Monday, April 20, 2015

Question Commander - Sophia Takahashi

Question Commander - Sophia Takahashi

Sophia Takahashi - Question Commander
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich - Pages 33-68
Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Rotation #2

Shown from the previous pages, Ivan keeps a piece of bread inside a pocket in his jacket. When the guards search the prisoners, is the bread considered an 'illegal ration'? How do they know it's his ration (38 Solzhenitsyn)?

During the search, the guards found two prisoners with illegal belongings - and one of them was severely punished.  The guards could have accidentally forgotten to check Ivan's jacket, or accidentally missed it, due to it being hidden so well. Later shown in the book, the bread was hidden away from the guards and it was illegal to be carrying such bread into the power stations - Ivan was either lucky or really experienced in hiding food/clothing.

Moreover, I find that the guards have no way in knowing if the hidden ration was Ivan's or not (if they would have found out about his hidden pocket). Of course, if this would have happened, it would not have been shown in the book, due to the novel being 'One Day in the Life' - Denisovich would have been punished, which it would have been abnormal to a day in the life. 

The narrator finally reveals that the story is taken place in 1951. Does this affect the story in any way? Why did the narrator only reveal this now?

The narrator begins to reveal dates at around Page 40. This might be due to many reasons. The narrator explains that Ivan Denisovich was sent to jail in 1941, and this date is revealed by a letter sent from Ivan's wife. 

I find that the date doesn't affect the story's context in any way, but give's the reader the idea of where the story taken place in (the reader knows that the story is during the Russian Revolution, but not the specific year). This gives the reader more of the idea of where the story is set - in the beginning, middle or end of the Russian Revolution.

The narrator might've not felt the need to express the date before - he/she might've only felt the need to tell the reader at this part of the novel.

The prisoners from the Gulag are separated in 'Gangs' (Gang 104, etc.) - why is this?

I think that this is all due to organization of the gulag and equal distribution of prisoners between the guards. By separating the prisoners into 'Gangs', they are able to distribute the jobs in the Gulag/Village equally and rationally (an rationally as it can between the prisoners). I am not sure why the guards/officials decided to call them gangs, but this clearly improves organization between/inside the gulag. Guards can keep up with the amount of prisoners, and are able to keep the least from escaping, etc.


  1. I believe your blogpost - Question Commander was and is really good and powerful, it also gives the reader a little more about the book and also how you give your own opinions about these questions of yours.

  2. Sophia,

    Your blog post was excellent! I adored your questions, they really pushed my thinking forward and just, in general, made me think about the book more than I normally would. I agree with basically everything that you said when you answered your questions, especially your first question. But now I'd like to ask you a question, if the author hadn't revealed any dates at all throughout the novel and you still hadn't learned anything about the Russian Revolution, do you think this would've affected your understanding of the novel?

  3. Sophia,

    I loved your thorough questions; I thought it really made me reflect on many things. In fact, while reading your questions, I answered them and thought to myself how almost all three questions connected to the idea of rules in the camps. For example, one of the agreements was to not keep extra rations of bread or being separated in 'gangs'. Besides from this quick connection, I thought that your first question was the one that intrigued me the most because it made me think of human rights. Obviously, there are, in no way, any human rights in this camp; however, I do think that not accepting "additional" rations is just crazy. Apart from their "additional" rations being no more than 1/5 of a bread, the "right" ration of food is really small. Sometimes I ponder why the guards have never asked themselves why prisoners have the need to take an extra ration of food?