignment 1 The Indestructibility of Human Nature A Comparative Analysis of the Novels We by E. Zamyatin and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by A. Solzhenitsyn May 2006 Word Count 1410 The Indestructibility of Human Nature A Comparative Analysis of the Novels We by E. Zamyatin and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by A. Solzhenitsyn Throughout time Russian writers have focused on the workings of the human soul and the interaction between the individual and society. Russia's greatest writers were usually critical of the regimes they lived under and thus often revealed their ideals very subtly through their works. At the same time the most renowned Russian writers believed in and incorporated into their works the power and the initial goodness of the soul (an example of this is Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky: even one of the bleakest characters ever created in Russian literature eventually found the light). All this fully applies to two outstanding Soviet authors A. Solzhenitsyn and E. Zamyatin. Their respective novels One day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962) and We (1920) were labeled anti-soviet and caused the authors to become outcasts, but by reading deeper into the text we come to the realization that these novels were not written for anti-soviet purposes but rather to focus on the theme of the indestructibility of human nature among others. ...read more.


The purpose of Zamyatin assigned number names in We was to show the society's attempt at creating total equality. However, the use of number names gives the reader a strange feeling, and creates a parallel to prison life which is an obvious indicator of something wrong in the utopia. Do number names work to destroy individuality, personality and identity in the created societies of these novels? In both systems all the 'inmates' have number names and there are strict rules on their use. In One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich the inmates had a well developed practice of keeping the number visible but not too bright, as shown in the following passage: "They spelled nothing but trouble, those numbers: if they were distinct the guards could identify you from any distance, but if you neglect to have them repainted in time you'd be sure to land in the lock up for not taking care of your number."1 However, number names in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich are a form of address used only by the authorities, while the inmates, unofficially, do not use number names while communicating amongst themselves. There are also distinctions in how characters address each other depending on their status and their level of respect. For example Ivan Denisovich is never addressed in any way other than by his first name followed by his patronymic which in the ...read more.


As visible from these examples the attempt to rid the characters of thier personal identity and individuality by assigning number names was not successful. Ironically the randomly assigned names managed, nevertheless, to reflect the personalities of the characters thus underlining the theme of the indestructibility of human nature. Another method used by both authors in order to convey the same idea was the actual explanation and chronology of the events. While each author used somewhat different techniques a similar ultimate effect was achieved. In We the development of D-503's humanity is closely followed by the reader; whereas, there is something mysterious and unknown about Ivan Denisovich, his past and his feelings. In We the gradual change of D-503's character is described, he goes through an 'evolution' in which his thoughts and opinions change drastically between the beginning, middle and end of the novel. Solzhenitsyn on the other hand makes it clear that Ivan Denisovich is not in development, but instead shows how he retains his initial dignity and pride in a setting created to destroy them throughout the novel. These novels both present the theme of Human Nature and how it will never be defeated by any institution no matter how 'good' or 'bad' it may be, the difference being that while one shows the process of it coming to existence by escaping and overcoming oppression, the other shows how if retained it can never be broken. ...read more.

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