Saturday, October 18, 2014

History and Culture - Jessica

How did historical events influence the ideas in the novel?  What cultural issues may have influenced, challenged, or inspired the author?

The book takes place in Russia during the time of the Soviet Union. People go into prison camps and work all day. The guard were very strict and the prisoners received very little food. The author of this book, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, was a Russian who spread awareness of the Gulag and what happened in the prisoner camps. He was arrested many times and was a prisoner in the camps. The book tells what it is like to be a prisoner in the camps. These issues that he encountered in the past inspired him to write this book. He survived the reign of the soviet union, and wrote a book on his experiences. He had to go through everything they are talking about in the book. He got a small amount of bread or any type of food, he had to work in the freezing weather, and many other terrible things. These challenges he faced inspired him to write this book. He wanted people to know what it was really like to be a prisoner. Their government lied to their citizens, and they didn't know what it was really like, no one did except for the people who have been there. All of these cultural challenges the prisoners are going through in the book are Alexander Solzhenitsyn's past. A big challenge that prisoners went through at the camps was lack of food. In the book it said "you had to eat with all your mind on the food - like now, nibbling the bread bit by bit, working the crumbs up into a paste with your tongue and sucking it into your cheeks. And how good it tasted - that soggy black bread!" (pg. 47-48) This quote shows how good just a little bit a bread can be, and that you need to savor every bit of it. It is crazy how little they feed them. They barely get any food. The book has talked about people stealing food from the kitchens because they are so hungry. Overall, there are many historical and personal aspects that inspired the author to write this book.


  1. Great post, Jessica!
    I agree with you, if he hadn't been a prisoner in one of the camps, he wouldn't be able to truly write this book. This is due to the fact that he wouldn't actually know what it was like to be a prisoner.
    If he would've written this book without being a prisoner, Shukhov would be an anonymous character, not based in anyone. As I also said in my own post, I believe Shukhov is Alexandr's mirror, as he sees the world the way Alexandr saw it.
    I think it is interesting to understand Shukhov's point of view, because then, we are also analyzing Alexandr's point of view and experiences, learning a bit of history.
    Thank you,

  2. Good post Jessica,
    I completely agree with what you said. The idea that the story was based on his personal experiences is very true. Also when you said that you learn history from his point of view is also very true. I would like to ask you a question, do you presume that this story is a combination of multiple experiences and that he pictures himself as Ivan Denisovich or do you believe he took some stories and created a bigger picture with a made up character.

  3. Good job, Jessica!
    I agree with you, the way the book is so detailed may be because Alexandr can remember all the things he experienced in prison. Also, being in prison, puts a person in a very tough and probably uncomfortable situation, he was very brave to write about it. The way he shares and comments on the multiple experiences he went through is what makes the book challenging.
    What you said about getting very little food and being very grateful when getting it really made me think about social statuses. For sure, at the same time that these prisoners were "starving" there must've been richer people who were getting too much. That may be another reason why the novel is challenging, because it shows how the world is not perfect and points out it's flaws.
    Great post!!

  4. Jessica,
    I really enjoyed reading your post. Some of your ideas were similar to mine, such as the book would not be the same at all if there were not views reflect in it from the personal experience of the author. I think that this kind of connects to what Gabi said about Shukov being Alexander's mirror. If Shukov was not able to reflect the real thoughts and feelings of a person it would have seemed less real.
    Thanks for your post,