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The influence of supporting characters

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Introduction

Far too often, survival is characterized by strength and power. However, the tenacious desire to preserve personal dignity distinguishes the survivors from the failures in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and Woman at Point Zero. Authors Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Nawal El Saadawi, respectively, present the significance of maintaining human dignity in order for their corresponding protagonists to endure victimization. Furthermore, their relationships with significant minor characters influence the protagonists in their quests to tolerate oppression by attaining dignity. Solzhenitsyn presents a governing system designed to victimize the prisoners of the gulags by attacking their personal dignity through the maintenance of their continuous state of hunger and the enforcement of strenuous labor in sub-zero temperatures. Solzhenitsyn, however, presents a disparity within some minor characters regarding the gulag's degree of success. His depiction of Fetyukov epitomizes a successful attempt of dehumanization, "He figured...it'd be better to snoop around the mess hall and scavenge...like vultures" (One Day..., Page 168-169). To endure such caustic living conditions, Fetyukov adopts animalistic behavior. Since the system has made food his primary concern by limiting his intake, Fetyukov behaves in an uncivilized manner. ...read more.

Middle

Sharifa understands that a demand for prostitutes exists, implying the potential of accumulating wealth. Her earnings are then in turn spent to accommodate a comfortable lifestyle, purchasing a large house and other luxuries. El Saadawi, therefore, depicts Sharifa as equating survival with materialism. Taking a more conservative approach, women such as Fatheya attempt to gain independence from men's oppression by performing legitimate office work. This occupation, however, does not entail luxuries. In fact, when Firdaus temporarily works in the office, she endures many assaults to her dignity, including waking up three hours before work starts to queue for the public shower. Despite such deprivation, Firdaus continues working, like Fatheya, because she transiently believes it provides self-respect. Therefore, El Saadawi depicts various methods of enduring oppression by establishing a disparity within significant female minor characters regarding their survival methods. Furthermore, El Saadawi portrays relationships between Firdaus and significant minor characters to suggest that their methods of survival fall short in providing respectability and independence from men. El Saadawi portrays Firdaus as undertaking both prostitution and legitimate work to experience the outcomes of both methods. Firdaus is oblivious to her body's power until Sharifa suggests prostitution, "A man does not know a woman's value...the higher you price yourself, the more he will realize what you are really worth" (Woman at..., Page 55). ...read more.

Conclusion

While Shukhov vicariously observes the ramifications of these possible methods, Firdaus adopts the strategies to experience their outcomes. Throughout his novel, Solzhenitsyn portrays Shukhov as constant, maintaining the same method of attaining dignity throughout the novel. This differs from El Saadawi's depiction of her protagonist, who repeatedly changes her occupation in her plight towards self-discovery. Although the protagonists of the two works behave differently, their mindsets are formed similarly through their relationships with significant minor characters. This shared method enables the authors to suggest that their protagonists are influenced by the supporting characters to strive for dignity and to endure victimization. Through the depiction of the supporting characters, Solzhenitsyn and El Saadawi establish the mood of victimization as well as the various methods available for their corresponding protagonists to endure oppression. By presenting these relationships, the authors lead the audience to a heightened understanding of the need to preserve personal dignity for survival. Shukhov values life and therefore refrains tenaciously from succumbing to dehumanization. Firdaus, however, isolates herself from society and therefore views death as her only means of escaping oppression. Regardless of the differences in these resolutions, such acts represent the culmination of the encounters between the significant minor characters and the protagonists. Word Count: 1,490 ...read more.

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