One Day in The Life of Ivan Denisovich


One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsynis a book about a man in a Siberian labor camp in 1951. He was sent there on a wrongful accusation of treason. When he was at war with his country he was captured and sentenced to ten years in this Siberian labor camp. He got lucky, because a few years later, the sentence was increased to 25 years. Every day is almost the same for out main character. He wakes up before dawn usually every morning. The morning in the book, however, he is suffering from headaches and pains from the night before. Usually being to the first up in the morning, he decides to rest a little longer and gets punished to three days in the guard tower. Luckily, he gets off with a threat from the guard and only has to clean the floor. After this his normal day resumes. The prisoners get barely any food a day and work constantly making buildings out in the old fields. There are many conflicts present in this book. These conflicts include man vs. society, man vs. man, and man vs. nature.


The conflict man vs. nature is a big part of this book. “The temp out there was –17; Shukhov’s temperature was +99. The fight was on”(p. 19). This is one of Ivan’s mornings. The previous night he was not feeling well and went to see a doctor only to learn that his temperature was just under being able to skip work for that day. “Difficult as it was to start working in such cold, the important thing was to get going”(p. 44). The prisoners of the camp are not treated too well and have to do the work that is required of them. The only way to skip a day of work is if the temperature is less than 47 degrees. “During the march, Shukhov’s face had grown quite wet from his breath. In some parts the frost had caught it and formed an icy crust”(p. 36). Just prior to that day’s work, the men are lined up with their squads for the routine body count and frisk. During this certain routine, the guards make the prisoners open up their jackets and take off any undergarments that are not allowed, Ivan, luckily, is clean.


Another major conflict in this story is man vs. man. “How much water are you going to use, idiot? Who on earth washed like that?” (p. 11). In the very beginning, Ivan is taken by a guard to the guardhouse because he slept in just a little. By mere chance, Ivan got away with a threat and only a couple minute’s worth of floor washing. “There was no hiding from him. At first, in’ 49, he’d been in the habit of carrying a whip of plaited leather, as thick his forearm. He was said to have used it for flogging in the cells”(p. 26). This explains Lieutenant Volkovoi, the security chief, as he orders the under garment search of the prisoners. Lieutenant Volkovoi is very disliked by all of the prisoners. “Men having their throats cut, in their bunks. And you call it quieter!”(p. 56). The prisoners are arguing whether the “quite” life of their labor camp was harsher or easier than a different camp. They think that at this one, its dangerous and is a horrible life.


The most important conflict in One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich man vs. society. “There were escort guards all over the place. They flung a semicircle around the column on its way to the power station, their machine guns sticking out and pointing right at your face”(p. 30). The “column” was the giant line that the squads had to form before the body count and frisk. The guards controlled the prisoner s cruelly and it was extremely cold while the prisoners had only jackets and the guards had enormous coats. “Ivan had left home on June 23, 1941”(p. 32). This was when Ivan was sentenced and sent to the labor camp. Eh was sentenced for treason, which he did not commit. “A man can survive ten years—but twenty-five, who can get through alive”(p.