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One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich Novel Analysis


This novel narrates a prisoner named Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, who awakes at 5:00 a.m., a time considered late. He was imprisoned at the gulag. He gives an excuse that he was sick, but the warden does not pardon him, for those who were sick were expected to report a night before and be enrolled in a list.

He is given a punishment to wash the floor of the office before having breakfast. After breakfast, the orderly finds him not to be so sick. He is then assigned the routine task for the day: to build a brick wall with his inmates in a group named Gang 104. This was to be done in a frigid environment in the cold. The book additionally explains the poor diet that they got for dinner which was not enough, Shukhov is seen to take additional bowls of gruel.

During this day, he was almost late with his group for the evening roll call. During the roll call, an inmate was missing. Shukhov thought that this would have ruined his day. Another late group is approaching for a roll call, but Gang 104 fights them so that they can take supper before them. Shukhov carries with him a metal with which he intends to make a bread knife. He seizes supper meant for another inmate and takes some, later as he goes back to his hut, he buys tobacco. During the evening roll call, Shukhov saves an inmate by helping him hide his pack back with a piece of sausage and biscuits. He considers this to be a successful day (Solzhenitsyn).

Integrity in the Camp

The camp aims to uphold the morals of the Zeks. All people in this environment are expected to carry out themselves with dignity. However, this is not the case right from the camp officials. Kolya Vdovushkin was not a trained medical officer, Stepan Grigorych had advised himself to act as a medical officer. He was entrusted to examine the health of the inmates and even to the point of making injections to the innocent zeks (Solzhenitsyn 12). This contradicts the morals and integrity expected in a public place. Integrity dictates that a person should act as his nature is genuinely not acting in pretense. People with integrity are expected to be morally upright.

Shukhov, a prisoner is described as a principled man who refuses to be exploited in any way. He does what he feels is good all the time. He refuses to take the eyes of the fish although the food is not enough and his hunger. He is also principled to take off the hat as he eats despite the cold weather. Even in the realization of the many needs he has, he refuses to be a ‘scrounger.’ He is very committed to his work even though he was not paid. Doing the tasks assigned to him with integrity makes him enjoy the tasks given, and at the end of the day, he derives self-fulfillment and joy (LitCharts). Integrity thus helps individuals live stress-free lives irrespective of the difficulties surrounding them.


LitCharts. Identity, Principles, and Dignity. 9 Feb 2014. 13 Feb 2018. <>.

Solzhenitsyn, Alexander. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. USA: Penguine Books, 1963.



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