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Daily Survival Essay

1262 words - 6 pages

During World War II the Soviet labor camps were established by the Russian governmental agency called the Gulag. While in effect these camps housed about fourteen million people, in which almost half of these prisoners were imprisoned without a trial. The conditions within these camps were inhumane, which resulted in the death of many prisoners. As seen in Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s novel, “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich,” the only way to survive in these labor camps was to stay “nourished.” Not only must one stay physically nourished, but they must also be mentally nourished. In order to keep one-self “properly” nourished, they must encompass certain qualities in order to ...view middle of the document...

The Soviet camp has stripped him of everything else, but he takes great pride in his work, giving him the feelings of self-identity and dignity. Another prisoner, Tsezar, is able to keep himself unique from the other prisoners by clinging to his care packages that he receives frequently. His connection to the world outside of the prison camp, through these packages of material items, allows him to preserve his humanity. Fetyukov, a prisoner, is an example of somebody who doesn’t have any decency or care of self-respect. He constantly is begging his fellow workers for extra bread. He doesn’t work as hard as the other workers and does nothing to separate himself from the other prisoners. It is obvious that Fetyukov will not survive the remainder of his sentence with his callous behavior. If for some reason rations were to go low (which was a high possibility), he wouldn’t easily find fellow prisoners to give up some of their precious rationed food to help him out. Along with Fetyukov, some men, which were known as “stoolies”, sink to the lowest level and snitch on their fellow prisoners in order to gain benefits such as extra rations. However, they will never profit from those bonus rations, as the other prisoners will kill them.
Solzhenitsyn insinuates that in order to survive, prisoners must be incredibly selfish. Shukhov is only concerned with three things in his day to day life at camp: acquiring food, eluding punishment, and sleeping. In doing so, Shukhov rejects his wife and two daughters. While they, who obviously miss and love him, write letters to him. He shows little interest and thinks that their letters are pointless. He selfishly doesn’t send any letters back to them, while they are most likely eager to hear if he is well. Shukhov has lost the ability to connect with the outside world in a trade-off for his survival. The “stoolies” also showed selfishness. Even though they usually were murdered, the stoolies were willing to snitch on their colleagues for personal gains.
Ironically, the prisoners must also be willing to work together since they are rewarded when their gangs complete their work quickly. However, Solzhenitsyn makes it clear that even though the gangs are working together, each man is only looking out for himself. While working at the Power Station, all of the members of Shukov’s gang are rapidly working to put the walls up. It is to their benefit to do so in order to keep the cold air out and themselves warm. Furthermore, the quicker they finish their work, the faster, and sometimes more, they were fed. Shukhov and his gang view all of the other gangs as the “enemy.” There may not...

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