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Quotes

Quote #1

But he was authorized to let off only two men in the morning. And there were already two names under the greenish glass on top of the desk. With a little line drawn under them. (109)

The little line under the two names really symbolizes how tough competition is in the camps. Here there are only two slots "open" in the hospital for hundreds of men who would welcome, and who probably need, medical care.

Quote #2

Some other lot, poorer and more stupid, would be shunted off to Sotsgorodok. It would be murder out there - twenty-seven below, with a mean wind blowing, no shelter, and no hope for a warm! (147)

It's important that Shukhov points out how another gang is going to suffer because his own gang got out of the bad work assignment. Competition is definitely brutal in the camps and if somebody wins something, somebody else gets seriously screwed over.

Quote #3

He knew from what the free workers said - drivers and bull-dozer operators on construction sites - that the straight and narrow was barred to ordinary people, but they didn't let it get them down, they took a roundabout way and survived somehow. (231)

It's interesting that the outside world really mirrors the camp world in a lot of ways. In both places, people have to fight hard to survive and often have to do it in very roundabout ways.

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