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THE THREATS OF DER Summary
Even though Der has come to check on the brick hoist and have it repaired, he does nothing about it. Instead, he casts his eyes over the covered windows and questions Tyurin about the roofing felt. When the boss does not respond, Der threatens him with punishment for stealing the felt and disobeying the laws of the camp. Ivan fears for the boss, but Tyurin confronts Der and warns him that he will be killed if he reports the matter to the authorities. The prisoners also join their boss in trying to frighten the foreman. Fearful for his life, Der softens his stand and decides not to make an issue of the felt; however, in a bid to assert his authority, he criticizes the work of Ivan and some other prisoners. In turn, Tyurin criticizes him for not fixing the hoist. He demands higher wages for his prisoners who must carry the bricks up the steps since the hoist does not work. In spite of the criticism, Der departs without repairing the hoist.
After Derís departure, the prisoners continue to lay bricks. Ivan works swiftly and carefully. Forgetting the time, he does not even notice the approach of evening or the chill wind. He is proud to be starting his fifth row of bricks. When the other prisoners begin to leave, Ivan and Senka continue to work, using the last of the mortar in order not to waste it. After finishing his work, Ivan hides his tools in a safe place and joins the others in the guardroom.
The arrogant Der is put in his place. When he threatens to tell the authorities that Tyurin has stolen roofing felt to cover the windows, the boss warns him against it, and the other prisoners, who respect Tyurin, support him. Fearing he may be killed, Der decides not to make an issue of the felt. He does, however, feel compelled to criticize the work of the prisoners, including that of Ivan, to prove that he is in control. It is clear that Der feels he is better than the prisoners and the bosses. In fact, he is less knowledgeable and less effective than the prisoners he demeans. Solzhenitsyn clearly prefers the common men, like Ivan and Senka, to the bureaucrats, like Der.
Ivan is again pictured as a hard worker; in fact, his work reaffirms for him his worth as a human being. He is so engrossed in his brick laying that he does not even notice the cold wind or the approach of evening. When the other prisoners stop working for the night, Ivan continues to lay bricks until he uses all the mortar. He does not believe in wasting anything.