One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Line # 1:
"They should have given us four twenty ounce loaves and I've only got three. Who's going to go short? He kept his voice low, but of course everyone in the squad heard him and waited fearfully to learn who would be losing a slice of bread that evening." (Pg. 7)
This quote personifies the struggle the inmates lived through on a daily basis. Gulags were known for the strain that they put on prisoners. They starved them, they overworked them, and the prisoners were not provided appropriate clothing for the cold, harsh weather. Prisoners would routinely die of starvation, exhaustion, and even freeze to death. They were located in remote regions where food were hard to find. The little food that they had was distributed in a haphazard manner, sometimes leaving little food for the inmates. This struggle to survive everyday is hard to imagine for me. I have never encountered such conditions. I and my family and everyone I know has what we need and want to survive and stay happy.
Line # 2
“And now here he was dreaming of being ill for two or three weeks, not dangerously ill, of course, not so bad that they’d have to operate, yet bad enough to go to the hospital and lie in bed for three weeks without stirring; and let them feed him on nothing but that clear soup of theirs; he wouldn’t mind. But, he recalled, now they don’t let you lie in bed even in the camp infirmary.” (pg. 22)
What must it be like to be sick when you’re relatively healthy? This is despair. The conditions in the Gulags were so bad that the inmates would prefer to be in the infirmary. I think this means that the next step would be to wish you were dead. This lack of hope was inevitable given the extreme conditions the inmates in the Gulags had to live in. The Gulags demonstrate the most a human can endure. In fact the word Gulag can be used to refer to a really bad place. One question you may have is why some people survived while other didn’t. Some inmates were both strong physically and mentally. Between 1930’s to 1950’s about 14 million people went to these corrective camps and many people didn’t survive the harsh conditions. This is revealed in Gulag statistics.