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One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich


by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich Theme of Perseverance

Let's get some "Eye of the Tiger" going, because nothing says perseverance like Rocky Balboa. Rocky is all about "going the distance." And training montages. But if our zeks in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich tried to do a triumphant run up some steps and some victorious fist-pumping, they'd probably keel over. Pesky nutrition deficiency and all. Like most things in the camp, perseverance is downscaled to surviving the cold, the hard labor, and the lack of food. Triumphing over adversity basically amounts to still breathing and moving.

Overall, perseverance is largely a mental thing in the prison camp. Having the will to survive, maintaining a sense of self and a sense of pride, refusing to let go of the past entirely, and refusing to give up hope are all key elements to successfully persevering. Like Rocky, the zeks are all about going the distance. There's no way to truly "win" in the camps, so surviving for the long haul is the only victory the zeks can really have.

Questions About Perseverance

  1. Which prisoners seem set to actually go the distance and survive the camp? Do they have any traits in common, or does everyone take a unique approach to survival?
  2. How is Shukhov's work ethic significant? In terms of his ability to persevere, is it a good thing or a bad thing, or a mixture of both?
  3. How are physical and mental perseverance connected in the book?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Survival is more about mental and spiritual strength than about physical strength.

Shukhov's small triumphs do more to help him persevere than a big, grand gesture would do.

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