We meet our protagonist here and get an initial introduction to gulag life, as well as to two of the book's most important themes: injustice and futility, or the uselessness of protesting to people in power.
A series of bad things happen to Shukhov here – he has to clean a floor, he doesn't get much for breakfast, and he is turned away from sickbay. Things seems to be improving when his gang avoids a bad assignment, but then they all have to take off their jackets during the morning search, so everyone is colder than usual.
Shukhov solves a whole series of problems here, from how to warm up the work site to how to get some extra dinner, and each time one problem is solved, another one arises.
Shukhov narrowly avoids a bad situation when he is almost late in lining up at the end of the work day. This is a very tense scene and right after it is even more tension, as the gangs leave the work site late after a series of frustrating head counts.
A whole series of suspenseful, but successful, events happen to Shukhov here: his gang beats the engineers, he smuggles a blade in, he picks up a package, and he successfully navigates the chaos of the mess hall.
The day starts winding down as Shukhov picks up some tobacco, heads back to his hut, and helps out Tsezar during the roll call.
Shukhov discovers a reward from Tsezar when they get back inside and they only endure one more roll call before finally going to sleep. Shukhov is pretty happy with his day as he drifts to sleep.