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THOUGHTS ABOUT THE OLD MAN AND VISIT TO THE LATVIAN Summary
While he eats his dinner, Ivan continues to watch the impressive old man from Gang 64, who is known as Y-81. Despite his years in the camp, the old man still looks healthy, determined, and dignified to Ivan, even though he has lost his hair and his teeth. Legend has it that he has been in camp longer than any other prisoner. Each time he is up for release, more years are tacked on to his sentence. Ivan fears that the same thing may happen to him, but he refuses to worry about it.
Before departing the mess hall, Ivan decides he will visit one of the Latvians in order to purchase some tobacco from him. As he walks outside and heads for Barracks 7, he notices that it is very cold outside.
Ivan finds the Latvian conversing with his friends. When Ivan asks him if he can buy some tobacco, the Latvian measures out the correct quantity. Ivan haggles over the amount and finally pays the man two rubles. After the transaction is complete, he leaves for his barracks. Inside he finds Caesar unpacking his parcels, but he feels no jealousy. He is delighted that he has had double portions at dinner and feels happy with his lot.
While he eats, Ivan admires Y-81, who displays impeccable manners during dinner. Although the man is advanced in years, he appears dignified, determined, and disciplined. In spite of his age and the hard work he has endured, Y-81 also has a good physique and seems to be very healthy. Ivan vows that he will try to be equally dignified and healthy when he grows old. In truth, Ivan already possesses many of the characteristics of Y-81. He is well- mannered, determined, and uncompromising. Solzhenitsyn seems to be indicating that Ivanís plight will be similar to Y-81. He may never emerge from the prison camp; when the next two years are up, there is always the possibility that more time will be tacked on to Ivanís sentence, as he has feared.
Since he refuses to beg or grovel for anything, Ivan tries to work extra jobs to earn some extra money for special things, like extra food or tobacco. After he eats his dinner, Ivan decides he will go and visit one of the Latvians and purchase some tobacco from him. He is appreciative of the fact that he can afford such a luxury. In fact, Ivan has no complaints about his life and does not grudge the happiness of others. Some fellows always thought the grass was greener on the other side of the fence, but Ivan did not envy others; he knew what life was about and did not think that anybody owed him a living. Because of his attitude, everyone respects Ivan, including Caesar and Tyurin.