Book: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Author: Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Job: Line Illuminator
Pages: 23 - 68
|The barren, empty landscape of Siberia|
Page 23: "The sentries sit in warm quarters, their sleepy heads propped against their rifles - it's not all milk and honey for them either, lounging on the watchtowers in such cold. The guards at the main gate tossed coal into the stove. The campguards in their room smoked now clad in all their rags, a rope around their waists, their faces bound from chin to eyes with bits of cloth against the cold, lay on their bunks with their boots on and waited, eyes shut, hearts aquake, for their squad leader to yell: 'Out you go.'"
As I read this passage, even though it is apparently very simple, many ideas came into my mind. To begin with, these phrases truly express how life in Siberia is difficult. At the time, communication between two distant places was indeed very hard, as there was no email or internet. Therefore, if something was straight out missing the gulags, the message requiring extra supplements would probably take months to arrive at the Russian capital, and would consume even more time for equipment to arrive. I got this information from the part of the quote that says how cold it could be at times. As a consequence, this leaded me to do some research on the Russian territory of Siberia, and it appeared that the place was a complete snow desert, without any sight of civilization. This idea clearly expresses how hard administration of such camps could be in the epoch. Furthermore, since the place was so snowy, obviously, not many plants can grow in such a harsh type of climate, making the food supplies extremely limited. Last but not least, this passage might have as well taught me how difficult the life of a soldier or prisoner could be inside a gulag. For instance, soldiers needed to obey many orders from higher military ranks and not commit many mistakes, as this could result in severe punishment. This system is somewhat similar to the situation of the prisoners, yet they don't have a warm shelter available as the soldiers do, and they could lose their meal due to an error when in their labor duties.
Quote #2 + Extra:
|Image representing a man hiding an object|
Page 25: "Stitch, stitch, stitch, and the little tear in the mattress was mended, with bread concealed over it.
Page 26: "Alyosha was smart - he'd make a chink in the wall and hidden the little book in it, and it had survived every search.
The main reason why I chose particularly two phrases for this analysis was because I wanted to emphasize more the true ideas they express. For me, the concept that most stood out here was how the prisoners of the gulags did not have the right to have any more belongings than the other ones. Right at the beginning of the book, Shukhov mentions that his new valenki pairs were found and taken from him, as he wasn't allowed to have two pairs. Probably, due to the regulations of the army camp, interns were not allowed to pertain anything more superfluous or in higher amounts in their daily lives. Moreover, the first quote can tell you how scarce food was for the local prisoners. As I said before in my last post, the people in a gulag are in there because they committed some sort of political crime such as complaining of the government's actions, going against the communist regime, etc.. Due to this, people inside the camp were brought in there to be punished and to face the harsh reality the prisoners were in. Thus, no extra belongings were allowed inside the camp.
|"No dogs and Chinese allowed" sign displayed in a building|
|Chinese communist uniform|
"At once he noticed that his fellow squad member Tsezar was smoking a cigarette, not a pipe. That meant he might be able to cadge a smoke. But he didn't ask right away; he stood quite close up to Tsezar and, half turning, looked past him."
Even though this passage is only communicating to the reader simple ideas, many questions and connections came to my mind as I read it. My grandfather once told me that when he went to the Soviet Union in 1988, he said that waving a cigarette in the middle of the streets would stop any car, be it a taxi or private. At the time, since it was a communism, taxi drivers would receive the same amount of money, leaving no reason for them to ride anyone to a certain place. However, if offered a pack of high-quality cigarettes, they would stop immediately. Certainly, the imported cigarettes did not exist for the public in communist times, and the cigarettes that were available were absolutely terrible. Therefore, the only way for them to obtain such a better item was through the tourists. In addition, my family members told me that one day, they were in a restaurant in a hotel in Soviet Russia and they didn't reserve any seats for dinner. Nonetheless, the men ended up serving them a very good quality, Russian caviar and prepared a true banquet, without them having any reservation. Withal, after they finished eating the only thing the waitress wanted by payment was twenty cigarette packs that costed only twenty dollars in the hotel's shop. The form of payment in this shop was exclusively Dollars, which was restricted to the Soviets to possess. In the end, my grandfather bought the packages and gave it to the waiter, which did not require anything else from them. Now, back to the original subject, from the last quotes I mentioned in this post, it was obviously expressed that superfluous items were not allowed inside a gulag. Then, how was Tsezar actually smoking one? As you could see in the quote, smoking was very valuable inside an army camp like this as well, as Shukhov approached his friend to try and get a puff. This all gives us a sense overall of how superfluous or "unnecessary" were absolutely restricted in the communist regime. Take a look at these other life experiences of my grandparents. For instance, when they were in the Soviet Union and, in another trip, in China, while they walked in the streets, it called a huge attention of the public because of the way they were dressed. At Russia, people were very poorly dressed, being absolutely impressed by the jeans and sunglasses my whole family were wearing, and they even offered items to trade them with. Adding on, when they were in Chinese territory, as everyone wore the same colors (white and grey), it was unbelievable the rue of the clothing my family wore to them. Colors that seemed like they have never seen before in clothing. In fact, they even stopped their daily routines and made circles around them just to take a look at their "unusual" outfits. Moreover, due to the luxury inside some local hotels in China, the natives were not allowed inside the building. Actually, there was even a plaque written: "No Chinese or dogs allowed inside". More, in communist China, money for tourists and for the natives were completely different, so there wouldn't be any negotiations with the public. Lastly, the hotels for tourists, be it in any communist sight, were designated by the own government, meaning the customer could not choose were he would like to be hosted. In general, all of this gives us a bit of sense of how the life of these people were back then. They did not have any rights to interact with tourists or own special objects of their desire. Overall, this hints us with how awful life could be in a communist regime due to the extremely limited, harsh, and restrained life it can provide you with.
Dogs and Chinese image site link unavailable: Picture's link