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Where do the characters get their strength from in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich?

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Graeme Standing 12 Where do the characters get their strength from in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich? One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is a novel about survival. Solzhenitsyn shows us how even in seemingly atrocious circumstances each person can find sources of strength that gives them the will to carry on. Many of the things that the prisoners think of as their sources of strengths would mean nothing to us, but if one thinks about it, without them we would perhaps lose the will to carry on. Most of the prisoners have more than one source of strength, perhaps subconsciously they have made their own fail safes. If they lost one source, they would have other more personal reasons to carry on. The two main factors of strength that the prisoners need are physical strength and mental strength. All the prisoners have access to the basic source of physical strength, nutrition. The meals that the prisoners are given are just enough to keep them alive, but not enough to supply them for an extended period of time. This dependency on food allows the authorities to keep the prisoners on a short leash. ...read more.


Each time that a prisoner gets away with possession of an item that is against the rules, it is a small victory. One gets a sense of pride and achievement in having beaten the system, and the continual fight against the system is a reason in itself to keep going. Information can be considered a source of strength, as it is the one thing that the guards cannot see. They cannot search for dreams, or memories. The mind is the one thing that the prisoners are able to keep to themselves. Each prisoner still has a mind to think, to dream and to remember. For many of the prisoners, the memory of family or friends gives them the will to carry on, hoping that one day they can rejoin them. Hope is a feeling that does not seem possible in the prison. The prisoners know that even if their sentence is over, they may not be allowed to leave. That does not stop many of the prisoners from keeping hope, and just continuing in the hope that one day they will be free. Habits, whether good or bad, are a large source of strength. Smoking is a habit that many of the prisoners have and many of them are dependant on tobacco. ...read more.


Another essential source of strength is taken from a sense of responsibility for something or someone. This is the case for the objects that the prisoners hide but also for the prisoners' hierarchy. Tiurin, for example is the team leader for the 104th team. He is responsible for his team and this gives him a sense of higher purpose. Shukhov takes control of the building of the wall, and the other prisoners look up to him and listen to what he says. He ascends to Tiurin's rank in the prisoners' minds as they see him as a leader. It is with his leadership that the wall is well built. The novel shows us that the strength to live, to carry on, can be found everywhere. Even in the most terrible situations, there are always things that can be found, done or even created to give us strength, both physically and mentally. Solzhenitsyn really shows us that even in times where hope would see useless, we can always find a sense of purpose. It is the prisoners that are able to do this that will survive, and when they finally get out, they will be released into a world where they will want to use every object, every second, to the fullest. ...read more.

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