Study Guide

Limpy in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

By Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn


Limpy actually has a limp, like his name implies. It's how he landed his cushy gig as a mess orderly. Well, cushy in terms of perks like extra food. His actual job duties suck. But first, a description from Shukhov, which reveals a lot of hatred:

The mess manager was an overstuffed swine with a head like a pumpkin and shoulders a yard and a half across. [...] He wore a white fur hat, without a number patch. [...] The mess manager bowed to nobody, and the zeks were all afraid of him. He held thousands of lives in one hand! (963)

Limpy controls who gets access to food and he's super-mean. He's so powerful that he doesn't even have to wear a number on his fancy hat. But the scene we get with Limpy shows that he does have to fight to maintain his position. Once again, there are signs that the balance of power is shifting in the camp and signs that those with power aren't totally invulnerable. When we see Limpy, he's in the process of yelling at zeks to move back and beating people back from the door of the mess hall that evening, which symbolizes the ongoing power struggles between zeks and the rulers of the camp.