Theme of One Day In the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Last Updated: 26 Jan 2021
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One day in the life of Ivan Desinovich by Aleksander Solyztien is story of a hero’s quest of survival in a hostile environment. The novel is a very detailed and graphic description of one man’s struggle in a Stalinist work camp.

It is the story of Ivan Denisovich, also called Shukhov, and his determination and strength to endure the hardships of imprisonment and dehumanization. The story takes place in a Russian prison camp after World War II. Ivan Shukhov Denisovich, the main character, is sentenced to a prison camp after having been a prisoner of the Germans during the war.The camp conveys a hopeless situation that only human integrity can overcome. : Araby by James Joyce is a romantic quest about a young boy who falls in love and pursues his quest of bringing something for his loved one from a place he thinks to be exotic and unexplored. On comparing these two literary works, there are some similarities as well as differences. Even though both the literary works are different kinds of quest, One day in the life of Ivan Desinovich being a survival quest and Araby being a romantic quest, both bear similar elements that define a quest.

Firstly, the protagonists in both literary works are heroes and exceptional beings who have struggled courageously. Secondly the protagonists undergo through the process of mental transformation and death and rebirth of self. The only difference is that One day in the life of Ivan Desinovich is a dull and depressing novel about a prisoner who struggles to survive whole Araby is refreshing and joyous story about an innocent child’s first love. Both literary works bear some similar quest elements and also differences. The essential element of a quest is the hero and his conflict.Heroes are those who have found or done something beyond the normal range of experience and it takes action for a cause greater than oneself and are motivated by some kind of ideal or a reasonable thought. This element is apparent in both works.

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Firstly, Ivan Desinovich can be called a hero as who has survived for many years in the camp or gulag without losing mental balance and self respect. This is an unusual achievement as it is difficult to preserve sense of humanity and self-dignity which Shukhov has achieved, unlike others who have become savage.Such was Shukhov’s sense of pride and self-respect who would “never lower himself like that Fetiukov, he would never look at a man’s mouth. ”(p 22) Secondly, the protagonist of Araby is a kid who falls in love with a girl and desires to explore the exotic location called Araby. This is also an unusual thing as this is the first the protagonist goes to a journey without any past experience and imagines the place to be really exotic and having a magical enchantment.This is evident when the protagonist expresses his feelings and imagination by saying, “The syllables of the word Araby were called to me through the silence in which my soul luxuriated and cast an Eastern enchantment over me. ”Thirdly, the protagonists in both the novels are motivated in a certain way.

For Shukov, this motivation was the need to go home and help the family as the narrator says “His wife's dearest hope was that when he got home he would keep clear of the kolkhoz and take up dyeing himself.That way they could get out of the poverty she was struggling against, send their children to trade schools, and build themselves a new cottage in place of their old tumble-down place”( pg 129). The child in Araby however, is strongly movitated by promise he made to his loved one to bring something and is greatly enthusiastic when the author says “I had hardly any patience with the serious work of life which, now that it stood between me and my desire, seemed to me child's play, ugly monotonous child's play. ” Another element of a quest is that the hero undergoes mental transformation.In this process, the old ideas and thinking of the hero disintegrates and he begins to view life with a new perspective. This process helps the character heavily in maturing him/her. The protagonists of the two literary works also find themselves changed and possessing a new attitude.

Firstly, Ivan Desinovich change of the habit of planning ahead is indicated when the narrator says During the years in prison Shukhov had lost the habit of planning for the next day, for a year ahead, for supporting his family.The authorities did his thinking for him about everything—it was somehow easier that way” (pg 122). Secondly, in the narrative Araby, a small child’s innocence and love is killed and replaced by vanity, anguish and anger. The innocent child who imagines sweet day dreams about love surprisingly says “Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger. In this way the reader can see that both the protagonists go through the process of mental transformation where their premature ideas about love, old notions and opinions are replaced with more mature conclusions and realistic as well as a serious perspective for life. Differences also exist as far as the plot and the mood of the works are concerned. Although these literary works contain similar quest qualities, there are some differences that draw a line between the two.

Firslty Even though the novel One day in the life of Ivan Desinovich gives the readers a strong message about preserving self dignity, it remains a dull and depressing novel whereas Araby generates a healthy response and attitude from readers as it contains innocent and lively story about a child’s first love which the readers also identify with. One day in the life of Ivan Desinovich is a dull novel because it makes the readers aware of the physical and mental tortures on prisoners. Secondly, Araby gives the readers a happy impression with the theme of love of a young boy.The audience identify with the condition and the protagonist’s idealization about the lover and this keeps them indulged in the story which is completely contradictory with the theme of a prisoner’s life where the reader is faced with a complete alien as well as a cruel environment. Thirdly, In Ivan desinoich, the author uses characterization, motifs and figurative language to express the dehumazing environment of the gulag whereas in Araby, the author uses personification and characterization to show the contrasting happy and flowering mood.In One day in the life of Ivan Desinovich the author uses motifs of evil by institutions such as “Come on; paw me as hard as you like. There’s nothing but my soul in my chest.

” Pg 25 and “‘No one would care if a prisoner froze to death, but what if he tried to escape? ” Pg 38 and also charactherization such as ‘all his longing was concentrated in that fag-end [of the cigarette] –which meant more to him now, it seemed, than freedom itself: but he would never lower himself like that Fetiukov, he would never look at a man’s mouth’ Pg 22.In Araby, however the author James Joyce uses personification such as “My body was like a harp and her words and gestures were the fingers (pg 182 1st para last line)” trying to show the reader the happy mood and idealization by the protagonist. Thus differences result in the different moods of the novel. Both the literary works thus follow the direction of a hero’s quest. Even though both follow different type of quests, there are some general similar quest elements such as presence of a hero who is an exceptional being, mental transformation of this hero and certain motivation of the hero for quest.While the protagonist in One day in the life of Ivan Desinovich struggles to survive in an inhuman environment, protagonist in Araby aims to explore an alien market in order to bring something for his loved one. One day in the life of Ivan Desinovich therefore, is a survival quest whereas Araby is an romantic quest.

However, their themes contrast drastically. While One day in the life of Ivan Desinovich offers depressing and serious story, Araby is about first love. In this way, both literary works bear certain similarities and differences.

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Theme of One Day In the Life of Ivan Denisovich. (2018, Nov 23). Retrieved from

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