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Published: 23-11-2019

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An Analysis of Ivan’s role as an Existential Character in Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

In his novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Alexander Solzhenitsyn illustrates the struggle for survival zeks faced inside the GULAG. He elucidates this successfully through the portrayal of a day’s experiences in the life of Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, a functioning-class prisoner in a Stalinist labor camp. Obtaining had initial-hand experiences with this communist regime himself, Solzhenitsyn establishes Ivan and his routine to typify that of an ordinary citizen inside the Russian society just as he once was as well. He vividly presents Ivan’s character through the use of numerous strategies in order to portray Ivan’s existential method to his imprisonment and survival inside a brutal program of injustice. In One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Solzhenitsyn develops Ivan as an existential character to juxtapose and contrast the gruelling environment propagated by the GULAG authority by way of the exemplification of Ivan’s behavioral code, and his seamless transition into the absurd setting of the GULAG, in turn generating symbols which serve to compliment Ivan’s existential characteristics.

Solzhenitsyn expands on Ivan’s existential nature via a single of Ivan’s most considerable traits the behavioral code by which he lives. Existential notions, according to the philosopher Sartre, regularly emphasize the notion of decision “Individuals are condemned, since they are free of charge, to pick what they are going to be via their day-to-day actions”. In other words, in order to distinguish himself, Ivan should stay in manage of his own actions by deciding on to act rather than basically following instructions. Solzhenitsyn emphasizes this by means of the depiction of the code of living that Ivan upholds completely on his personal. From the beginning of the novel in which reveille has been named, Solzhenitsyn suggests that the aspect of choice not only defines the day, but makes it possible for Ivan to sustain his self worth in spite of the strict disciplines of the camp. For instance, Solzhenitsyn reveals that “[Ivan] never ever overslept reveille… for the subsequent ninety minutes… belonged to him, not the authorities..”. In addition, Ivan always remembered the words of his 1st squad leader, who told him that self-sufficiency was key to survival ?words that Ivan utilizes to preserve his individuality. Via this, Solzhenitsyn exemplifies Ivan’s insistence on retaining his freedom of option by way of his refusal to devote his time to the authorities. Ivan’s attitude towards food and the way in which he chooses to consume is directly related to this as properly, for Ivan firmly believes in his personal strict approach towards how food need to be properly viewed and consumed inside the camp “you had to consume with all your thoughts on the food” (Solzhenitsyn 43), since when “[it is] gulped down [it] is… wasted” (Solzhenitsyn 25). The camp authorities are determined to strip the prisoners of their humanity by tampering with one particular of the most basic human needs ? food. However, Ivan’s potential to differentiate when and how he eats puts him ?alternatively of the prison guards? in command of his personal actions, and consequently his selections preserve his existentialism.

Despite Ivan’s capacity to conduct himself with dignity by means of his code, the GULAG remains a setting of chaos and absurdity, deepening the hyperlink in between Ivan and existentialism. The thought of absurdism in the existential world is present when “the globe is not hence explicable, but it exists with no apparent justification, foundation or purpose” (“What Is Existentialism?”). Ivan readily accepts his condemnation and seamlessly takes on the function of a prisoner, despite current in a globe “without apparent justification”. A world exactly where guys regularly freeze to death and die of starvation. The GULAG itself is founded upon absurdity, a camp in which most of its prisoners are innocent men who die condemned a location exactly where even bribery is dismissed as something of habitude and corruption is the basis on which the whole regime is constructed. However, Ivan does not spend his time pondering the purpose behind his reality, since soon after all, it was he himself who pleaded guilty in the very first place. As an alternative, he accepts the consequences of it due to the fact it is his reality, which is one more quality of an existentialist “ [he ] realised what [his] circumstance is, and who [has], inside that circumstance, selected to engage [himself] responsibly in the planet about [him] so as to affirm [his] liberty” (“What Is Existentialism?”). Ivan conducts himself in a way that is essential in spite of his situations, and in some techniques the understatement of his chaotic environment only emphasizes the chaos which is present. Solzhenitsyn additional utilizes particular literary devices to demonstrate Ivan’s method to living within the GULAG, namely symbolic objects, which are made by means of his establishment of the absurd. Existential philosophy suggests a single of its defining traits to be an emphasis on personal freedom, and as adapted from Sartre, “To be totally free is to recognise one’s full independence to make one’s personal life through one’s own initiative” (“What Is Existentialism?”). Ivan’s handcrafted spoon, of which he is tremendously proud and even refers to as “his tiny baby”, is Ivan’s way of retaining his “own initiative,” enabling him to separate himself from the absurd behavior in which the atmosphere of the GULAG promotes (Solzhenitsyn 84). This gives him independence, which in turn makes him stand out amongst the majority of the prisoners. The spoon itself becomes a medium in which Ivan can freely express himself as an individual of his personal totally free will, additional isolating himself from the GULAG and permitting him not only to focus on survival, but to survive with decency.

In a way, Ivan himself becomes a symbol, namely 1 of independence. This ties into the existential philosophy of alienation as adapted from Kierkegaard, in which “the task of the self is the overcoming of alienation through self-becoming” (“What Is Existentialism?”). This idea is present inside the GULAG exactly where “a zek’s worst enemy is an additional zek”, additional emphasizing the accurate isolation Ivan experiences, even from his fellow prisoners (Solzhenitsyn 90). Even so, Ivan’s ability to overcome this alienation by way of his concentrate on his personal existence is what not only further defines him as an agent of existentialism, but what enables him to ultimately overcome other zeks, and, a lot more importantly, the GULAG authority. Even though simultaneously opposing Soviet ideology, these concepts mirror existential philosophies. Solzhenitsyn makes use of this philosophy to oppose Stalin’s regime, exactly where unity branded as conformity, as opposed to independence, is expected. He does so by revealing the control and empowerment Ivan creates by means of his personal totally free will in spite of the pressures and continuous commands from the technique to do the opposite. As a result, by way of the use of symbolism distinct to Ivan, Solzhenitsyn establishes Ivan as an existential agent as a signifies of contrasting the GULAG energy.At the finish of the novel, Ivan reflects on his day by calling it “almost a happy day” simply because “he hadn’t fallen ill” or been imprisoned (Solzhenitsyn 139). This mirrors the existential top quality of facticity as addressed by Sartre and de Beauvoir. These notions recommend that one’s reality is fixed and unchangeable, even so, this can not necessarily define the person, meaning that one’s facticity does not limit his or her free will (“What Is Existentialism?”). Additionally, Ivan’s person-focused mindset is elucidated in the following scene in which Ivan “now… complained about practically nothing: neither about the length of his stretch, nor about the length of the day, nor about their swiping an additional Sunday. This was all he thought about now: we’ll survive. We’ll stick it out, God prepared, till it’s over” (Solzhenitsyn 77). In this way, Ivan does not work or reside to please any person but himself, and specifically not the leaders of the GULAG. This ties in once more with the existential quality of the absurd as explained by Sartre, a notion that suggests there is no purpose to life beyond that which an person offers it (“What Is Existentialism?”). In that, Solzhenitsyn’s establishment of Ivan as an existentialist is a testament to the philosophy that anyone can uncover meaning or purpose in life, regardless of their circumstances.

Solzhenitsyn’s establishment of Ivan as an existential figure contrasts the GULAG authority to illustrate the negative aspects of the Stalinist era. Solzhenitsyn’s inclusion of Ivan’s code, the seamless transition Ivan makes into the absurdity of the GULAG, and his purposeful use of symbolism explore the function that existential values play inside oppressive and adverse situations. Solzhenitsyn’s use of existentialism inside the novel serves to eventually enrich the theme of how humans deal with times of struggle and provide a deeper comprehension of the historical context in which the novel was initial published. Solzhenitsyn suggests that an existential perspective might be crucial to survival inside the GULAG. Furthermore, this ideology, when examined in regards to Solzhenitsyn’s intention of establishing the GULAG as a microcosm for the Soviet Union at the time, which focused on the creation of a ideal collective, indicates not only the way of thinking he considers to greatest oppose the regime, but also brings to light in the broader sense, the struggle humans knowledge on their quest for finding purpose and meaning in life. In other words, individuality. Solzhenitsyn applies this notion to the historical context of the novel, resulting in an emphasis on the contrast between the intentions of the Soviet regime: collectivism, and what they really teach: strength in individuality.
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