One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich Precis 1. ) Synopsis: The main character, Ivan, is serving a sentence for treason in a labor camp. He has been sentenced to stay in the camp for 10 years. The camp shows Ivan no mercy, and punishes him even when he is sick and does not feel as if his body is able to work. Despite his illness, Ivan continues to work in normal temperatures to survive and push through his gruesome sentence.
2. ) Characters: a. Ivan Denisovich: Had to serve 10 years in a labor camp for treason, Russian, not a very smart man, but understands his role in the camp, towards end of the novel he strives for humanity and means of his own existence even within prison b. Tyurin: not afraid of anything or anyone, shown to be a hero in the novel, does not deserve being thrown into the camp, shows the injustice of the Soviet Union society at the time, he was only thrown into the camp because Stalin had a random decision to kill of his class
c. Tsezar: always has food to bribe the camp watchers with so he gets special treatment, all the other inmates are jealous of him for getting special treatment, very high up on class rank, a foil for Fetyukov d. Fetyukov: beggar, relies heavily on other people for his own success, makes other people pity him to get what he wants, opposite of Tsezar in that Fetyukov is of lower rank and other people pity him instead of get jealous, does well for himself given the circumstances, although does not have dignity e.
Alyoshka: very religious, always read the Bible even while in a harsh camp, looked at as a figure for hope in the camp, actually enjoys his life while in the camp because then he does not have to worry about any material things that would distract him from loving God, he offers everything he owns to other people even though he does not have much f. Gopchik: young boy, sent to the camp for being too generous towards an enemy, shows the innocence that was killed by being thrown into a labor camp, had good intentions even though he was caught g.
Pavlo: serious guy, but very kind to others also, many other members of the camp look up to him because of his idea that if he is kind and patient the prisoner will do the work he is supposed to do, he also says that if the boss does not have one-on-one interaction, the prisoner will most likely disobey and not listen to him, so he shows mercy to get the prisoner to do their work without hurting anyone, true and shows leadership h. Buynovsky: known as “the captain” because he used to be in the military, has more rights in the camp than others but only main goal for him is survival, he is well educated and likes films i.
Eino: not a majorly important character, but shows that having your own personal life/ interaction with others is necessary to survival, often talks to his brother in his own language which helps keep his life private and away from rumors 3. ) Setting: a. The setting of this novel takes place in a labor camp in the Soviet Union. It was during the time period where Stalin was the ruler, and threw anyone he picked into a labor camp. The story most likely took place during a war time such as World War 2. Another important aspect of the setting is that it takes place during the winter time.
The winter helps add to the harshness of the camp. 4. ) Key Plot Moments: a. In the very beginning when Ivan is introduced, we learn that he is very ill and punished for oversleeping. The guard does not take into account that he is sick, and he is punished by being isolated for three days. Ivan then realizes that the punishment the guard stated was just a threat. This moment shows the mercy that the guards are giving, while at the same time wanting to look strong and in control of the situation. This might also lead the reader to believe that something is happening outside of camp to make the prisoner guards more relaxed and enient. b. Whenever Ivan first meets Alyoshka, he has some respect for the man. Alyoshka is shown to be a “God-like” figure within the camp. He is happy to work away all day because he believe it brings him closer to God and farther away from the unimportant material things that life brings him. Ivan also has a respect for Tyurin because he believes he has a decent soul. This respect that the prisoner show for each other brings about a sense of humanity even within the gruesome conditions. C. Near the end of the story, Ivan prays to himself, thanking God for allowing him to live another day.
Alyoshka hears Ivan and pushes him to pray properly, and after teaching Ivan, Ivan hands him a biscuit he was just awarded with by another inmate. Alyoshka rejoices over the biscuit and says his day has now been made a happy one. The humanity of trying to help other prisoners is apparent in this part. Also, the happiness explained over the simple piece of bread that is often taken for granted now is shown to help the reader understand the situation they are in. It is also said that the story was only one day that Ivan has lived. 5. )Key Quotes: a. There was nowhere to get warm and they couldn’t leave” (45)- This quote is helping to enforce the brutal weather that these prisoners had to endure. It is also used to show that they knew they couldn’t leave because then they would not stay warm. b. “Look here, Ivan Denisovich, your soul wants to pray to God, so why don’t you let it have its way? ” (139)- This quote helps to show Alyoshak’s personality and how he wants everyone to have someone to believe in. With his knowledge of the Bible and his own religion, he wants to help others learn the way that he has also come to love.
C. “Shukhov never overslept. He was always up at the call. ” (4)- This helps explain that Ivan was never known to oversleep. So, when he did oversleep, obviously something was wrong with him. The guard there did not take into consideration Ivan’s well-being, which is expected given that they are in a labor camp, but also, the guard did not enforce a very strict punishment onto Ivan. 6. ) Motifs: a. Bread- bread is shown countless times throughout the story. It is often looked at as the only real food that are given to the prisoners at this time.
To put this in comparison, bread for these prisoners would be the same as someone finding gold during the Gold Rush. Besides being the only actual food throughout the story, it can also be seen as their sacrifices and their own self-worth. The bread is often given to another camp prisoner as a sacrifice because they feel that the prisoner needs the bread more than others. b. Weather- The constant reminder of the harsh temperatures helps to represent that these prisoners are more prisoners than they realize. They have to face the guards on a daily basis, and the weather is always there.
The prisoners are aware that if they try to escape, the weather would kill them instantly. So, none of the prisoners escape or can escape. 7. ). Themes: a. Hope- Alyoshka’s character alone could help to represent the factor of hope throughout the camp. He is looked at as a “Godlike” character for his constant praying and reading of the Bible. He also puts other people before himself and never once is heard complaining about the life he lives in the prison. He often loves and embraces the situation he is in because he feels that it will bring him closer to God.
He also tries to enforce the importance he feels onto Ivan. As seen in the last part of the story, Aloshka’s pleading for Ivan to pray correctly is showing how Alyoshka effects the other prisoners as well. b. Rules- The rules are shown throughout the story, but are never truly enforced. One example of this is when Ivan overslept and was threatened to spend many days in an isolation room. Ivan knew it was a threat and not a serious punishment, but he showed to straighten up towards the guard who threatened him. The rules are put in place, but not every guard is completely enforcing them the way the reader would expect.
This could lead the reader to believe that something else in the outside environment is going on that the prisoners are not aware of. 8. ) Symbols: a. Spoon- The whole idea of the labor camp is to destroy the idea that everyone is different in the camp. The guard’s ultimate goal is to make all the prisoners feel equal, no matter what their rank was before entering the camp. This uniform idea of having everyone the same is why Ivan feels so unique. He always keeps the spoon in his boot after every meal without anyone knowing. b. Alyoshka- This character could play a symbol of hope, or religion throughout the entirety of the story.
He is often seen praying, reading the Bible, or giving away his food or items to others he feels need them more. He believes that God will take care of him no matter what anyone says to him. He also wants to express his love for God to the other prisoners to give them something to be happy for. 9. ) Lit Devices: a. Imagery: “He turned around and looked for somebody else to pick on, but everyone- whether in the dark or under a light, whether on a bottom bunk or a top one- was shoving his legs into the black, padded trousers with numbers on the left knee. – This helps show imagery along with the sentence before it describing where these prisoners have to sleep. b. Simile: “When he was through, the bowl was clean like it had been washed, except it wasn’t so shiny. “- This helps the reader become aware of how hungry these prisoners were. They were all hungry enough to clean the bowl by themselves and without any water to help them. c. Personification/Simile: “The column sort of jerked forward and buzzed around like a swarm of bees. “- This is comparing the line that the men traveled in to a swarm of bees.
It is also stating that the whole line jerked forward enough to make Ivan have to run to keep up with the rest of the men. d. Imagery/Simile: “The column let out a great roar like it was one man. “- This is showing that every man was in sync with another. So when all the men were walking or running around, it sounded as if one giant man was walking or running. e. Imagery: “There was a light bulb over the door and it was swinging and creaking in the freezing cold. And there was a kind of rainbow around all the lights but it was hard to say if this was rom the frost or because they were so dirty. “- Very good imagery shown in this quote. Allows the reader to visualize what the characters in the story are seeing at this moment. f. Simile: “The prisoners were at their coldest and hungriest when they check in through these gates in the evening, and their bowl of hot and watery soup without any fat was like rain in a drought. “- This is comparing the soup to having rain in a time of need. This helps demonstrate how thankful the prisoners are for the soup that they are given and that it is a very rare occasion. 10. )