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THE LONG MARCH HOME Summary
It is a long march from the power plant to the camp, and the prisoners are in no hurry. As he walks, Ivan remembers his morning visit to the hospital. He thinks he might be able to get admitted now, but the idea does not appeal to him. He is too tired and hungry to make the effort.
As the prisoners walk, engrossed in their own thoughts, they are jolted from their reverie by the sound of footsteps in the distance. The workers from the tool factory are seen walking in the direction of the camp. Gang 104 is afraid that the other group of prisoners may beat them and hamper their entry into the camp. As a result, all of them speed up their pace, making it to the barracks in record time.
Before being dismissed for the night, the prisoners are again checked for possessing any prohibited articles, such as knives. Those who are carrying wood are asked to discard it. As he stands in line, Ivan remembers the metal piece he has in his pocket and panics. He knows he will be severely punished for having it. He decides to hide it inside one of his mittens, hoping the guards will not check there. When an old guard frisks Ivanís body, he finds nothing. Just as he is about to check inside the mittens, the Chief Warden orders them to move out in order to make way for the workers from the tool factory. Ivan is relieved that the metal piece has not been discovered.
Totally exhausted and frustrated about being delayed, the prisoners in Ivanís gang move slowly towards the camp, ignoring the order to move faster. They do not want to expend the little energy that is left by speeding up; however, when they spy the workers from the tool factory in the distance, they rush forward, wanting to get to camp before them. When they succeed in beating the tool workers, the prisoners feel happy and relieved.
This episode develops the logical and resourceful nature of Ivan. Although he still longs to be admitted to the infirmary for a rest, he knows that if he checks in at this late hour, he will miss his evening rations. He decides that he is too tired and hungry to go to the infirmary. Having settled that question, Ivan concentrates on how he can get additional food for his supper. He approaches Caesar and volunteers to go to the package room to hold a place for him. He hopes by doing him a favor, he will be rewarded with extra food. As he waits in line with the other prisoners to be checked by the guards, Ivan suddenly remembers the metal piece he has hidden in his pocket. It the guards find it, he is certain to be severely punished. Contemplating his options, Ivan decides to hide the metal in his mitten, hoping that the guard will not check it. Before the old guard can look inside the second mitten, luck saves Ivan. The Chief Warden tells the gang of prisoners to move on immediately in order to make room for the group from the tool factory.
Ivan thinks about what he may make out of the piece of metal. Instead of a knife, he thinks about shaping it into a sharp needle that can be used for stitching boots. With the needle, he could earn extra money and buy some special things, like tobacco. He also thinks about the fact that he has had three close calls during the day. Early in the morning, he was threatened by the guard with severe punishment for sleeping late; however, the punishment turned out to be the fairly simple task of mopping the guardroom floor. Ivan also reports late in the evening. Determined to waste nothing, he uses up all the mixed mortar on his brick wall even though it makes him arrive late for roll call. Fortunately, he escapes punishment, for the accounting of the prisoners has not begun. Back at the camp, he also escapes without his piece of metal being detected. Ivan realizes he has had good luck today.