One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich: Chapter 6
Chapter 6 (pages 95-104 , Shukhov finds scrap metal–Tyurin’s brother)
Shukhov spies a scrap of metal in the snow along the path on his way back from the office, and hides it in his knee pocket, thinking it might come in handy later. Back at the power plant, the men are huddled round the stoves and happily whispering about better rates Tyurin has wrangled for them. The boss tells the group about his experience in the Red Army back in 1930, when he was just twenty-two. Despite answering all the questions barked at him correctly, that he served the working people, the communists were eager to pin false charges on him because his father was a well-off “kulak.” He was discharged without any food or ticket home, but he concludes his tale with a smirk. The colonel who treated him so badly was shot seven years later, which, he remarks, proves the existence of a God in heaven after all.
After his unusually generous lunch, Shukhov longs for a smoke and asks the Estonian Eino to lend him some tobacco until he can buy some the next day. After Eino exchanges a glance with his fellow Estonian comrade with whom he always shares everything, he agrees to give Shukhov enough for a single cigarette, which Shukhov quickly rolls in newspaper and puffs away happily. Fetyukov greedily witnesses the illicit smoke with beady green eyes.
Back by the fireside, Tyurin continues his story. Having bought two loaves of bread on the black market, he passed for a soldier on the train. A frightened girl in a blue dress was trying to fill her kettle with boiling water, but the high demand made for a scary scene and Tyurin filled it for her, handing her the loaves to hold just as the train was ready to depart. He pushed her into the coach and daringly entered the compartment himself. The other passengers in it were students from Leningrad, and were enjoying such pleasures as buttered bread and hot tea. After hearing of the life Tyurin had led, they hid him under their coats on the top bunk. He was later able to repay the favor to one of the girls doing hard labor in one of the Pechora camps. The next portion of Tyurin’s tale includes his younger brother, who he had taken south only to leave him with a gang of thugs who might be able to “educate” him. He never saw him again.
Shukhov moves to prepare the mortar, thinking of the gang, and Kilgas joins him after a moment’s pause. Shukhov attributes Kilgas’ hesitation to his independence, since unlike Shukhov who is a slave to a stomach dependent on the mess hall, Kilgas could just as well survive on packages from the outside.
Four men will lay the bricks, including Tyurin, and Pavlo leaps into action to make the mortar. As the boss had said, they’ll make a home away from home at the power plant.
Tyurin’s story reveals a hard character developed out of tough circumstances, from his dismissal from the army to the loss of his kid brother. Given the men’s dependence on their gang boss they appreciate his strength and even love him in a way. Besides providing depth to Tyurin’s character, this passage includes a key exchange between Shukhov and the Estonian who lends him tobacco to meet his craving. The man’s gesture is a kindness, one he gives with his brother’s agreeable gaze; the pair are depicted as of one mind despite their differences. Their ability to remain close, despite the camp conditions that separate every man for himself, is a reminder of the potential warmth of family or friends. The hope Shukhov exhibits, however, is only for himself; he is desperate for a cigarette and can imagine no greater pleasure than the smoke that tides him over. The references to both Tyurin’s family and the Estonians illustrates just how solitary a life Shukhov leads; he no longer looks forward to his release, but focuses entirely on his present circumstances.