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How does Shukhov struggle to preserve his dignity throughout the course of his imprisonment in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyns One Day in The Life of Ivan Denisovich?

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Introduction

'One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich' World Literature II Assignment Amrit Morokar Candidate Code: 000865-010 Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's novella tells the story of Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, prisoner of a Stalinist Labour Camp, forced to endure the seemingly intolerable living conditions intended to physically and mentally destroy the spirit of all the men contained within. This essay will discuss how Shukhov struggles to preserve his dignity throughout the course of his imprisonment as portrayed in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's 'One Day in The Life of Ivan Denisovich', whilst noting the literary techniques that have helped the author depict his message to the reader, which is of course the fight for preservation of self dignity. Every day Shukhov spends in this labour camp is likely to lead to a progressively greater loss of his dignity and indicates a slow chipping away at his resilience to stand strong against the system in which he is held. This is due to many reasons, most noticeably the supremacy of the prison guards. Through utilizing their overwhelmingly authoritative force, e.g. by assigning prisoners numbers as a replacement for names, the prison guards help to create a sense of removal of both identity and individuality; e.g. replacing Shukhov's name with "Schcha-854" and gathering prisoners into groups such as "Gang 104." This clearly epitomizes an effort on behalf of the labour camp to demoralize its prisoners and eradicate all of their individual characteristics. ...read more.

Middle

It seems like the dilapidation of the camp was to such an extent that Shukhov was in humble acceptance of this fact. Although the conditions are unforgiving the protagonist, Shukov, through his belief system, denies conforming and instead still manages to maintain at least a veneer of normality about him. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn helps to create a gloomy ambience whilst conversely displaying Shukhov's strength of endurance towards his current setting and situation. "...quickly checking what had found its way into his bowl." The use of the adverb quickly insinuates Shukov's repugnance to the contents of the bowl, demonstrating his way of 'getting by' as he endeavours to avoid discerning the unpleasant veracity of his life. By exploiting the passive formation of the sentence, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn indicates that Shukhov had no control over the contents of his bowl. The reader is encouraged to identify with the protagonist and wonder at his calm conservation of this small shred of dignity. By taking a look at other characters, we can see how they only serve as promoting Shukhov's resilience for his upholding of dignity, the most notable example here being that of Fetiukov, a fellow inmate often referred to as a "filthy rat" as he is commonly caught licking the remains from bowls, to get whatever food he can. The character of Fetiukov is used as a literary tool to symbolise the magnitude of preserving dignity and personal pride, and shows to the reader the subsequent downfall of a character who has lost their dignity and individual human qualities. ...read more.

Conclusion

Shukhov forms a bond with these objects as they help him to identify himself, and possessing those means that he instils a correct balance of dignity and identity in an oppressive camp bearing such appalling conditions. Solzhenitsyn's depiction of this spoon as his most valued possession mirrors the dignity he struggles to preserve. The symbolism of the spoon is used two-fold, outlining Shukhov's priority in taking care of himself both physically and mentally. This symbolic object provides corroboration that Shukhov's efforts to preserve his dignity are intentional and yet inherent; He strives to preserve his identity and dignity by protecting the spoon and blade. The battle for dignity is one which Shukhov fights for till the end, and we can see how, as the novella progresses, Shukhov grows progressively stronger as a character and learns to find a variety of ways to preserve his dignity and display his triumph over adversity. Through his constant re-assertion of his humanity, he almost seems to be silently revolting and standing firm against the soul-destroying objectives of the Stalinist camp. As well as preserving the self-worth side of his dignity, he also manages to succeed in earning respect from his fellow prisoners. Solzhenitsyn has effectively shown that no matter how harsh conditions are, Shukhov seems to be proof that even in a Stalinist camp; nobody can strip a person of his dignity completely as there are options one can formulate to safeguard it. Solzhenitsyn has employed symbols and convoluted descriptions, to exemplify the preservation of dignity for the protagonist in his novel. ...read more.

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