Survival In “One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisov

1682 words - 7 pages

Survival in ?One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich? The main theme of the novel, ?One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich? by Alexander Solzhenitsyn is that of basic human survival. As early as the second page of the novel, Solzhenitsyn already writes the following statement: ?Here, lads, we live by the law of the taiga. But even here people manage to live. D?you know who are the ones the camps finish off? Those who lick other men?s leftovers, those who set store by the doctors, and those who peach on their mates.? This statement is of great significance and is reiterated several times during the course of the novel. I think writing about survival is a way in which Solzhenitsyn expresses his philosophical viewpoints. He dwells upon the ideas of morality, inner strength, self-discipline, self-reliance and dignity and self-respect. In all his novels, a predominant idea that surfaces is what the French call ?existentialism?. He tries to understand human behavior and motives, and bases a lot of his ideas on his observations. In the novel, he writes about how people behave in order to survive, and the statement serves both as an introduction to the theme, and also as a summary for basic rules that the prisoners must abide by in order to survive.The statement quite directly asserts that people with no self-respect and dignity (those who lick other men?s leftovers), lazy people (those who set store by the doctors) and people who betray their friends (those who peach on their mates) do not survive their sentences in the camp. The novel is a microcosm for Stalinist Russia, and yet, this statement can be applied universally.Each one of these three types of people is encountered later in the novel. Fetiukov is a shady character, who has lost his dignity, and the other men in his team have no respect for him. Shukhov thinks, ?When you thought about it, you couldn?t help feeling sorry for him. He wouldn?t live to see the end of his stretch. His attitude was all wrong.? Within the camp exists a social hierarchy, and those without dignity are recognized and they are at the bottom of the hierarchy. Fetiukov and others alike do not have many friends, and one needs many friends in order to survive. Fetiukov doesn?t get extra bowls of food, or cigarette ends, or any little benefits because of this. Fetiukov is obviously an example of the first category of men, and He is ostracized and he will not survive his terms. Fetiukov is contrasted with many people, Shukhov himself, the captain, and many others.?Fetiukov, that jackal, had come up closer too and now stood opposite Tsezar, watching his mouth with blazing eyes.? ?which meant more to him now, it seemed, than freedom itself: but he would never lower himself like that Fetiukov, he would never look at a man?s mouth.? From these two quotations, the author brings contrasting light to the two men, Fetiukov and Shukhov. Fetiukov is portrayed as a ?jackal?, which have many negative connotations of greed, shamelessness,...

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