Sunday, August 31, 2014

Question Commander (Rotation #2)- Gaetano Cremoux

A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich 
Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Part #2- Pg. 22- 68
Question Commander

Why are the prisoners suppressed in such a vicious manner? They seem to be fairly civilized and pleasant enough.

I think that these prisoners are not actually as civilized and pleasant as they appear to be. I think that the only appear to be so civilized because they are kept in line by the strict guards. I am of the opinion that if the guards were to relinquish their control over the prisoners for just a day, all hell would break loose. From what I have read so far, the only reason that the prisoners actually behave appropriately is because of the harsh regimen they are forced to follow. However, not all of the prisoners are savage criminals. In fact, it seems like most of them are there for petty crimes. I think that it is the prison itself that created these animals, not the other way around.
 Prison cells, similar to those in the book

Why are these prisoners, who seem to have committed no serious crimes, forced to stay in these Gulags for so long? Why aren't they just exiled or punished less harshly?

I think that these innocent-ish people have not been exiled/punished less severely because the USSR needs to keep up the appearance of having no tolerance towards rule-breakers. Although the rules that they have broken are insignificant, they are still rules, and the USSR shows no toleration to any kind of rule breaking. For this reason, these men are strictly punished for the smallest of offenses. Also, more men in camps means more labor, and more labor means more profit. Therefore, the more men in the camps, the more money the USSR makes. Unfortunately, the innocent men are the ones who pay for this system, and Russia the one who benefits.
Men working in a Gulag

Why do you think that the author decided to write about this particular day in Ivan's life?

So far, at least to me, it seems like a very normal day in the life of Ivan Denisovich. Nothing very unusual seems to have happened until now. So presuming that it is indeed a normal day, why did the author decide to write about this day in particular? Simply because he wanted to express the daily life of these Gulag camps. He wanted to show us the terrible routine of these poor prisoners, and the horrors they face on a day to day basis. He wrote about this day to demonstrate the way these prisoners lived, and to describe their everyday pain. This way, we would be able to feel for these prisoners and understand their lives more accurately.

Ivans' Daily Routine (I created Image)


  1. Gaetano,

    What a brilliant post! Your questions are very deep and thought-provoking, and I am willing to answer them.

    To begin with, your first questions asks why these prisoners are being punished so badly even though they seem to be civilized people. Well, actually, these people are inside the gulag for probably two main reasons. The first one is because they didn't agree with Stalin's communist way of government, while the other is that they created some sort of treason to the Soviet Union. In other words, they were once regular civilians, but were sent to this military camp to suffer the consequences of their "treason". In fact, such a gulag was definitely not a regular prison. Obviously, the interns are revolted with the government and the guards, but they cannot form a rebellion, as the guards are heavily armed, giving them a much larger power.

    Moving on, the next question mentions why are these people forced to suffer so much, even though they committed a minor crime. The answer to this question is quite simple, to be honest, even though it is very impressive. Joseph Stalin was an absolute madman, governing Soviet Russia only with power. Then, anyone that was against his communist philosophy were forced to face these horrid consequences. Actually, he killed twenty million people that didn't agree with this type of government. Thus, the gulags were kept in secret from the public for them not to realize the forced way of life they were restricted to. Concluding, according to Stalin's wishes, all these "traitors" of the nation were brutally murdered because they weren't supporting to him. Overall, it was because of these orders why these millions of people died, and it must have been a very difficult time to be living in.

    Gaetano, your post was absolutely awesome and pushed my thinking forward. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with me!


  2. Great post! I feel like you touched some extremely important topics in this part of the book.
    I chose to answer your second question, because I believe there is a a lot of historic background that could explain that and lots of different aspects to acknowledge. Firstly, I agree with you that it is all about the extremely harsh regimen that was employed in the Soviet Union during that period in history. The people did not have many choices and there were strict decrees, as mentioned in the book, that were to be followed. I believe that it all goes back to the point of equality versus freedom. It being a communist nation, we are brought to believe that all people have the same rights, however they do not have much freedom. This results to them being sent to prison for small reasons. That is why I believe they have two different kinds of camps, one being the "special" ones, for political crimes. These men are all there because they betrayed their nation in some way, and it is a sort of a different kind of crime than stealing a piece of bread. They have a extreme regime, which consists of people not being able to disagree with the way that the country is ruled. I also believe that the government wants to censor some of the information, therefore sending the men to different prisons than the regular prisoners. Maybe they do not want people to know about the German troops, or or the people that have betrayed their country. Do you feel like there is some sort of information that the government want to hide from the people? Is that one of the reasons that they separate regular and political crimes? Do you think that the men in regular camps are treated the same way as the ones in "special" camps?
    Congratulations on your post, I specially like the image that the men are working on the Gulag, I was wondering what it was like!

  3. Gaetano,

    Your post was very interesting and all questions helped me to push my thinking forward. Although, I think your second question made me think the most. Therefor, I will answer that question for you to understand what I think about it.

    To begin with, we don't truly know what they have committed or done. We do not know the real reason to why they are in there, and why they are being treated like that. To me, I believe they are being treated so harshly to make 100% sure, that they will never do it again. Although, if your theory is correct, I believe that there is some people in that camp that did do horrible things. The camps believes that everyone should feel the same things because maybe if you treat one better than the other, the other might be very mean to the one treated better. Another strategy, is what you said, they make them work harder for more profit. To gain more money which is good for all of them, besides the worker.

  4. Gaetano,

    In your first question, I think that the purpose of this act is to show who is the boss here, who is in control here. They must put fear in the prisoners to stop them from standing their ground. This is a risky move because the prisoners may react in an unexpected matter.

    This brings in the discussion we had in class about communism. Communism is basically collecting resources/currencies, and sharing it among everybody. And to do that, you need power; you need power to take people's wealth. One person or a group having all the power just for the rest of the people to have equality doesn't sound like it follows the idea of communism. I think that this question clearly shows inequality in a society that is trying to use communism.

    Second of all, I agreed with the thought that the prison changed the prisoners' choices. But if most of the prisoners aren't dangerous criminals, the prisons wouldn't change their thoughts and actions at all. If they are truly kind hearted people (such as prisoners like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn), they would stand their position. If you consider yourself a caring person, consider this question: Do you think that you would become a monster if you went to one of the camps? Now, do you still think that prisoners make kind people monsters?

  5. Dear Gaetano ,
    Great Post ! Answering your first question , I agree in some aspects with you. The effect is much greater then the cause. What I mean is that they are being harshly punished considering what they have done. But as others have already stated , we do not know what crimes the prisoners have committed. We have to understand that some prisoners do deserve to be punished harshly , taking in mind the variety of crimes that can be committed in order to be in the Gulag camps. I agree , prisoners seem civilised but I think they are not civilised , a civilised person doesn't belong in prison.

    Answering the second question , my answer is: there's limits for everything. There's limits for everything including punishments. Yes , someone who commits a crime , deserves to be punished , but fairly. Gulag camps are unfair for prisoners ( ). Prisoners , were considered people with no value. Some prisoners died because of the way they were treated in the camps. But as you stated , we're talking about the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union has no toleration and no second chances towards criminals , they obviously prefer Gulag camps.

    Answering your last question , I think that this day because it's a special day. I know , it doesn't seem like a special day right now , it seems like a normal day. But we need to remember a day was 24 hours , there's still a chance that something special will happen. I agree , the author wants to demonstrate to everyone how life was in the Gulag camps. Do you also agree that something special will happen ? If you do , what do you think will happen ? If you don't , why ?
    Again , Great Post !!

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  7. Gaetano, I agree with most of your assumptions regarding your first question. I certainly agree with the fact that if the guards would loosen their hold on the prisoners that they would certainly do their best to run away, wouldn't you? I bet most prisoners think they're there for unfair reasons, even though they're not, and regard the guards with cold anger. Some of those men probably appreciate power, and even though they might not recognize it they respect the power guards hold over the prisoners. I also agree about your thought that most people might be their for petty/accidental crimes, as even the person bunking below Ivan seemed devoted to the Bible and his religion.