One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Study Questions & Essay Topics
1. Why does Solzhenitsyn call the protagonist by the name “Ivan Denisovich” in the title but by the name “Shukhov” almost everywhere else in the narrative?
2. one day in the life of ivan denisovich is one of the most famous political novels of the twentieth century. Yet its protagonist never voices any political opinions. What is so political about this novel?
3. Why does Solzhenitsyn describe only a single day of Shukhov’s life?
Suggested Essay Topics
1. Solzhenitsyn’s realistic narrative style provides us with a lot of detail about Shukhov’s everyday life in the labor camp. By contrast, there are huge areas of Shukhov’s life that are not detailed at all. We never learn his wife’s name, for example. Why does Solzhenitsyn provide so many details about some areas of Shukhov’s life and so few about others?
2. Readers disagree about whether camp life has made Shukhov a more humane person or a more selfish and inconsiderate one. He is hardworking, faithful, and reliable. But he is remarkably uncharitable toward the old prisoner at dinner and unsympathetic toward Buynovsky when Buynovsky gets thrown in the hole. How would you characterize Shukhov’s moral state?
3. At first, Tyurin is depicted as a tough, cold official, a mask of authority with little humanity. But after the storytelling session at the Power Station when he narrates the crime that got him into the camp, Tyurin seems much more human. Why does Solzhenitsyn show this change? What does this transition suggest about Soviet attitudes toward authority?
4. Shukhov is the envy of the camp because his sentence is almost over, yet he does not rejoice at his impending freedom. In fact, he appears almost indifferent to his upcoming release. Why is Shukhov so unconcerned with his day of liberation from the labor camp?
5. Solzhenitsyn’s authorial voice is simple. He uses few abstract nouns and few complex sentence structures. Why does Solzhenitsyn choose to narrate in such a basic style?
Readers' Notes allow users to add their own analysis and insights to our SparkNotes—and to discuss those ideas with one another. Have a novel take or think we left something out? Add a Readers' Note!