Ivan Denisovich Shukhov
An inmate of a Stalinst labor camp somewhere in Siberia
. Shukhov is the novel’s protagonist.
He is a working-class, somewhat uneducated man, and his daily struggle
represents that of the average Russian citizen. He believes in God
but is not religious. His conversation with Alyoshka at the end
of the novel, however, shows that he may experience a turn to spirituality,
when for the first time he does someone a favor without hope of
in-depth analysis of Ivan Denisovich Shukhov.
foreman of Gang 104. Tyurin is a strict but
fair man who illustrates how the job of prison camp officer can
be isolating. Tyurin’s transformation at the Power Station work
site is one of the most emotional moments in the novel, since we
stop despising him as a cold-hearted law enforcer and start sympathizing
with him as a victim of injustice.
in-depth analysis of Tyurin.
fellow prisoner in Gang 104 of uncertain
national background and mysterious connections. Tsezar receives
regular food parcels that make him the envy of the gang. He is worldly,
a man of cultivated artistic interests and luxurious tastes. He
represents cultural attainments, abundance, and privilege, values
that Shukhov begins to question at the novel’s end.
in-depth analysis of Tsezar.
fellow prisoner, and the scrounger and wheedler of Gang 104,
always nagging for a cigarette or an extra bit of bread from the
other inmates. Shukhov scorns Fetyukov, but in the end pities him
when the guards beat up Fetyukov as punishment for licking bowls
in the mess hall. Fetyukov represents the degradation to which prisoners
in the labor camp are capable of slipping if they let go of their
in-depth analysis of Fetyukov.
prisoner with a bunk that neighbors Shukhov’s. Alyoshka is a devout
Baptist who reads late at night in the notebook into which he has
copied half of the New Testament. Alyoshka is known for doing favors
for other inmates but never expecting or receiving rewards for these
favors. By the end of the novel, Shukhov begins to respect Alyoshka’s
naïve goodwill, faith, and disdain of worldly goods.
in-depth analysis of Alyoshka.
deputy foreman of Gang 104. The Ukrainian Pavlo
is strict but kind. His patience and mercy toward the inmates earn
him the devotion of many members of the gang, including Shukhov,
who notes that a prisoner will not work hard for a distant boss
but will break his back for a foreman he admires.
medical orderly and novice poet. Kolya is vaguely sympathetic toward
the sick Shukhov, but has little understanding of Shukhov’s situation.
Solzhenitsyn’s description of Kolya as an insensitive poet suggests
his disdain for old-fashioned literary types who fail to appreciate
prisoner known familiarly throughout the novel as “the captain”
for his former military rank. In the prison camp, Buynovsky is no
more privileged than Shukhov. He is well-educated, as demonstrated
by his theoretical discussions with Tsezar about Russian films.
But his culture is of little service to him in the camp, as the
only thing that truly matters is survival.
sixteen-year-old boy in prison for providing milk to nationalist
rebels hiding in the forest. Gopchik is fresh and innocent, and
has not yet been hardened by camp life. That the Soviet government
has imprisoned one so young and well intentioned illustrates the
regime’s utter lack of human compassion.
of the two Estonians who share a bunk in Shukhov’s hut. Eino and
the other Estonian chat in their own language constantly, interacting
with each other much more than with anyone else. The Estonians represent
the necessity of maintaining a private world set apart from the
horrors of camp existence.
foreigner among the camp inmates. Kildigs is a Latvian bricklayer
and Shukhov’s colleague at the Power Station, and is famed for his
sense of humor. Shukhov’s comment that Kildigs’s sense of humor stems
from his regular receiving of food parcels demonstrates the relationship
between the basic necessities of life (such as food) and happiness.
prison warden who warns Tyurin that some of his men still have not
completed their written explanations of why they possessed forbidden