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Reading Notes: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

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Ari Gardarsson Reading Notes: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich February 5, 2012 IB English One Day is a relatively short novel but it is a special novel due to the fact that all 139 pages are describing one day in a labor camp. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the author, writes mostly from his own experience in various prison and labor camps, or gulags. He was sentenced eight years because he criticized the harsh Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. The book starts out with the morning reveille where we meet the protagonist, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. He usually is the first one out of bed and has 90 minutes to himself, but today he is sick and he decides he can rest a little bit longer, thinking that a nice guard was on duty. He was mistaken. He is forced to clean the guard house, which a mild punishment compared to other punishments he mentions later in the novel. ...read more.


He picks it up and plans on creating a knife out of it later. His team starts to brick lay walls at the power station. Everybody works hard to get as much done before the last meal of the day. The hardest worker is, by far, Shukhov. He works so hard because when he is working he feels free. He works so hard that he ignores the call back when all of the men leave. When he is done, he wants to hurry back, but first he has to hide his trowel. To any other person, a trowel would seem unimportant, but to Shukhov, having a good trowel meant he could work well and it reminded him of his working days before he was imprisoned. He catches up to his group because they were delayed due to a body count. He abandons his earlier intentions to go to the sick bay and decides that he would rather eat supper. ...read more.


He eats what he gets and is gracious for every gram. He works hard and works more than the other men. He enjoys it so he does more of it. Tyurin, the foreman of gang 104, shows the reader that every person, no matter how tough they are, there is always a soft side. He starts out as a tough leader who is associated with punishment but once he tells the story of his imprisonment, the men of the 104th look at him more as a comrade than a ruthless leader. A theme which is immediately present at the beginning of the book is survival. Men had to endure the frigid siberian wind and live off of food that had barely enough nutrients in it for them to survive. Then the law of the taiga is mentioned which simply says that, due to the the harsh weather, you will die. Men can try to escape from the prisons but if they successfully escape, they will die in the frozen barren wasteland of Siberia, otherwise known as the taiga. They also need to survive mentally from the degradation the guards serve out everyday. ...read more.

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