Study Guide

Pavlo in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

By Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn


Pavlo might win the award for coolest dude in Gang 104. He's young and still pretty enthusiastic; he works hard; he's very fair; he's still moral and honorable. He might be a bit too moral though, according to Shukhov at least:

Pavlo raised his head. "Didn't land in the hole, then, Ivan Denisovich? Still among the living?" (Western Ukrainians never learn. Even in the camps they speak to people politely.) (130)

Politeness isn't worth much in the camps apparently. It's not so much that Shukhov wants Pavlo to start being loud and rude to people, but that he sees the politeness as part of a larger problem: Pavlo can be a bit too nice:

Shukhov tucked [the tray] under his arm and trotted over to the serving hatch.

Pavlo, standing in line there, dismally waiting for trays, was overjoyed to see him
. (996-997)

Following all the rules and not taking initiative can definitely be problematic in the camps. But Pavlo obviously made deputy foreman for a reason, and it's likely because he is very tough when it counts. He's not afraid to boss the men around to make them work harder. He's also not afraid to stand up to authority figures when need be. When Der tries to confront Tyurin, for instance, Pavlo hangs around menacingly till Der scurries off like a coward:

And the look on Pavlo's sharp features would cut a man in two.

Der turned pale and moved away from the ramp.

In some ways Pavlo is a bolder version of Shukhov, willing to risk a physical confrontation. But in other ways he's a politer and less savvy version of Shukhov, not good at carrying out schemes.