Study Guide

Nikolai Semyonich Kolya Vdovushkin in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

By Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Nikolai Semyonich Kolya Vdovushkin

If Vdovushkin were anywhere other than the camp, he'd definitely be sued for malpractice. See, this "medical orderly," isn't a medical orderly at all. He's a wannabe poet. And if he weren't in the prison camp, he likely wouldn't be working as a medical orderly. So why did he lie? We'll let Shukhov explain:

It was the sort of thing that happens only in camp: Stepan Grigorich had advised Vdovushkin to call himself a medical orderly and had given him the job. [...] Stepan Grigorich wanted him to write in prison what he hadn't had a chance to write outside. (121)

Vdovushkin is a dissident artist, much like Solzhenitsyn himself. And Vdovushkin has a patron too. The camp doctor helps him to score his cushy job so that he will have time to write poems, something Shukhov spots him doing when he visits sickbay that morning.

The other important thing about Vdovushkin is his role in the sickbay scene with Shukhov. Shukhov's trip to sickbay, and Vdovushkin's unwillingness or inability to help Shukhov out, reveal how harsh and irrational life in the camp is. After all, Vdovushkin can only let two people off from work every morning, which is pretty stupid. Stands to reason that the worst camp ever would also have the worst hospital ever.

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