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At the moment when Ivan decides he will make a request to go to the infirmary, he is startled by the brutal voice of Thin Tartar, a cruel guard. He pulls the sheets off Ivan and screams at him for being late in rising. As punishment for his offense, Thin Tartar threatens to send Ivan to a prison cell for three days. First, however, he must complete some chores.
Jolted into activity by Thin Tartar, Ivan gets up and dresses in a hurry. As he marches out into the cold with the guard, Ivan tells the guard of his sickness and protests his treatment. He also listens carefully as the gang bosses check the temperature. He knows that if the weather is 42 degrees below freezing or colder, the prisoners will not have to work outside. Unfortunately, the temperature is not extreme enough to keep the prisoners inside.
To Ivanís relief, Thin Tartar stops him near the headquarters, and they enter the wardroom, which he orders Ivan to mop as his punishment. Pleased that he will not be sent to a prison cell and glad to be working inside, Ivan starts the job immediately. He takes the bucket to the well to fill it up, but he must first break through a layer of ice. Returning to the wardroom with a full bucket, he removes his felt shoes and pours water on the floor. As he mops the floor, Ivan is showered with abuses by the guards. Finishing the job as quickly as possible, he hastily deposits the mop and bucket in their proper places and rushes off towards the mess room. He feels certain that his fellow prisoners have saved him some food.
It is ironic that the moment Ivan decides to tell Big Ivan that he is sick and needs to go to the infirmary, Thin Tartar, one of the cruel guards, appears and screams at him for still being in bed. Instead of recuperating from his illness as planned, Ivan is told he might have to spend three days in a prison cell. Although Ivan is relieved that at least he will not have to work outside in the freezing weather for the next three days, he still protests his punishment to Thin Tartar.
This section sets the mood for the entire novel. Nothing is going right for Ivan on this particular day. He has slept poorly, feels sick, and aches all over. He decides he will tell Big Ivan that he needs to go to the infirmary; but unfortunately, the cruel Tartar is on duty instead of Big Ivan, the kind and lenient guard. When Thin Tartar spies Ivan still in bed, he rips the sheets off of him and threatens to lock him away in a cell.
In spite of his misery, Ivan tries to be positive. When he thinks he must spend three days in a prison cell, he convinces himself that he is fortunate not to be going out to work in the freezing cold. When he is made to mop the wardroom as his punishment, he thanks Thin Tartar and immediately starts the job. As he works, he forgets his aches and pains. As soon as the mopping is complete, Ivan rushes to go to the mess hall, where he is certain his comrades have saved him some food.
Again in this section, the cruelty of the prison camp is developed. The prisoners are expected to work outside until the temperature drops to 42 degrees below freezing. In spite of the miserable cold and icy conditions, they are issued a single pair of felt shoes to wear. Ivan is very careful about not getting his shoes wet and removes them before mopping the floor. As he works, the wardens in the guardroom hurl abuses at Ivan and taunt him about his wife, whom he has not seen in over ten years. Ivan cannot even remember what she looks like.