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WORK IN PROGRESS Summary
As Ivan and Kilgas go to retrieve the roll of hidden felt, they pass Gang 82, which has been assigned to dig holes in the hard frozen ground. The resourceful Ivan suggests that they light a fire to soften the ground, but the prisoners are afraid to follow his suggestion, fearing punishment.
After locating the hidden roofing felt, Ivan and Kilgas carry it back to the power plant. The deaf Senka is assigned the job of cutting the felt to the right size, and Ivan and Kilgas install it. Soon the windows in the generator room are covered. Tyurin is pleased with their work. As a gesture of appreciation, he allots extra work for them to do, which can earn them extra rations. Ivan is asked to fix the stove, and Kilgas is asked to patch the mixer for the mortar
After Pavlo brings him the necessary tools, Ivan repairs the stove by correctly joining the existing pipes and fitting another pipe over the flue. Captain and Fetyukov, who have reluctantly been carrying sand, sneak towards the stove to warm themselves. When Tyurin admonishes them, they go back to work. In the mean time, Kilgas has succeeded in repairing the mixer.
With the windows covered and the stove lighted, the room grows warmer. The prisoners crowd inside to escape the cold. Pavlo, however, wants the men to get back to work. He gives them new duties to prepare for the brick laying; the jobs will keep them busy until the bricks arrive. Ivan and Kilgas go upstairs to inspect the place where they will be laying bricks. They decide it will be best to pass the bricks up the steps, from one person to another, before the brick laying begins.
Tyurin, the gang boss, knows his prisoners and assigns appropriate work to them. The Captain and Fetyukov are made to carry sand, for the job takes no intelligence. Ivan and Kilgas are paired together, for they are both good workers; their assignment is to cover the windows in the generator room and to lay bricks on the second floor. They prove their resourcefulness by being able to produce some of the tools and materials that they will need for their jobs. Ivan and Kilgas do their morning work so well that they are rewarded with additional work. The two men do not complain, however, for extra work means extra rations. To reward work with food serves as a great motivator for the prisoners. Since the prisoners want to make sure that they will receive their rations and perhaps earn extra, they work hard, refusing to do a sloppy job. They also encourage their fellow prisoners to work hard, to avoid group punishment.
This episode again exposes the heartlessness of the Soviet authorities, who make the prisoners work hard in miserable conditions and punish them if they take a break. Gang 32 is assigned the almost impossible job of boring holes through the frozen ground. When Ivan suggests that they burn wood to soften the ground, the prisoners will not follow his suggestion, for fear of punishment. It should also be noted that the prisoners are not allowed to wear watches. They have to judge the time by the position of the sun. The Soviet government has ironically passed a law that states when the sun is directly overhead, it is considered to be 1:00 p.m.
Tyurin is portrayed as boss who cares about his prisoners. Although he demands discipline amongst his men, he fights for them. He has bribed the officials in order to insure that his gang can return to work at the power plant, a less grueling assignment than many. He also knows his prisoners well and allocates work to them according to their capabilities. When they do their jobs well, Tyurin tries to reward them. It is ironic, however, that he rewards the good work of Ivan and Kilgas with more work; however, the extra work does mean extra food.
It is also ironic that Captain and Fetyukov are judged to be unintelligent. The Captain has been an important naval officer, and Fetyukov was a high government official. Used to giving orders, they find it difficult to take orders and do manual labor. In contrast, Ivan and Kilgas are simple village folk, yet they are judged to be the best workers by Tyurin. As a result, they are given responsible jobs, which they complete quickly and correctly. Ivan even takes time to help Gopchik, a young Ukrainian who is almost like a son to him, reminding him of his only son who died when he was young.
During this section, Ivan thinks about the eight years he has spent as a prisoner. Even though the others tease him about being released soon, Ivan does not really think he will be sent home in two years. He has seen too many prisoners whose terms have been extended by an additional five to ten years. As a result, he tries not to think about being released.