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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 Questions

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.

  1. What, if anything, is significant about this particular day in Shukhov's life? Do you think that the book narrates this day because it's unusual, because it's typical, or because it's some combination of the two?
  2. This book has a weird narrative style, that jumps around between third, second, and first person points of view. What is the effect of this complicated narrative style on the book as a whole?
  3. This day in the life narrative means that we only get so much information about characters and events. What is the experience of reading a narrative like this? How might the emotional response of reading a narrative like this tie in to some of the book's main points and themes?
  4. A lot of the members of Gang 104 aren't very well adjusted to camp life, such as Tsezar, Buynovsky, Fetyukov, etc. How would the book be different if the main character wasn't the well-adjusted and smart Shukhov but a struggling character like Buynovsky? How would this switch impact the book's style, tone, and themes?
  5. We get basic backstories on nearly all our characters. What is the significance of including these backstories in the text? How might the book be different if we didn't get background information?
  6. What is the tone and the style of the end of the book, and what sort of effect does it produce?
  7. Is there any noticeable difference between Shukhov's inner voice and the voice of the narrator? What is the significance of this distinction, or lack thereof?
  8. Are there any antagonists in this story, or could you argue that everyone in the camp is a victim of the oppressive Stalin government?
  9. Are there any scenes/passages where the book is directly critical of Stalin's government and its ideology? Or is the criticism more subtle and symbolic?
  10. Does survival in the camp seem to be physical, mental, spiritual, or some sort of combination of factors? Which characters seem to demonstrate the best survival techniques?
  11. Would you describe Shukhov as a moral person? Does he do anything that isn't very moral in the text?
  12. How and why is Fetyukov's behavior bad, and why does Shukhov criticize it?

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