One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich: Chapter 2

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Chapter 2 (pages 25-44, from leaving the hospital to Volkovoy’s body search)
 
Shukhov returns to Barracks 9, where everyone but assistant gang boss Pavlo is dozing, before heading outside.  He claims his bread ration, which he calculates is only about half an ounce short, and hides half of it in a hole in the sawdust inside his mattress.  While he sews up the bread in its hiding place, the Baptist Alyoshka in the bunk underneath him is reading the Gospels.  The gang boss Tyurin, a nineteen-year veteran of camp life, shouts “Outside!” and twenty-three of twenty-four members of Gang 104 go out single file into the dark air for morning roll call.  They have been spared the Socialist Community Development project, thanks to their boss’s talents for greasing the right palms.  Paneleyev has managed sick leave, and his envious gang mates move forward to be frisked.  Shukhov watches the artist, an old man, repaint Shukhov’s number S-854 on his jacket, then returns to see his gang mate Caesar smoking a cigarette, with Fetyukov staring straight at the man’s mouth.  Although Shukhov, too, thinks he would rather have a smoke than his freedom at this point, he is proud not to sink so low as an obvious stare.  
 
Caesar Markovich is relatively young, a former movie cameraman of mixed race whose mustaches are spared from being shaved off so he matches the photograph on his records.  He declines giving the cigarette butt to Fetyukov despite the man’s nerve in directly asking for it, offering it instead to Shukhov, who enjoys the wonderful warmth so deeply he doesn’t flinch at the news the prisoners’ undershirts are to be taken away.  Wolf-like disciplinary officer Lieutenant Volkovoy, known for carrying a leather whip in his early days at the camp, has the prisoners undo their coats and march in groups of fives to be frisked.  Fortunately, Shukhov has no extra clothing, letters, or other illicit items on his person, but Caesar is caught with a wool shirt and the Captain, who has only been in the camp for three months, is outraged to be caught with a jersey. He protests until Volkovoy shuts him up by sentencing him to 10 days’ solitary.  As they pass the guardhouse, the prisoners are counted and recounted by lieutenants, sergeants, and escorts with dogs.
 
 
Analysis
The characters of Gang 104 are described in a bit more detail at this point, with the different personalities predicting each man’s success at surviving camp life.  The greedy Fetyukov’s pathetic begging bodes poorly for his ability to make it, while Caesar is presented as a sophisticated and fortunate man whose cigarette serves as a reminder of the worldly pleasures available to those with the means of affording them.  However, neither he nor the newly arrived captain is permitted to break the rules by wearing extra clothing to ward off the cold.  The camp authority represented by the vicious Volkovoy is unrelenting in its punishment of prisoners, whose very humanity is reduced by being forced to wear their numbers tattooed on their uniforms, and to maintain this design against the wear and tear inevitable in such conditions.  The men are herded like animals, counted and recounted, shaped into formation, moved along in groups of five that erase their individual differences and reduce their human qualities.
 
 
 
 

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