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THE PACKAGE ROOM Summary
After escaping detection by the guard, Ivan rushes off to the package room to hold a place for Caesar, as promised. There are many other prisoners waiting in line before him. As he waits, Ivan thinks about the past when he received packages himself; now he never receives one, for he has forbidden his wife from sending anything since she barely has enough to feed herself and the children. In spite of his warnings, Ivan still hopes to again receive a package from her some day.
Ivan listens to the other prisoners as they talk to one another. He overhears the news that the prisoners will have to work on the coming Sunday. He feels disappointed at the thought of losing a precious day off; but he tries to think positively about it. Before he gets to the package pick-up, Caesar arrives and begins to have a conversation about art events in Moscow with another intellectual prisoner. When he finally turns to Ivan, Caesar offers him his dinner as a reward. Ivan is pleased to know that he will have two meals. Before going to the mess hall, Ivan returns to the barracks. When he hears talk of stolen rations, he checks his mattress to make certain that his own half loaf of bread is still hidden there. After he finds it intact, Ivan hurries towards the mess hall.
The entrance to the hall is crowded, and the orderlies have a tough time controlling the prisoners, who push each other. When Ivan spies Pavlo in the crowd, he squeezes through the railings and catches up with him. Ivan gets both his portion of gruel and that belonging to Caesar. He eats both with relish and satisfaction. As he eats, he observes an old prisoner from Gang 64 eating his supper.
As always, Ivan reveals his sensitivity in this episode. As he holds Caesar’s place in line in the package room, he listens to the conversations of others and is disappointed to learn that the prisoners must work on the upcoming Sunday. He also reflects on the past, when he used to receive packages from his wife. The rational Ivan, however, has told her to send no more, for she barely has enough for herself and the children. He still holds hope, however, that some day she may again send him a package.
As anticipated, Caesar rewards Ivan for holding a place for him in line. He tells Ivan that he may have his dinner ration. After checking on the safety of his bread in the barracks, Ivan ruses off to the mess hall to eat his double portion. He is thankful for the extra food.
In fact, he is so content that he believes that he “didn’t have a grudge in the world now-about how long his sentence was, about how long their day was, about that Sunday they wouldn’t get.” He kept saying to himself, “We’ll get through! We’ll get through it all! And God grant it’ll all come to an end.”
More is learned about Caesar in the episode. He obviously comes from a well-to-do family, for he regularly receives packages from home. He always has tobacco to smoke in his pipe and a newspaper to read. Since he receives enough in the packages to use to bribe the officials, he normally works inside a warm room and is treated with respect by both those above him and below him. Because of his background, Caesar usually keeps himself apart from the other prisoners, and he only converses with those of similar intelligence, like the Captain. He is, however, sympathetic towards the some of the less fortunate, like Ivan. .