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What Have We Learnt About the Character of Shukhov In the Opening of the Novel?

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Introduction

WHAT HAVE WE LEARNT ABOUT THE CHARACTER OF SHUKHOV IN THE OPENING OF THE NOVEL? "There is no knowledge that is not power" Throughout Communist rule in Russia thousands of people were imprisoned due to knowledge or views that made them a threat to the government. Ivan Denisovich Shukhov was one of these such learned people imprisoned due to a fabricated story naming him a spy. In the opening section of this book we learn a plethora about Shukhov's character that places him as the moral and intellectually just character I believe he is. From the opening we can tell that Shukhov likes to keep what control he can over his freedom and humanity. By always getting up instantly at the reveille, is a way in which Solzhenitsyn finds opportunities for freedom in Shukhov's mind, which ultimately cannot be touched or controlled by the authorities as his body can. "The next ninety minutes belonged to him". In doing this Shukhov is almost creating a false sense of freedom, he is proving to himself that, for this short time, he has charge of his actions. ...read more.

Middle

This is Shukhov's attempt at keeping the great respect he has for himself and others. Just as small actions have enormous significance so too do small objects such as "his little baby" Skukhov's spoon. Like his insistence on removing his hat at the table and not stooping to lick bowls or eat fish eyes, the spoon symbolises his humanity. The spoon which "has been with him his whole time in the North" which he had "cast with his own hands", is the only thing he truly owns as everything that makes him unique is destroyed, including all his possessions - even his name is replaced with a number. This is a technique widely used to demoralise prisoners as not even having a name continually reminds you that you are no longer a person but an owned object with no rights or uniqueness. This helps crack prisoners to braking point. In this Stalinist communist society in which the government sought to destroy the notion of private property, this ownership even of a spoon, is significant as it marks him as an autonomous individual. ...read more.

Conclusion

"Never lick another man's bowl". This is extremely difficult because, due to extremely short rations, hunger is always on the mind so for Shukhov avoiding the before breakfast mess hall where he may be tempted, is a significant step towards maintaining his humanity and surviving his sentence. At the end of the section Shukhov starts thinking about his past and home. "Just now he had a good deal more to talk about with Kilgas the Lett than with his family at home". Shkhov's frustration of not being able to speak, in full, his thoughts to his family now becomes evident. From the changes he is finding it hard to contemplate it is clear he is ignorant to the vast changes occurring in Russia through that time (ending of Communism). "Shukhov asked his wife how he, who'd never been able to draw in his life, was going to become a painter". It is clear to me that Shukhov is frustrated as to why all these changes are happening and starts to realise that the man he is fighting not to change may be the least different thing when he arrives home. He may stay the same but he cannot stop the world around him from changing. Luke Sterry 02/11/02 ...read more.

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