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Thematic Analysis of “one Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

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Throughout the 20th century, many countries were ruled by totalitarian leaders who were ready to commit many horrible deeds in order to achieve their goals. Josef Stalin, the leader of Soviet Union between 1924 and 1953, is the perfect example of a despotic ruler, who was responsible for the deaths of millions of people. He believed that communism would transform the Soviet Union into a perfect nation, with an ideal society where everyone would be treated equally. However, in order to achieve this perfection, all external and, more importantly, internal enemies had to be destroyed. Instead of a perfect nation, Stalin created a system, which was based on fear and denunciation, where killing of the so-called “enemies of the nation” became a sport, where Stalin’s representatives competed against each other on the basis of the number of “enemies” killed. Throughout almost three decades, millions of innocent people were either killed or put into labour camps. The author of the book himself, was sentenced to eight years in a concentration camp for his anti-Soviet views, which he expressed in writing, and through the characters of his novel, Solzhenitsyn portrays his personal beliefs. Most of the characters in “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” are innocent people, who have never done anything reprehensible. Among them is Gopchik, a sixteen-year-old boy who was sentenced to 10 years in concentration camp for giving milk to Ukrainian nationalist rebels, and Aleshka the Baptist who received twenty-five years for his religious beliefs. The protagonist of the novel, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, is a simple man without any heroic qualities. He is a former carpenter who was sent off to the battlefield during the World War II. After being captured by the Germans, Ivan and five of his fellow soldiers were able to escape and return to the Soviet military base. However, three of them were killed instantly, mistaken for German soldiers while the fourth soldier died from wounds a couple of days later. Although Ivan Denisovich was not shot, he was arrested and accused of being a German spy. Even though he was innocent, he had to confess during the interrogation, because he understood that he would be shot immediately if he did not. As a result, he was sentenced to ten years in a Siberian concentration camp for betraying Soviet Union. The Soviet labour camps represented a small-scale totalitarian nation, where wardens were the despotic rulers who frequently abused the prisoners. The story presents Shukhov during the ninth year of his sentence. During the past eight years he had faced a tremendous amount of humiliation and pain. However, despite all difficulties through which Shukhov went through, he has not lost his strength and internal freedom. Through Shukhov, Solzhenitsyn proves that even in inhuman conditions, it is possible to stay human. At one point in the story, the author mentions that no one was able to come out alive from a Siberian concentration camp after serving a ten-year sentence. However, Shukhov has only two years left in his sentence and something seems to be drive him towards his last day in the labour camp. The elements that are helping Ivan Denisovich during the harsh times are: physical labour, alliances with other prisoners, and his dignity and internal strength.

For Shukhov and many other zeks, physical labour rescued them from all illnesses and sufferings. It distracted them from thinking about all the problems they had to face in their everyday lives. According to Solzhenitsyn, human dignity, and internal freedom are established in labour. Ironically, laying stones in freezing cold weather is what makes the prisoners happy: during work they feel free, joke around, and open up to each other by telling their stories. The government can strip zeks of everything, however the satisfactions from the well-completed work can never be taken away. Ivan Denisovich feels so passionate about his work that he forgets about the fierce cold or even the hunger, which all the prisoners are constantly experiencing. Even after the job is completed, he does not want to leave the work site: he keeps on checking on the walls that they have built making sure that everything is perfect. Solzhenitsyn’s description of Shukhov implies that he believes that it is people like Ivan Denisovich who are the driving force of the nation and therefore decide its destiny.

It is natural for humans to give and receive care and affection. No one can survive entirely on his own, and everyone has to interact with other humans in order to stay mentally stable. Through frequently recurring examples friendship and simple companionship between the convicts has helped them survive through all the horrors of their lives. One example of this is the friendship between two Estonians who "clung together as though neither would have air enough to breathe without the other." (Solzhenitsyn, p. 50) They preserve

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