Study Guide

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich Plot Analysis

By Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Plot Analysis

Initial Situation

Shukhov wakes up feeling ill and is punished for staying in bed late.

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.


From when Shukhov goes to clean the floor in the wardens' office till everyone leaves for the work site.

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.


From the march to the work site till the dinner break.

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.


From after the dinner break until the work gangs start marching back to camp.

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.


From when the gangs race the engineering group back to camp until after the evening meal is done.

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.


Shukhov picks up some tobacco and then endures night roll call.

The day starts winding down as Shukhov picks up some tobacco, heads back to his hut, and helps out Tsezar during the roll call.


From when Shukhov returns to the hut from nightly roll call until the end.

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.