Character Strength In One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich By Alexander Solzhenitsyn

1476 words - 6 pages

Character Strength in "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is a novel about survival.
Solzhenitsyn shows us how even in seemingly atrocious circumstances
each person can find sources of strength that gives them the will to
carry on. Many of the things that the prisoners think of as their
sources of strengths would mean nothing to us, but if one thinks about
it, without them we would perhaps lose the will to carry on.

Most of the prisoners have more than one source of strength, perhaps
subconsciously they have made their own fail safes. If they lost one
source, they would have other more personal reasons to carry on. The
two main factors of strength that the prisoners need are physical
strength and mental strength. All the prisoners have access to the
basic source of physical strength, nutrition. The meals that the
prisoners are given are just enough to keep them alive, but not enough
to supply them for an extended period of time. This dependency on food
allows the authorities to keep the prisoners on a short leash. A
prisoner without food would not survive very long, even if he has many
other things to carry on for. The physical need for food is not a
choice, and therefore it is a necessity. Bread is symbolic in the
novel, for most of the prisoners it is simply nourishment, it also has
religious meaning.

Alyosha thinks of the bread as a form of religious sustenance. The
Bible refers to bread as the flesh of Christ. To Alyosha, religion is
his biggest source of strength. He uses religion and literature to
shut out the horrible physical conditions he has to live through.
Religion and literature are his salvation. Shukhov envies Alyosha’s
calmness and inner strength that many of the other prisoners do not
have. As I mentioned previously, literature is also very important to
him. He studies the New Testament and he uses literature to cut out
the outside world. Shukhov does not seem like a religious man, but as
one goes further into the novel, one begins to see him taking a bigger
interest in religion, and more importantly, faith. Alyosha tries to
show Shukhov that faith is the strongest source of strength, and he
tells Shukhov to try to see the importance of spiritual goods rather
than material goods. However, objects have a lot of importance to all
of the prisoners. Aloysha hides his New Testament to avoid it being
confiscated just Shukhov hides his bread. This shows us that the Bible
is as important to Alyosha as bread is to Shukhov. At the end of the
novel Shukhov gives away a biscuit to Alyosha and expects nothing in
return. This shows that he has taken Alyosha’s advice and has chosen
to feel spiritual accomplishment rather than keeping the material
good.

Property is another source of strength in the novel. Possessing
something that other prisoners do not have is a way of showing
individuality in a place where all the...

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