Essay title: How and why is a social group represented in a particular way?
Title and author: One Day in The Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Part of the course: Part 3 Literature in context
The novel One Day in the Life of Denisovich opens a window into the everyday life
of a prisoner in one of the Soviet Unions Gulag with rich historical value, uncovering
the horrors in one of these corrective labour camp.
From the novel we can see the omnipresence of a totalitarian regime, the inner
colonization of its people, the lack of privacy where the authorities are doing the
The broader scale of Russian society at that time is represented in the micro scale of
the G ulag character representative of the Russian diaspora.
In the confinement of the camp, the juxtaposition between different characters
accentuate their personality and the struggle for human dignity in a world where
The journey into a day o f an Everyman figure is a simple, yet compelling narrative
device that signifies the monotonous life and the horrendous condition that millions of
Russians had to endure under the Soviet regime.
The book gave a voice to the silenced, to the oppressed, it s a cry out for human
freedom, against injustice not just in Russia but all over the world, exposing the
betrayal of a government that promised wellbeing for its people but failed to deliver.
Art and how it can influence social transformation, Solzhenitsy ns powerful insistence
that art and literature is imperative in the country sense of self and identity
How and why is a social group represented in a particular way?
Shrouded in mystery, no one knew what was going on inside Russia under the reign of
the red tsar – Stalin, it was not until the Nobel laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn opened a
window into this enigmatic world, did we catch a glimpse of the fate of millions of Russians
in the Soviet Union ; the novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich shook the world on
its feet, revealing the brutal horror and atrocious conditions that are unimaginable to the West.
The book was modelled on his own experience in one of these forced labour camps, arrested
in 1945 for making derogatory remark s about the Old Whiskers, he witnessed first -hand for
eight years the greasing of the authoritys palms, the wicked cold, the scramble for an extra
bowl of soup , all in all the zeks struggle for survival. With a firm belief in the power of art
and lite rature: the convincingness of a true work of art is completely irrefutable and it forces
even an opposing heart to surrender, he was out to give a voice to the millions of Russians
who are oppressed , of the injustice and suffering they had to endure. Sol zhenitsyn used a
multitude of narrative devices to represent the zeks in one of these camps, which can be further
applied to the contemporary Russian society at large. The story follows S 854 – the protagonist
Ivan Denisovich Shukhov through one of the thr ee thousand six hundred and fifty -three days
of his stretch, symbolizing the monotonous life and the everyday struggle for survival. In the
confinement of the camp, characters are juxtaposed to accentuate their personality highlighting
the struggle for hum an dignity ; this is further developed with the use of binary oppositions, e.g.
death vs life, prison vs prisoners revealing the atrocities of the totalitarian regime.
Solzhenitsyn believed in the power of art, in particular , literature, for social
transformation, to to help mankind, in these its troubled hours, to see itself as it really is,
notwithstanding the indoctrinations of prejudiced people and parties as seen from the
authors compelling Nobel Lecture . Its a hist orical documentary of millions of lives under the
rule of a system that promised equality but thrived upon oppression of its people, the zeks were
portrayed with such verisimilitude as the author himself was once among their ranks, faced the
injustice as t hey did and witnessed the arbitrary nature of crime and punishment, further
revealed in the sardonic circumstance of Shukhovs imprisonment: accused of a spy while
fighting on the front -line against the German army.
His work opened a window into one of Ru ssias most disenfranchised group the zeks,
represented them in a precise and sincere way, and for the first time their lives were made open
to the outside world. Through representing the zeks, he also exposed the betrayal of the Soviet
government toward s its own people, the nature of its ideology, how centuries -old colonial
techniques used by powers such as Britain and France , to oppress and exert power over people
of a foreign country, were reincarnated in the form of inner colonization, now over its ow n
folks, it exerted power and indignation over the non -conformists. The Gulags were made to
cripple mens thinking capabilities for themselves: The authorities did his thinking for him
about everything, however, this objective has failed to be realized, as Solzhenitsyn and other
authors have brought the truth out to light and given a voice to these people, liberating them
from the chains in thoughts that were imposed by the government and its false ideology .
In pursuance of this truth, the author utilized a multitude of narrative devices. The novel
describes a day in the life of Shukhov the representative figure, this allows for a linear and
convenient narrative which symbolizes how monotonous and dreadful a life in the Gulag is,
extending to umb rella the contemporary Russian society. In the confinement of the camp ,
characters are juxtaposed to accentuate their personality. Two figures that stand in full contrast
are the protagonist and Fetyukov, Shukhov is hard -working and self -reliant, who manag ed to
accept his camp life and build a meaningful existence for himself, however Fetyukov is the
undignified greedy vagabond of the 104 th. W hile Shukhov worked hard to earn a second bowl
of skilly from Tsezar, Fetyukov scrounged around the mess -hall pleadi ng for food and licking
other mens leftover; this highlights the struggle for human dignity. The camp while revealing
Shukhovs inner nobility in the face of degradation, exposed the deterioration of Tsezars
humanity, its a demonstration of how men can overcome adversity but also of those who
Furthermore, the social group is represented on the basis of binary oppositions,
contrasting themes, and motifs, this is perfectly exemplified by the relationships between
prison and priso ners: how the guards treat prisoners as vile animals revealing their profound
inhumanity, and the opposite standpoint is the way that the prisoners treat each other, either
with compassion or acting in their own self -interest at the expense of others well being .
Another major clash of themes is death vs life the struggle for survival, the cold is emphasized
throughout the story; its a reminder of our human mortality, that all ways would end into the
death, nevertheless for some the struggle is not over, even in the harsh climate of Siberia, they
are not only surviving but living in their most modest way.
In conclusion, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn with his novel, through the representation of
the zeks with the brilliant use of narrative devices and a succinct , journalistically informative
writing style started an intellectual revolution in a country of suppressed speech and oppression
of thoughts, he was the one man who stood up against the tyrannical system exposing it to the
world: The Soviet Union was dest royed by information and this wave started from
Solzhenitsyns One Day. Solzhenitsyn succeeded in achieving his purpose and reclaimed
justice for his people; it is now irrefutable that indeed as Dostoevsky once said : Beauty will
save the world , as it had many times before .
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor. Idiot . Azbuka, 2017.
Solzhenitsyn, Alexandr. The Nobel Prize in Literature 1970. Nobelprize.org , The Nobel
Prize, 1970, www.nobelprize.org/prizes/literature/1970/solzhenitsyn/lecture/ .
Haqshenas, Saleh. Russian Diaspora A Structural Analysis of One Day in the Life of Ivan
Denisovich through Binary Oppositions Application. Academia.edu – Share Research ,