Table of Contents
KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS
The novel is set in a labor camp in Siberia. The camp is comprised of barracks for the prisoners, quarters for the officials, rooms for the guards, a mess hall, a package room, offices, and an infirmary. It is well protected on all sides with barricades and fencing. There are also watchtowers outside the camp.
The “special” camp is run by the Russian Chief Administration of Corrective Labor Camps and Settlements. The camp houses mostly political prisoners who live in close quarters. The climate of the area is cold, with heavy snow during the winter months. The prisoners are ill equipped to protect themselves against the winter and lead miserable lives working for long hours in the snow, both inside and outside the camp. They survive on meager rations of bread and gruel. Those who complain are put into a dingy prison cell for seven days or more.
Ivan Denisovich Shukhov (prisoner S-854) - the protagonist of the novel around whom the story revolves. He has endured eight years of his ten-year sentence, but it is dubious that he will emerge from the camp in two years to return to his wife and children. The novel traces the life of Ivan in the prison camp from morning until night of a single day. Ivan is a good, capable, and sensible man. His instinct for survival helps him to withstand the pressures of life in the prison camp.
Alyosha - a fellow prisoner and fervent Baptist, who was sentenced to the labor cam because of his religious beliefs. His faith in God allows him to survive the hard life of the prison camp. He works willingly and obeys the orders of his seniors cheerfully.
Caesar - the aristocratic prisoner who regularly receives packages from home. He bribes the officials with the contents from the packages and, thus, usually gets extra food and works inside a warm room. Because he thinks he is more intelligent and of a superior class to most of the prisoners, he remains aloof.
Captain Buynovsky (prisoner S-311) - a fairly new prisoner who has been in camp only three months. Previously a naval officer, he has been sentenced to twenty-five years of hard labor for accepting a medal from the enemy British forces. He is very naïve and has much to learn if he is to survive. During the novel, he is sentenced to ten days of solitary confinement for wearing an extra jersey under his uniform, and it is doubtful that he will be able to endure it.
Tyurin - the boss of Gang 104. He has spent nineteen years in prison camps and knows how to survive. At heart, he is a good human being, a fair man, and a disciplined officer. He is dedicated to his job and encourages his prisoners to do good work. His subordinates respect him for his fairness and his willingness to fight for them.
Fetyukov - the least respected member of Gang 104. He tries to get out of work and constantly begs for things. In the past, he had held a high government post and thinks he is better than the other prisoners. They, however, cannot stand him and feel that his behavior is demeaning.