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A SECOND NIGHT CHECK Summary
When the prisoners settle down again, Kilgas worries about another night check. Alyosha offers his nightly prayers, and Ivan thinks about the good things that have happened to him during the day. When Alyosha hears Ivan thank God, he suggests that Ivan should really say a prayer and do it frequently. Ivan tells him that he does not believe in formal prayer or religious dogma. He explains that the corrupt priests in the Russian Orthodox Church, including one in his hometown, have made him wary of organized religion.
Before long, they are called out of bed for a second time. Caesar gives Ivan more treats and asks for his help in protecting the contents of his package again. Ivan hides the food before he goes out. Some of the prisoners take time to put on their boots, but Ivan goes out into the cold in his barefeet, for his shoes are warming by the stove.
After the check is over, Ivan races to his bunk and covers himself for warmth. Still content, he closes his eyes and silently lists the day’s blessings: he was not seriously punished for staying in his bunk in the morning; he and his gang of prisoners were allowed to remain at the power plant, rather than being sent to a desolate work site; Tyurin has gotten extra rations for them for the next five days; he has received several extra rations during the day; he has found a “valuable” piece of metal that he can shape into a knife or a needle; both he and his boss were proud of his brick laying job; he has managed to buy some tobacco for himself; Caesar has given him some special treats; he has survived another twenty-fours in the forced labor camp. He hopes that the rest of his days in the camp pass so peacefully. On this note of hope, Ivan Denisovich falls asleep.
In this episode, Alexander Solzhenitsyn exposes the shortcomings of the Russian Orthodox Church and its corrupt and greedy priests. When Alyosha tries to convince Ivan to pray regularly, Ivan argues against any kind of organized religion because of the corruptness of the church. He tells Alyosha that the richest man in Polomnya, his hometown, was the parish priest. Under the garb of respectability, the supposed servant of God had taken money and led an immoral life.
With the close of this episode, one day in the life of Ivan Denisovich comes to an end. As he tucks himself in bed after the second night check, he is thankful to have passed a peaceful day and hopes that the rest of his stay in the camp can be equally uneventful. It is truly amazing that he retains a sense of hope among the struggles of his life.
Each day he endures is long and exhaustive. From early in the morning to late in the evening, he and the other prisoners have to work under unbelievable harsh conditions in order to get a meager ration of mush or gruel and a few hours of sleep. Even after they are settled in bed for the night, they are summoned from their bunks for a night check out in the cold.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn has succeeded in giving a moving picture of the life of a prisoner in a Siberian labor camp without creating a book of total gloom. By making his protagonist an optimist, he brings a ray of hope to the novel. At the end of his day, Ivan smiles about the good things that have happened. “He had finagled an extra bowl of mush at noon. The boss had gotten them good rates for their work. He’d felt good making that wall. They hadn’t found that piece of steel in the frisk. Caesar had paid him off in the evening. He’d bought some tobacco. And he’d gotten out of sickness.” One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich has gone amazingly well!