Saturday, April 11, 2015

Marina Dissinger- Question Commander

Marina Dissinger
Rotation #1
Part One
Question Commander

What are the themes shown in the book until now?

Time is possession
The main thing stolen from prisoners at Stalin's camps is time - ten or twenty-five years of their lives. Because of that, any time they can call their own - in the morning before roll call or over meals or simply waiting to begin work - is precious. And conversely, any time that they are forced to wait or work extra is considered time stolen from them. This time is precious not just because it is a brief period of freedom but because the things prisoners like Shukhov do in their free time - earning money and favors by repairing shoes, for example - are necessary to their survival in the camps.

Finding freedom through work
The prisoner's entire day, from reveille to final count, is controlled by the authorities. He is given no choice in what work he does and is not paid, yet Shukhov takes pride in the work he does.

How does the book show how inhumane the camps were?

Solzhenitsyn demonstrates, through repeated examples, the ways in which a camp robs the humanity of someone. For example, when the guard taunts Shukhov about the way he washes the floor, saying, "Didn't you ever watch your wife scrub the floor, pig?" Shukhov responds sarcastically, saying, "I was taken from my wife in forty-one, citizen chief. I've forgotten what she was like." This response reminds the reader - who has not seen Shukhov missing his wife or even thinking about her at any other time that morning - of the life he has lost. This is more disturbing than any depiction of Shukhov missing his wife because it demonstrates the ways in which his long prison sentence has altered him and robbed him of basic human responses.

Similarly, we see an example of stolen humanity in the mess hall scene. "There at the table, before dipping his spoon in, a young man crossed himself. A West Ukrainian, that meant, and a new arrival too," Solzhenitsyn writes. "As for the Russians, they'd forgotten which hand to cross themselves with." Again, Solzhenitsyn demonstrates the destructive power of the camp system on the human spirit not through external abuses imposed upon the prisoners by the guards but through the prisoner's own internalized responses to this lengthy imprisonment. 


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  2. Marina,

    I loved all of your answers, especially the answer to question #3. The reason why I liked it was because it was the one that most made sense to me, and I do agree with you. As a summary to answer #3, you gave a few examples to how this camp showed a certain cruelty towards human kind. Something that I do want to add to your answer is the simple fact that they were not treated equally. Now, I'm not saying the whole world needs to be equal. However, I do want to say that if the people working in the camps were treated more or less as the leaders, things wouldn't be so cruel. To conclude with, I liked how you took your answers into research and wanted to find out more about your book.

  3. Marina,
    I like the themes you choose for the first question. It is definitely true what you said, time is precious where he is at. Either they have a few minutes to themselves or they get time to themselves taken away. They also have barely any freedom. Like you said, they are controlled by the authorities. I liked your response to the second question too. It made me think differently about the book, the camp was really inhumane. The authorities gave the people no respect at all, they treated them very poorly. Overall, I thought your post was really good.