Ivan Denisovich Shukhov wakes up at 5:00 am feeling sick. He's currently serving out a sentence in a gulag, a forced labor prison camp. Shukhov stays in bed longer than usual and is punished by the warden for not getting up on time. As punishment he has to go wash a floor in the wardens' office.
After this, Shukhov rushes to eat breakfast and then goes to sickbay. But the orderly there tells him he's not that sick and he has to go to work. Shukhov meets up with the rest of his work gang, 104, and they and the other gangs march out in the snow to a work site. Gang 104 is assigned to a Power Station and Shukhov spends his day building a brick wall in the freezing cold. During the dinner break Shukhov snags a few extra bowls of gruel and gets an extra dinner portion.
The work day finally comes to a close and Shukhov, who gets caught up in his work, is nearly late lining up for roll call. Another prisoner is missing and the gangs are all late marching back to camp. Shukhov is upset to think that his evening is ruined. But his group spies another gang heading back to camp late and Shukhov's group beats them back, which means that they can get their supper faster. Shukhov manages to smuggle a steel piece back into camp and he plans to make a bread-knife out of it later.
Back at the camp Shukhov picks up a package for a fellow inmate and gets to have some of his supper as a reward. After supper Shukhov buys some tobacco and goes back to his hut. He helps an inmate hide his package during evening roll call, and as thanks Shukhov is given some biscuits and a piece of sausage. Shukhov goes to sleep content and thinks that he had a pretty good day.