Ivan Denisovich Essay, Research Paper
Imagine being captive in a concentration camp for over eight years. Ivan Denisovich Shukhov has experienced just this. In analyzing only one day of Ivan’s life in a concentration camp, he displays many traits that show that he is a hero. Hero, can be defined in many different ways. The definition from Webster’s dictionary states: Hero- a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities. Shukhov definitely portrays courageous characteristics. He also has gained many abilities that people do not have, due to his experience in the concentration camp. Shukhov shows emotional, physical, and moral strength throughout this book. I believe this alone makes him a hero.
In analyzing Shukhov’s thoughts throughout his day in the concentration camp it is very clear to me just how emotionally strong he really is. Shukhov has been in this camp for so long, doing forced labor every day. He has grown a custom to working in freezing weather and eating nothing but bread and gruel. Deep down it seems Shukhov never really expects to get out of the camp, but yet he still maintains hope and keeps a very strong personality. He took pleasure in small things that would be irrelevant to us in our daily lives, such as eating a meal. One would have to be a strong person to get true happiness just by eating a meal. Shukhov didn’t daydream about getting out of the camp or about anything in the future. He lived for that particular day and moment. Shukhov stated, when eating a meal, “It was great! This was what a prisoner lived for, this one little moment.”(p. 169) Another example of Shukhov’s emotional strength was at the end of his day, he was content and happy. This was only because he accomplished small tasks such as getting extra food for dinner, making a wall, and not being put in the cooler. It is so hard to imagine actually being completely happy about things like this. In my opinion this is heroic.
Shukhov’s crafty skills and physical strength also are heroic traits that are displays throughout the book. He thinks of things in a different perspective than most of the other prisoners in the camp. He has a systematic way of thinking about everything he does. For example, when he saw the chunk of metal in the snow. He didn’t have any specific need for it at the time he found it, but he thought maybe it could be useful to him at another time. He was also always doing little tasks to help other prisoners in the camp, while at the same time looking out for himself. This shows that Shukhov knows what it takes to survive in the camps. He also thinks this way when he is working. Shukhov states: “If your working for human beings, then do a real job of it, but if you work for dopes, then you just go through the motions.” (p. 14) He knows how to do enough work to stay alive, and no more. This is a heroic trait that most of the other prisoners didn’t have.
Ivan Denisovich Shukhov is not a romantic hero, he doesn’t fix things or rescue people. He is a man of great interior strength and courage. Surviving the concentration camp alone would constitute as a hero. He is very experienced and skilled in the way the camps work and he uses this quality to help others in the camp. Maintaining ones dignity in a situation like this, is a very hard task to accomplish, and this is just what Shukhov did. Shukhov is a man with the power to rise above terrible situations and be strong, which in turn, he is a hero.