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One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Time Theme

In One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Shukhov would kill for Hermione Granger's Time Turner. He could get all his little errands done and not have to run around in a panic all the time. Of course, then his day would be even longer, practically never-ending. Days are already nearly never-ending in the camp. All the days seem to run together into endless prison sentences and non-stop work, with no personal time at all. For Shukhov, there's practically no time to relax; survival is highly time-consuming.

In the bizarro world of the camps, time is a zek's most precious commodity, aside from food. There's never enough time, its easily stolen, and all zeks are greedy for precious minutes of personal time. Time is perhaps the worst thing that people in the camp lose. Years of their lives are eaten up in endless prison sentences and long work-days. Zeks aren't even allowed watches; the guards tell time for them. Ultimately, time is a paradox, or a seeming contradiction, in the world of the camp: there's too much of it and not enough of it.

Questions About Time

  1. Shukhov is primarily concerned with two things: food and time. How are the two things connected in the book?
  2. For Shukhov, time alternately moves quickly or very slowly. How does the narrative style reflect this?
  3. What is the significance of the fact that prisoners aren't allowed watches?
  4. Shukhov and Buynovsky have a conversation about when the sun is highest, disagreeing over what time it is. How is this conversation thematically significant?

Chew on This

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

Time, and especially time to the self, is more important than food for a prisoner since survival is highly mental.

Shukhov has a very strong and accurate sense of the passage of time, which is a way for him to fight against the camp life that tries to control and steal his time.

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