Sunday, September 7, 2014

Question Commander - Ji Won Jung

Question #1- What is the author trying to say in the pages that tell us the canteen scenes?

In this rotation, almost half of the pages are about food and how eating works in the prisons. I wondered why the author wrote so many pages of an average lunch time. First of all, I think that the author is trying to tell us the importance of food and survival as usual. Before this part, he also told us many cases in which food seems so precious. In page 72, it narrates, "How often had Shukhov in his youth fed oats to horses! Never had it occurred to him that there'd come a time when his whole soul would yearn for a handful of them." Even Shukhov is surprised that he is putting all his efforts to earning a bowl of oatmeal. Maybe the author himself thought this way when he was a prisoner. This could be a reason why Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn included this pretty long scene in the book, but I would like to know what other people think. For me, it seems quite odd for the author to write so much just about this specific topic.
Link (didn't link to the page due to convinced reasons)
If you saw the movie or read the book Lord of the Rings, you should know that Gollum, the creature in the picture, is attached to a ring. I could relate this image with the book because food for the prisoners is like the ring to Gollum. if Gollum can't find the ring, he starts to panic and look for it. If the prisoners don't get food, they will start to get mad or worry and demand for it. 

Question #2- Why do chef and the inspector get to basically do nothing while the rest of the prisoners work hard?

I don't understand why the chef and the sanitation inspector can rest while the prisoners do nothing. We must consider the fact that it was a communist country during this time, thus all men must be treated and given-as in wealth-equally. The prisoners are a huge example of why the prisoners don't follow the purpose of communism, but I think that page 69-70 (pages that describe the chef and inspector's job) supports the statement. The author obviously thought that this was unfair and included it in the book. That's probably a reason why the authorities banned the book, or else the people in the cities would find out that the government is keeping a secret and that their father or husband aren't being treated like they were promised. I want to know how others feel about this.
I chose this image because it shows the situation in the prison; specifically the canteen. The man on the left would be the inspector and the chef. They barely do any work. Meanwhile, the majority of the men are working hard. 

Question #3- Why is the office warm and cozy unlike the other indoor areas such as the canteen and the rooms?

When Shukhov went into the office to deliver a kasha to Tsezar, he felt cozy and comfortable staying in the office. Obviously, it would feel more pleasant because it is where the higher positioned authorities stay, such as the captain and superintendent, but why can't they install stoves or other heating system for the prisoners. During the whole book, the prisoners are shivering in cold. The author has spent enough time describing the weather, yet the authorities aren't reacting to the prisoners' wishes. The prisoners are men just like the authorities. They have the right to stay in a healthy condition like the authorities. This relates to the image I made for the illustrious artist post. Stalin is inside a warm room claiming that the prisoners outside are fine and they'll be okay although the prisoners are experiencing the complete opposite. A similar event happened in this part. They both involve temperature conditions and equality disorders.


  1. Ji won,

    Answering your first question, I also thought it was a little odd how much he wrote that was about food. For me, I think he is trying to prove how important and how much they need it to live. I think that it is like one of the top priorities for them. I agree with you that it is also talking about how important survival is to all of us. They are all working so hard just for food which in my opinion, is very cruel. I think that every person should get the right amount of food daily that they need and not need to work so hard just for food.

    I think maybe you should have used a picture of maybe people in Africa that are starving and are only getting a little amount of food and water daily. Although I liked your picture of how the food is so precious to them and how they will do anything just to get it.

    Moving on, answering you second question, which I found very interesting, I also was kind of confused. I think that they want to make the prisoners feel small and useless and that they are just their slaves. I think that they want to look wealthy and much bigger and better than the prisoners that have to do all the work.

    Gladly answering your final question, in the book it says why. They make the prisoners close all the areas that have air coming threw. Making the air inside, warm and not leak out. Although, they do not do that in any other room because the other rooms are where the prisoners stay. They let the prisoners be cold all night and don't even care one bit. The authorities feel like they are better and that they need better treatment than others. They make their room warm, and as I said earlier, make the prisoners feel cold every night and day.

    I liked both your pictures for questions #1 and #2. THey helped my thinking grow a lot!

  2. Ji Won,

    Although all your questions were very interesting, my favorite one was the last one. I think that the reason they don't install stoves or heaters where the prisoners are is because they want the prisoners to work more. Throughout the book, we can see that the prisoners are always complaining about the cold. However, we also see Shukhov admit that because of this cold, the only way to stay warm was to work hard. Therefore, the colder, the more people work. The more people work, the more fruit that the camp bears. The more yield, the more the USSR profits. See, it all comes back to the USSR profiting.

    Overall, great analysis and images. I really liked your post and I thought it helped me expand my view on the book.

  3. Ji Won,
    Answering your first question, I thought it was extremely interesting that you noticed that. I had thought about the whole aspect of food as something that is constantly appearing as a theme in the novel, and this was a great example. Throughout the entire book, we can see how Shukhov values food in ways that are beyond what we can expect. He works with the hope of getting a small retribution to his meal, he thinks of his old life and the food there, he saves every last grain of bread he can. I believe that the meal times are also a sort of ritual for Shukhov. In his daily life, he does get many moments when he can rest, or take control of his actions and thoughts. In the moment when he can simply sit and eat, it gives Shukhov his one moment to himself. He has also established his own ritual during the meal time, which consists of taking off his hat and taking his spoon from inside his boot. He also uses the scrap of bread to eat the last of his food. I believe that this gives Shukhov some form of control, or choice of how to do something in his life. During the period of his life where he lived in the Gulag labour camp, I believe this is something that was important to the author. In this novel, he tries to depict every thought of the regular political prisoner and their lives, giving a detailed report of the injustices present. Food is a great issue, and by taking enough time to truly explore the feelings involved in it, the author is specifying this issue. This book was extremely polemic due to the fact that none of these things had ever been told to the regular citizens, and this was their first experience to this topic. The author chose specific themes he wanted the people to know about, this being one of them. By prioritizing food so much, it shows how deeply the prisoners were connected to it, and how hard it was to live in the camps at that point. Do you feel like the author uses the theme of food too much? Is is connected to something else in the prisoner's lives?
    Overall, I like your connection to Gollum and I believe that you did a great job with deepening your questions. I also like that in your first answer you asked people what their opinion was once again, showing that you are interested in a continuous conversation.

  4. Ji Won,
    I also noticed how detailed the author went into describing foods and their meals. I agree with most of the things you have written, but also think that there is another big purpose to explain why there's so many instances in which food is being described. Think about this for a second, as a prisoner in a Gulag, what are you living for? What is the thing you strive for? Comfort, and food. Why are you breaking your back in your work so that your squad leader can write a good report. Food. What are one of the brightest parts of a zek's life? Time in the canteen. We haven't gotten an excessive amount of references to comfort (ex: heat, work, sleep, etc,) instead it is sprinkled around the passages, but food has been a main point in this third rotation. I believe there are so many references food so that the author can show us that most of the world does not experience food quite as thoroughly as prisoner's with just a piece of bread for lunch, and maybe oatmeal or a bowl of soup. How can we, that have multitudes of recipes, seasonings, sauces, etc, not appreciate food as well as zeks?

  5. Ji Won, your post was very complete, and I would love to answer your third and last question. Obviously, the office is the warmest place, because the people higher ranked, or with more authority stay there to sleep. But, I agree with you I think that the least the prisoners could have is a oven or something to heat them up. Where they stay, it is an extremely cold place. There are high risks of the prisoners getting a hypothermia, or any other sickness connected to the cold. On the other hand, many of the soldiers would fake being sick, and they wouldn't work as hard as they would with no oven. What I think they should do, is that they should reward the hard workers with heat, and with other things It is the same thing as being the "student of the month"

  6. Hello , Ji Won !
    Answering your first question , I agree , the author wrote more than the necessary on the same topic. I mean , if it was another topic , maybe about Shukov's past or some historical event it would be fine. But I just didn't think it was a good idea writing a lot on a very simple topic. I do understand those pages are supposed to help us have better knowledge about the prisoners daily meals but it wasn't necessary ( here is a link to my last blogpost which relates to the prisoners' meals :

    Answering your second question , I agree , it is kind of weird that the kitchen workers are treated differently from the prisoners. Something I thought at first was that the cook was also a "prisoner" and cooking was his job. That was only a small theory. But this idea totally vanished after reading this section of the book. The cook and the inspector are a totally different class from the prisoners. They are treated differently , they don't have to work the whole day and they probably don't get as exhausted as the prisoners.

    Answering your third question , my answer is: categories. Why I mean by these is that there are different categories in the Gulag Camps ; the leaders and the prisoners. Obviously the leaders have more power therefore more privileges , one of them being a warm and cozy office. Supposedly , the prisoners are inferior meaning they have less privileges and they have to deal with whatever temperature the room or place has.

    For me this image represents the leaders: ( ). The leaders are like cats inside a warm bed controlling everything that happens around them.

    For me this image represents the prisoners: ( ). The prisoners are like hungry dogs begging for more food.

    Do you think that in the remaining three parts of the book , the author will do something similar to this ? Do you think he will focus a lot in a simple topic ?

    Like the Gollum connection !!
    Great Post !