One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich: Character Profiles
Alyoshka is a fellow prisoner in Gang 104 who is also a devout Baptist, constantly reading and citing scripture. While at the beginning Shukhov looks down upon the religious man’s blind faith and naivete, he later comes to respect Alyoshka’s trust in God and good bearing towards all.
Buynovsky, also referred to as “the Captain” and S-311, is a well-educated man whose nickname comes from his previous work as a captain of a ship. He and Caesar are deep in intellectual conversation when he is hauled off to a freezing cell for 10 days. His educated background is of no benefit to surviving camp life.
Caesar, though also a prisoner in Gang 104, is a well-educated man who receives regular packages, making him the envy of all the camp. He enjoys the pleasures of buttered bread and pipes and represents privilege and luxury, the antithesis of both communism and prison. His bunk is immediately below Shukhov’s and he is generous in sharing his spoils, while also benefiting from Shukhov’s advice and clever plotting in hiding such goods from the prison officials as well as fellow prisoners.
Eino is one of two Estonians constantly chatting with each other in their own language, who loans Shukhov tobacco for a cigarette the day before he buys some himself. The Estonians’ close friendship and intimate communication resist the prison norms of isolation and misery, and represent the importance of community and friendship.
Fetyukov is a fellow prisoner on the opposite end of the spectrum from Caesar, whose desperation leads him to begging for scraps and licking bowls. He is always scrounging and is despised by Shukhov for his pathetic bearing and constant visibility. Shukhov feels sorry for him when he is beaten up by the prison guards, as he knows it is unlikely such a man can survive the harsh conditions of prison life.
Gopchik is a sixteen-year-old fellow member of Gang 104 who is always ready and eager to help. His youth and enthusiasm make him a sympathetic character, one deserving of protection rather than persecution by the regime that imprisoned him for providing milk to rebel factions in the woods near his home.
Kilgas is a Latvian prisoner and talented bricklayer who works side by side with Shukhov at the Power Station. Shukhov admires his strong work ethic and sense of humor.
Kolya is a university-educated poet serving as the camp’s medic despite his lack of training. Although he is likable and sympathetic to Shukhov’s fever, Shukhov resents his inability to relate to the problems of prison life, saying basically that men in the cold shouldn’t seek sympathy from those who are warm.
Pavlo is the deputy foreman of Gang 104, a strict but respected man whose careful thinking and plotting benefits the men in his gang, who in turn are devoted to him.
Ivan Denisovich Shukhov
Ivan Denisovich Shukhov is a forty-year-old prisoner in a labor camp in Siberia and the protagonist of the novel. A carpenter by training, he is a hard worker and likable representative of “every man,” who in eight years of confinement has not lost his spirit. Although he is not a religious man, he does believe in God, and despite the harsh realities of prison life, maintains a positive attitude and rejoices in small pleasures.
Snubnose is the warden who comes for Captain Buynovsky and gives Tyurin a hard time about reports Caesar and the Captain are supposed to have written about their extra clothing.
Tyurin is the foreman of Gang 104 and although he represents authority, he is a sympathetic figure, well-respected by Shukhov and the other common prisoners. His role as officer is somewhat isolating, and he primarily socializes with Caesar. He is in prison because his father was a kulak, or member of the rich rather than peasant class, which Soviet leader Stalin sought to exterminate.