An Analysis Of The Aspect Of Mood

In A Key Passage From Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s One Day In The Life Essay, Research Paper

The mood in any passage in literature is often

defined as the sentiments that are impressed upon the reader through the reading

of that passage. Evidently, considering the differing experiences of the

readers, the mood created in each will not be exactly the same. However, one can

consider certain universal elements in a passage which more than likely produce

a similar effect in most readers. This is the approach one must take if they are

to objectively analyse the mood created by an author in a key passage from one

of that author’s works. The selected passage from One Day In the Life of Ivan

Denisovitch contains such elements, of the kind which are likely to impress upon

most readers a certain mood. Such elements include the diction, or the careful

choice of words which, in description of people and events, have such

denotations and connotations as to inspire a certain feeling in a person, and

the which is contained within the passage. Each of these are capable of

providing a mood which is in stark contrast to the overriding tone of the entire

novel. This is the case in the selected passage, and the precise reason that it

is, in fact, a ‘key’ passage. Because its mood is an abberation from that of the

rest of the novel, an account of drudgery and of suffering, it is significant

for the ray of hope it lends to the reader who takes on the struggles of

Shukhov. It is the mood of this passage which, amidst a much darker picture

stands out as a light, lit by the elements of the passage which creates this

mood. The diction of the passage is a principal reason that it is able to impress

upon the reader a mood of excitement, of sentiment bordering on happiness, in a

setting which does not lend itself to such feelings. Such words that show

Shukhov’s intense focus on the task, taking a joy in his work and leaving all

other thoughts behind, are those which are the purveyors of the aforementioned

mood and the hope which follows. This focus and feeling on the part of Shukhov

is communicated in the passage whereby the descriptor “with zest” is added to

describe the his work. Even one without a complete understanding of the word

“zest” could be inspired by its presence in the text. To the human ear, the word

has such a sound that it very much fits the attitude which it describes. The

word could not suggest any mood other than that which is created within this

very passage. Other words found within the passage have similar effects, those

produced by the phonetic character of the word, but also by the denotation or

accepted meaning of the words. For example, the adjective “zealously”,

describing Shukhov’s chopping of the ice upon the wall, is quite like the word

“zest” in the mood which it suggests. Similarly, when “Shukhov tackled the wall

as if it was his own handiwork”, the excitement and intensity of the task is

effectively produced through the verb of the sentence. To tackle anything

suggests a certain vigor on the part of the tackler, a vigor that would be more

foreign in a prison camp than in any other setting that life provides. In such a

way as these words accomplish their tasks, diction becomes one of the most

effective means of impressing upon a reader a mood, or of suggesting certain

feelings to them. A very simple image is presented in this passage which also has a pronounced

effect upon the reader. It is “that distant view where sun gleamed on snow”

which can have a profound impression on anyone alert to that which they are

reading. The image which is formed is such that few readers would be unaffected

by it. The first element of the image is the sun. Unless the sun is portrayed as

being oppressive, as it might under a great deal of heat, it has no negative

connotations. Therefore, the only effect it might have upon the reader is a

positive one. That the sun should gleam on snow suggests a cold clear day, one

which can be exhilirating and cause one’s blood to rush. This exhiliration, like

Shukhov’s vigor, also does not seem be a very good fit to the setting of the

novel, which is partly what sets this passage apart. Essentially, what

Solzhenitsyn has done is to chose an image of the weather, which is so central

to the human experience that few would not feel the effects of the image in

their reading of the passage. If no such passage as this existed in this novel, perhaps less acclaim might

have fallen its way. Its inclusion reflects a certain genius on the part of the

author, who is able to make such stark contrast an effective tool in telling of

life in a Soviet prison camp. It is primarily the mood of the passage, that of

exhiliration, of excitement and of zest for life, which produces this contrast

with the rest of the novel, which mires more in depression and oppression. It

would seem that mood, indeed, can take hold of a reader, for nothing short of

that would inspire hope in a setting which provides a wholly bleak outlook. The

ability to impress upon the reader such a mood can truly be said to be part of

Solzhenitsyn’s genius and is telling of the overall value of One Day in the Life

of Ivan Denisovitch, which through its harsh realism and honesty, is a warning

of the brutality and cruelty of which we humans are capable.


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