Sunday, August 31, 2014

Question Commander - Juliana R.

In the second part of the book One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, I came up with three broad questions about the book, not really what happens in the book because I think it could bring more of a discussion. 

1. Why does Solzhenitsyn call the protagonist by the name “Ivan Denisovich” in the title but by the name “Shukhov” almost everywhere else in the narrative?

I think that the author calling Shukhov by two different names is based on the relationship of someone with the character. For example, calling by the family name, Shukhov, indicates government information files. While for the first and middle name, Ivan Denisovich, on the contrary, shows trusting and confidential conversations which people care for and that information can be revealed with no fear that it won't be told to anyone else. So, the two different names shown mistrust. Calling him by the first and middle name is friendly, but the prisoners don't trust him and call him by the last name. 

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is one of the most famous political novels of the 20th century. Yet its protagonist never talks about any political opinions. What is so political about this novel?

I think that the political significance in this book isn't said by the characters but by what it represents. Te author wrote things that people from the Soviet state did not allow. The problems with the communist's conception with labor made the book's publication a mark in the Soviet history. The labor camps shown in the book had never been mentioned in any other Soviet books. The only reason people know it existed is because people had family who were sent there. However, after this book was published, the whole worlds knows about it. 

Why does Solzhenitsyn describe only a single day of Shukhov’s life?

i think he only describes one day in Shukhov's life because it emphasizes that his days belonged to the Soviet government and not himself. A day in a normal person's life is just time passing by, but Ivan Denisovich's day is part of his sentence, which has powerful political significance. He cannot plan his day by what he would like to do, like in the life of many protagonists from other novels. His day is strictly dictaded by the high Soviet powers. The government regulate day shows how exhausting it is to have a life like that one. 


  1. Juliana,

    Great post! I really liked your questions overall, yet the one that most interested me was your second, which said:

    "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is one of the most famous political novels of the 20th century. Yet its protagonist never talks about any political opinions. What is so political about this novel?"

    To begin with, even though there are no political opinions expressed in the book, behind the scenes, a whole bunch of things are involved in politics. At the time, nothing was known about any existent gulags in the earth. Their existence was completely unknown to the people, and only government officials knew about it. The reason why it was so secret was for the Soviet people not to realize the tough and restricted way of life they were in. Thus, the logic behind why this was a worldwide best-seller is because it was demonstrating what it was like inside a gulag by an ex-prisoner, which was the author himself. Joseph Stalin was actually an insane ruler, as he killed twenty million people that didn't agree with his communist way of government. This book tells how the life was inside a gulag controlled by Stalin's government. Overall, it also gives us a bit of sense of how the regular civilian life was back at the time in Soviet Russia and how restricted their lives were. Did you know that Alexander Solzhenitsyn was actually the first man to denounce the existence of these army camps? Therefore, this is why the book was such a success: because everything is true.

    Juliana, your post is truly excellent, and it was a pleasure to comment on it. Thank you for pushing my thinking forward!


  2. Juliana

    Great post, you wrote a lot of good answers to your questions. I think your questions are very strong and so are your answers. I mostly like your second question the most of all because it is a very strong question and it makes me think about the book a lot and when you said "The labor camps shown in the book had never been mentioned in any other Soviet books." and I never noticed that until you mentioned it. Great post.

  3. I specifically like your second question, especially because you talked about the way that the character does not show any political opinions. It really made me think, because it really is true, throughout the novel, the author does not express his opinions through the characters, at least not directly. However, I believe that in order to see what is between the lines, we must go back to what we read in the introduction about the history of the book and the writer's story. In that period in history, no one truly knew what it was like to live in a Gulag prison, only the people who were actually in one. The author actually experienced and saw it with his own eyes, and decided to expose it publicly to the entire world. That is what I feel is the biggest problem. Imagine the influence that it had in other countries and inside the Soviet Union itself. It must have caused a huge controversy, because it is basically a report on a day in the life of a regular prisoner. He does not express any belief, yet we can see that his main focus is on surviving. We see the way that these prisons are forcing the men to go to the extreme point in survival, and truly see what they feel like. If we analyze the way that the author describes the camp and Ivan's line of thought, we can see that he is expressing a belief, in some ways. In between the lines, he is criticizing the Gulag prison concept, and therefore criticizing the Soviet regime, which was a extreme crime at the time. This is a topic that I believe could relate to our world now. By writing this novel, the author was exposing something that the government did not want shared at the time. In our society, it does not even take a novel. With the internet, it has become increasingly easier to share this sort of information. Imagine what the impact on today's society would be if a report of this significance was posted or published publicly. Would it be different? How would people react? It is something to compare.
    Thank you for this great question, that imposes a great thought on political topics that could relate to our society nowadays.

  4. Juliana,

    I really liked your questions and how you decided to answer them from your point of view. My favorite question, as Bianca said, was the second question. This book, that we are reading, is one of the main political books ever written. Although, as you said, there is nothing too support that. THe write of the book doesn't make us realize it by what the characters say. Although, apparently said, that the person that had written this book, had attended a labor camp, exactly like this.

    Other than that, I think your third question was also very interesting and I would be glad to answer it. I think that they only mentioned one day because probably many days coming, it was the same and same. As you mentioned, he could not schedule his day like we do. Him and his day is owned by the labor camp. They decide what he will do each day and what he wont.

  5. Great post Juliana,
    I especially liked your last question, and it is something that a lot of people are asking so I want to try to respond.

    I think that the reason that the author is only writing about one day only is because they practically do the same thing every day. As we know the prisoners have to wake up early every day or else they get punished. I think that the gulag relates a lot with regular jail. That is because in the gulag and in regular jail the authorities get to demand everything. Also, practically everyday they have the same routine. I think that if the author was to write for a week about the life of Ivan they would probably repeat a lot of same stories. I didn't experience the gulag so I don't if they actually do repeat schedules, but that is what I came up as a response for your question.

  6. Hey Juliana, Wow! These questions are very broad, and I am surprised you knew how to respond to these questions. I never thought that the use of two names on the same character was for that reason, but now that I think about it, it makes sense. Why do you think the author does this, what do you think is the point to doing this, don't you think it would confuse the reader? As to your second question, I definitely agree with you, I think that the political side of this book is explaining what Communist Russia did. Not only that, but it is one of the only books that says exactly what the camp was on a daily basis. Finally, I think the reason why it only talks about one day is because the book is very slow, and if it were to talk about the whole week, then the book would be repeating itself every day. Not only that, but the author decided that detail to one day, and one day only would help the reader not only see what it was like in the camps, but also feel as if they were there.