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The First Circle Summary
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Everything you need to understand or teach The First Circle by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

  • The First Circle Summary & Study Guide

The First Circle Summary

The title suggests the major themes of the novel, deriving from the epic spiritual poem of the medieval Italian poet Dante, The Divine Comedy (c.1320), whose hero visits Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. Dante's hell is a tapering funnel of ten circles or levels. Its first circle, the abode of good pagans, lacks the fiery tortures of the other nine circles which entrap various kinds of sinners. Mavrino is the first circle of the hell of the labor camp system, inhabited by zeks leading relatively easy lives in exchange for being good prisoners and cooperating with the State.

The title also connotates the first circle of the Communist Party leadership, General Secretary Josef Stalin and his chief lieutenants. This circle is not as far removed from Hell as power and privileges suggest. One false step by a lieutenant — an unfulfilled assignment, a hint of ingratitude — sends...

(read more from the Short Guide)

Study Pack

The The First Circle Study Pack contains about 6 pages of study material in 3 products, including:

The First Circle Short Guide