Week 1: vii (introduction) xviii; xix-(foreward) xxii; pp. 3-22
Job 1: Question Commander
1- What do you believe is the significance of the introduction and foreword chapters and why do you think that they were included in the book?
I believe that these beginning chapters were extremely important in order to understand the significance of some key events on the first part. I had begun directly reading the novel part, and frankly, was completely lost in the setting and some ideas being presented. So, I decided to go back and read the introduction and foreword, hoping they would shed some light in these areas. I realizes that since this is a historical fiction novel, the background information is extremely influential. I believe it is important to understand the camp in which Ivan is living in, what it is and who is there in order to make sure everything is clear. It is also interesting to learn that this was the first book to actually expose these Soviet camps, and that the author actually attended one. The introduction also explains a bit about the character himself, his motives and intentions, and this will help us fully grasp the character development further on in the novel. For these reasons, I believe that the person that is in charge of the research this week must do a thorough job of explaining the Soviet regime in order to help us understand it a bit better.
2- We don't know anything about Shukhov's past, however, can we infer anything about his character through the way that he acts around camp?
For me, Shukhov is still a mystery. I do not understand what he did to be sent to the labor camp or how his life is. Yet, I can notice a few trends throughout the few pages that we have already read. I can see that it is a extremely tough routine, and that the men seem to be suffering tremendously. After some small research on these Soviet labor camps, I learnt that the men attending them were ones who had committed crimes worthy of life sentences. It is still a mystery to me what Ivan did to end up there. However, I noticed that he seems to know his way around and how to do things in order to survive in the least painful way. He knows about the process of the hospital, as well as who to trust with his food. In the introduction, it is mentioned that Ivan is a person whose ambition is to survive, and does everything he can to do so. He is not a rebel and works hard to live the way he does. I am very interested to learn about his past and his actions.
3- Are the first pages already enough to understand why the book was banned in Russia? Explain why or why not.
In the introduction, it is explained why it was banned, for it was revealing too much about the Soviet labor camps. The sort of information that was supposed to be censored. If I did not have that information though, I would probably need to understand a bit more of the timing and the Soviet regime in order to make that connection. I needed to understand where it was happening and how the people dealt with it in order to comprehend. In my opinion, the camp does have some characteristics that distinguish it and help us understand what is happening. However, we needed to know the background information about the author in order to know the reasons. We also do not have a lot of information on the camp itself, so we must read on to understand.