The Prisoners Of “The Long Sheet”

872 words - 4 pages

Imagine being a prisoner tasked with a strange sentence. The prisoner is to be let free when the sheet draped across room is completely dry. However, the prisoner is not burdened with this task alone. The task is shared with several other prisoners who must work together to ever hope to get out. This is the basis of “The Long Sheet.” However, this strange tale also offers a detailed look into the variety of work ethics and the mishaps each room faces that will prevent them from drying the cloth completely. This story and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich provide much about work habits.
Each group has at least one weakness that will prevent them from ever reaching the desired goal. The prisoners in Room Three all wanted freedom. However, they put in insufficient effort and let the comfortable routine run their lives (“The Long Sheet” 2). No one in Room Three was able to put in the maximum effort required to completely dry the cloth. The prisoners in Room Two suffered from the differing tactics of each prisoner. Each one attacked the problem in a different way. One would make attempts to avoid touching the cloth, while another would attempt to find shortcuts in the system (“The Long Sheet” 3). Neither worked together or put both mind and effort into drying the cloth, which resulted in the cloth remaining wet. The prisoners in Room Four never attempted to dry the cloth. Those who did attempt to dry the cloth eventually succumbed to the laziness of the others (“The Long Sheet” 3-4). Freedom was not worth the effort for the prisoners in Room Four. Each of the prisoners eventually fell to the laziness the others radiated, which kept the cloth wet. Room One was the only room that dried the cloth completely. Every person shared the same attitude toward the sheet. Each person understood their job and put both their mind and muscle into the job at hand. This allowed a collective effort to wring the cloth dry. They didn’t overwork; rather, they kept to a rhythm, which kept them going (“The Long Sheet” 4). The weakness of the people in Room One was that they were naïve. The prisoners in Room One actually believed that they would be let free after drying the cloth. Samson emphasized each group’s weaknesses, and why each group failed.
The title of each room described the group’s work ethic. “Those Who Sought Outside” (“The Long Sheet” 2) symbolized Room Three’s desire to escape. “Those Who Sought In and Out and Around” (“The Long Sheet”...

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