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MonkeyNotes-One Day In the Life of Ivan Denisovich
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Themes

The key theme of the novel is the survival of the fittest in manís struggle for existence.

Within the Siberian labor camp, life is as difficult as it gets. From early morning to late in the evening, the prisoners must perform hard labor and exist on meager rations. They are expected to work in the sub freezing weather without adequate clothing or footgear. In addition, they are constantly taunted and abused by the guards and officials, being treated more like numbers or animals than human beings. If they fail to follow orders, they are severely punished. To exist in the camp requires a sturdy constitution, cunning resourcefulness, an iron will, and a positive attitude about life.


Men like Ivan, Tyurin, Kilgas, Gopchik, and Y-81 succeed in their struggle for existence because they possess strong characters. They are proud and positive, taking their hardships in stride and living one day at a time. They do not bear grudges or covet the possessions of other. They are also appreciative of small mercies and grateful for little rewards, like extra rations. Because of their outlook, they are able to pass through their life of struggle. In contrast, characters like Captain Buynovsky, Caesar, and Fetyukov are misfits in the labor camp. They are unable to adjust to their surroundings and come to terms with their situation. They do not understand that they have to struggle hard and live positively in order to survive the harsh conditions of the camp. They spend their time resenting their present situation and complaining about it.

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