Issues of Solidarity

February 11, 2021 by Essay Writer

“One should never direct people toward happiness, because happiness too is an idol of the market-place. One should direct them towards mutual affection. A beast gnawing at its prey can be happy too, but only human beings can feel affection for each other, and this is the highest achievement they can aspire to.” — Alexander Isayevich SolzhenitsynAlexander Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich examines a cruel and authoritarian system that attempts to deteriorate the human spirit. Embedded in the milieu of a Siberian labor camp is a movement to destroy its prisoners’ solidarity and endorse primitive behavior for individual survival. In actuality, this effort forces a bond of unity among the prisoners and restores a sense of long-absenced humanity. Through the portrayal of the characters in his novel, Solzenitsyn demonstrates that solidarity and humanity overcome and even intensify during the harshest conditions, despite an environment which attempts to wipe them out.The Soviet authorities that govern this prison camp system depend on the prisoner-workers to be at destructive odds with one another as a means of controlling them. However, this status quo within the camp has the reverse effect upon many of its subjects, strengthening their accord and camaraderie. Such is the case with the two Estonians of the 104th, who “hung onto each other so closely that you’d think one would suffocate unless he breathed the same air as the other” (40). They initially meet in camp and soon become “close as brothers”. “They shared their food, they slept in adjacent bunks in the top row. And when they stood in the column, waiting for work to start, or turned in for the night, they went on talking to each other in their quiet, deliberate manner” (40). Subsequently, in an environment intended to impose a social handicap upon its prisoners through strenuous work and meager provisions, it is from these elements that the basis of the Estonians’ friendship is formed. Further representative of human compassion and understanding is the Estonians’ firm confidence in other prisoners such as Shukhov. In need of a smoke, Shukhov addresses Eino, one of the Estonians, to “lendŠ[him]Šsome [tobacco] for a cigarette till tomorrow”, adding, “You know I won’t let you down” (70). In response, Eino “slowly turn[s] his eyes to his ‘brother'” and “reached for his pink-embroidered pouch” (71). In effect, by trustingly lending Shukhov the tobacco, the two Estonians further defy the self-sufficient techniques issued forth by the camp for survival. Emblematically, human commitment and trust are able to champion a system which impresses rivalry and suspicion upon its subjects. In spite of this disparaging order which advocates the destruction of solidarity transcends a human compassion boasting amity and solidity.”A guard can’t get people to budge even in working hours, but a squad leader can tell his men to get on with the job even during the break, and they’ll do it” (51). Such is the reverence with which the 104th embellishes their squad leader, Tiurin. Regarded as a father figure, he is much respected and endeared by the men whom he calls “boys”. “All the men had crowded near the round iron stove that Shukhov had fixed”, where Shukhov adds, “the light was dim, and the men sat gazing into the fire. Like a big family. It was a family, the squad. They were listening to Tiurin as he talked toŠthe men by the stove” (69). Thus, despite an exhausting workday intended to converge interests upon work and dissipate bonds among the squad, the workday materializes as a mere obstacle to the period after work: a phase of freedom and unity among the squad members. Furthermore, the metaphor of squad as family is made explicit here, and is further represented in the mutual support among the prisoners for Tiurin in his confrontation with foreman Der. The squad covers the windows with roofing felt for warmth, a criminal act, where Der incriminatingly accuses “This isn’t a matter for the guardhouse. This is a criminal offense, Tiurin. You’ll get a third term for this” (81). Defending their squad leader, “Pavlo lifted his spade. He hadn’t grabbed it for nothing. And Senka, for all his deafness, had understood. He came up, hands on hips. And Senka was built solid” (82). Consequently, the squad members defend their squad leader and champion their solidarity, despite potentially threatening repercussions. Appropriately, this interdependent relationship among the squad members fortifies and endures despite the destructive effects the prison camp has upon the human spirit.One of the greatest representations of an unwavering human spirit and a firm solidarity in the midst of a dehumanizing atmosphere is that which exists between Shukhov and Senka. Although controlled by a system which impresses individual wellbeing for ultimate survival upon its subjects, they choose to resist. Shukhov, although engrossed in the delight of his cigarette as the “sweet dizziness went all through his body” (71), notices Senka watching. Thus, Shukhov approaches Senka, and genuinely proposes: “come on, finish this, you poor slob”, “hand[ing] him the cigarette in his wooden holder” (72). Although Shukhov greatly endears the tobacco, he allows his inner humanity to champion his self-sufficient desires by giving the rest to Senka. Shukhov develops a strong bond with Senka and in effect, defies a system which endeavors to accomplish the opposite. Their idealized friendship and solidarity, however, are illustrated most vividly in their squad’s building of the wall. In the process of its construction, the 104th engage themselves in a frenzied race against time, desperately trying to make it before roll call. In response, Shukhov and Senka volunteer to finish off as much as they can, imploring the others to leave. “Left alone now with Senka”, it was simple: he “went on handing blocks to Shukhov” (87) as they frantically built the wall. Reevaluating the potential repercussions for arriving late for roll call, Shukhov gestures to Senka, “Run ahead. I’ll catch up”. But “Senka would never leave anyone in a jam. Pay for it? Then together” (88-89). These series of actions and thoughts imply an unmistakable unity between the two prisoners. Defying the self-sufficient techniques issued forth by the camp for individual survival, Senka refuses to leave without Shukhov because of his intuitive duty to humanity. Metaphorically, the wall for the prison camp system represents a punishment for the prisoners meant to dispel sentiments of cohesion and humanity. However, for Shukhov and Senka, the wall symbolizes a commitment to excellence as humans as well as the extreme root of their formed solidarity. Accordingly, a forced companionship ironically materializes between Shukhov and Senka because of a suppressive environment which attempts to the opposite: obliterate unity and the human accord.Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich probes an authoritarian system which attempts to break down the human spirit. In the setting of a harsh Siberian labor camp surfaces an endeavor to destroy solidarity and endorse self-sufficient tactics for individual survival. In essence, this strengthens the human spirit, forcing a bond of unity among the prisoners. Through the depiction of many characters in his novel, Solzhenitsyn validates the survival of solidarity and humanity even in the harshest conditions, despite an environment which attempts to eliminate them. In effect, the oppressed individuals and their found solidarity become ultimate forms of system defiance, emanating the essence of the triumphant human spirit.

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