Essay Sample on Ivan Denisovich Shukhov


Closely tied with dignity, is free will. Although it seems the concentration camps confine all sources of personal choice and freedom, they fail to eradicate the effect of free will. Shukhov’s team led by Tiurin builds a place to warm up, “not for the building site”, but “for themselves”, emphasizing how the team can do something to for themselves, despite the seeming impossibility of this self service. Even stronger achievements of the free will, can be shown in Shukhov himself.

He has a very economic attitude towards all materials, nothing can be wasted; even “eight years in camp couldn’t change his nature”, “Shukhov wasn’t made that way” We see another line, saying “even eight years as a convict hadn’t turned him into a jackal”. Here, the writer subtly uses repetition of “even eight years” to reinforce the protagonist’s persistence, in his personal philosophies and ethics, which could only be sustained by a powerful free will.

In speaking of the freedom of choice, there is also the freedom of sharing food rather than stealing it.

Tsezar the office assistant generously offers Shukhov “two biscuits, two lumps of sugar, and a slice of sausage” from his parcel since he protected the parcel for him, although it is not compulsory to give, Tsezar’s choice shows his morality in his free will to repay someone for helping him; Shukhov then gives away one of his biscuits to Alyosha, simply from his sympathy that he “makes himself nice to everyone but doesn’t know how to earn anything”, this act is also a revelation of virtue by his free will.

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Finally, prisoners are empowered with the ability to make the choice in their beliefs. Alyosha for example chooses to believe in God and Jesus, having faith that being in prison is not about suffering but this lets you “have time to think about your soul”; and from Shukhov’s observation that “His voice and his eyes left no doubt that he was happy in prison” this is proof that Alyosha’s faith in God, in hope is so strong, even in such adversity. Lastly and most importantly is comradeship. Throughout the novel, we see real bonds between the prisoners.

More evidently, is the comradeship between Shukhov’s team. When they surround Tiurin to hear his story, this metaphor: “It was a family, the team” clearly shows the tight links between the men. The protagonist also reveals his strong trust in his team leader, this faith is reinforced through the metaphor “Tiurin was a father to the team”, and the firm declarative “His team leader would never give him away”. Additionally, in the narration, Solzhenitsyn deliberately uses the collective “they” in “what a pace they set…

why shouldn’t they race on… “and many other phrases during the construction of the wall, effectively building an unconscious state of family, community between the zeks. There are also more specific relationships between characters. The two Estonian fishermen show an unusual bond between each other, as they “shared everything: one of them wouldn’t spend even a pinch of tobacco without consulting the other”, the measure word “a pinch” stresses the strength of this bond.

A fatherly affection develops from Shukhov towards Gopchik, we see this as the writer states in a short sentence “Shukhov was fond of the scamp”, especially since “his own son died young”. As well as this, for the protagonist’s fellow worker Kilgas and himself “they had come to respect one another. “, and also this short sentence “Shukhov liked to work with Kilgas”. Therefore it is evident that an amity is formed between the two. However some may say that there is also negative qualities that undermine this sense of celebration of the human spirit.

Preliminarily, we see arrogance. Der, the building foreman is an arrogant man; he says to Shukhov with an imperative “You’re a mason. Listen to what a foreman has to tell you” which instantly reveal his arrogance demanding Shukhov to listen to his orders, and disrespecting Shukhov’s skill. We see that Der is not ordering Shukhov because he himself is more skilful, as Shukhov informs the reader that when Der once showed him how to lay bricks, “he got a belly laugh. A man should build a house with his own hands before he calls himself an engineer”.

This line of quotation therefore tells us Der’s lack of skill, which causes his arrogance to bulge out blatantly. Greed is also apparent. When the prisoners receive parcels from their family or friends, the guards open them first, “they cut, they broke, they fingered”, the sheer greed of the guards, in searching the parcels and eventually grabbing most of the contents for themselves, is illustrated vividly to us by the use of these three short clauses and dynamic verbs.

Greed is also shown throughout, when the writer mentions that everyone “waited fearfully to learn who would be losing a slice of bread that evening”. “That evening” implies that bread is very often stolen by other zeks, showing how greed persists like a tumour in the camp. More serious than greed, is that there are possibilities of betrayals. When Kuziomin, Shukhov’s first team leader brings up the fact that there are “those who peach on their mates”, we automatically gain a bitter sense of reality at the camp, of the possibility of betrayal.

Finally, the most severe negative quality is the lack of sympathy for others. In the example above of the guards selfishly rummaging and fishing for food and other treasures in the prisoners’ parcels, a vivid picture is painted of the parcel reception process. For example, “every zek who got a parcel had to give and give, starting with the guard who opened it”. The imperative modal auxillary “had to” and the repetition of “give” emphasize the sense of a hierarchy, the injustice of the treatment of prisoners-ultimately a severe lack of sympathy and consideration for others.

In the canteen, there is further unkindness. The writer suddenly lapses from the past into the present tense “They fleece you here, they fleece you in the camp, they fleece you even earlier”, with this technique along with the second person narrative “you” accentuate the unfair yet perpetual swindling that occurs, when the ones higher in the hierarchy, the cook, the sanitary inspector and others, take advantage of the zeks and filch some of their rightful portions.

Also, in the line “And get away from the serving hatch! “, Solzhenitsyn effectively uses what an authority would shout out as a direct quote, an exclamation mark here heightens the severity and callous feelings from this tone of voice. In conclusion, this novel shows many virtuous qualities, as well as some negative qualities.

However, as the former is insisted so often and so strongly by the writer, especially through the protagonist, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, it cannot be denied that the novel is in fact a powerful, heartfelt celebration of the human spirit, standing out like on a background of harsh adversity. Solzhenitsyn has presented this celebration well as these elements of virtues are neatly interwoven into the text, without any glaring seams of exaggeration or overemphasis on character morality in their thoughts or behaviour, therefore making the existence of such human spiritual qualities more convincing.

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Essay Sample on Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (2019, Dec 06). Retrieved from

Essay Sample on Ivan Denisovich Shukhov
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