Section 8 (pg. 120-139) Notes from One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

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One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich Section 8 (pg. 120-139)

After supper, Ivan Denisovich heads to Barracks 7 to buy some tobacco from the tall Lett. He purchases two glassfuls with money he has earned from doing odd jobs for other prisoners. A prisoner in the barracks yells, "D'you mean to say you think Old Whiskers (reference to Stalin) will take pity on you? Why, he wouldn't trust his own brother. You haven't a chance, you ass." pg. 122 In the specials, a prisoner can let off steam. At Ust-Izhma, a minor complaint can put a prisoner in the guardhouse.

Ivan Denisovich runs back to Barracks 9 where Tsezar sits gloating over his parcel. He restrains himself from looking too eager for his cut. But one quick glance and Ivan Denisovich can tell its contents--a real good one this time. Tsezar tells Ivan Denisovich to keep his portion of the bread. He now has Tsezar's six ounces, his twelve ounces, and the bread in his mattress. Ivan Denisovich does not feel too envious of Tsezar because he has to inevitably "grease some palms" and give all the important authorities their cut.

Topic Tracking: Authority 8
Topic Tracking: Work 8

Ivan Denisovich climbs into his bunk and figures out a way to hide the hacksaw blade. He will turn it into a little knife, good for shoe repair and such. Fetiukov enters the barracks, his lips bloodied--most likely from fighting over leftovers at the mess hall. Ivan Denisovich sees him go straight to his bunk, burying his teary, bloodied face in his mattress. People like Fetiukov are not fit for survival in the camp. "When you thought about it, you couldn't help feeling sorry for him. He wouldn't live to see the end of his stretch. His attitude was all wrong." pg. 125

Captain Buinovsky enters, cheerful because he has a pot of real tea. Tsezar borrows Ivan Denisovich's ten days, a small penknife good for cutting salt pork. Ivan Denisovich knows that he'll get a slice for lending it to Tsezar. Ivan Denisovich returns a pinch of tobacco to one of the Estonians, the same amount he borrowed. While the Captain and Tsezar enjoy tea and snacks, Snubnose, a young guard, comes in to take the Captain to the guardhouse for the morning outburst. All his squad members feel sorry for the Captain. He too, like Fetiukov, will not survive if he does not change his ways. The members of the 104th know well the harsh conditions of the cells because they built them:

"Ten days. Ten days hard in the cells--if you sat them out to the end, your health would be ruined for the rest of your life. T.B. and nothing but hospital for you till you kicked the bucket. As for those who got fifteen days hard and sat them out--they went straight into a hole in the cold earth. As long as you're in the barracks--praise the Lord and sit tight." pg. 128-129

Topic Tracking: Survival 7

It is time for the evening count. The barracks commander, a true-life criminal (in a camp of political prisoners), calls the men out. Everyone fears his orders because he is not afraid to take their numbers, which means time in the guardhouse. Ivan Denisovich gives Tsezar advice on how to save his parcel from getting stolen during the count. The authorities count the prisoners two or three times. They count no better than "an illiterate herdsman." All their training seems to have done them no good. After the count is squared away, Ivan Denisovich hurries back to secure Tsezar's parcel. Another favor earned.

Before going to bed, Ivan Denisovich offers up a quick prayer. He listens to Alyosha the Baptist read the New Testament. "There you are, Ivan Denisovich, your soul is begging to pray. Why don't you give it its freedom?" (p. 139) pleads Alyosha. Ivan Denisovich compares prayers to appeals, the formal complaint or suggestion process in the camp. They are always either rejected or returned. Alyosha continues to share his faith but Ivan Denisovich tells Alyosha about a priest back home, whom he considers the biggest hypocrite. Alyosha counters that the Orthodox Church is corrupt. Alyosha tells Ivan Denisovich why he is able to be happy in camp: "You should rejoice that you're in prison. Here you have time to think about your soul." pg. 136

There is a call for a second count. Ivan Denisovich helps out Tsezar one more time, hiding his parcel in his top bunk mattress. No one would look in his bunk for anything worthwhile. After he gets back, Ivan Denisovich hands a biscuit to Alyosha and eats a piece of sausage, all courtesy of Tsezar. Ivan Denisovich goes to bed recounting all the good things that happened to him: "they hadn't put him in the cells; they hadn't sent his squad to the settlement; he'd swiped a bowl of kasha at dinner; the squad leader had fixed the rates well; he'd built a wall and enjoyed doing it; he'd smuggled that bit of hacksaw blade through; he'd earned a favor from Tsezar that evening; he'd bought that tobacco. And he hadn't fallen ill. He got over it." pg. 139

For Ivan Denisovich, it is a good day. But no matter how good, there are many more such days. 3,653 days in total:

"A day without a dark cloud. Almost a happy day. There were three thousand six hundred and fifty-three days like that in his stretch. From the first clang of the rail to the last clang of the rail. Three thousand six hundred and fifty-three days. The three extra days were for leap years." pg. 139

Topic Tracking: Survival 8

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