One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Last Updated: 19 Apr 2023
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Got up to go to bucket
Didn't get up at reveille
Wondered which guard is on duty
Decided he can lie in bed a little while longer
Decided to report sick
Got 3 days penalty with work for not getting up on time
Got dressed
Followed Tartar out of room
Realised he wasnt being sent to the guardhouse
Thanked the guard for letting him off and said he'll never get up late again
Picked up pail and with bare hands (because he forgot his gloves) went to the well
Put pail down, tucked hands into sleeves and watched some people in interest
Ran to well
Carried dripping bucket back to guardroom
Took boots off and washed floor barefoot
Wiped floor boards
Eats soup
Gets fever examined
Returns to hut for body count
Hides bread in mattress
Thinks about wife's letter
Marched off for work at Power Station
Admires Alyoshka
Tries to keep wind out with tar paper
Sneaks an extra helping of food
Sees scrap metal in snow and takes it
Works and is late to lunch
Wants to hide the trowel
At body search he panics but the guard doesn't find the metal
Makes way to hall for supper
Awarded 400 grams of bread
After body count he prepares to sleep
Helps hide Tsezars parcel
Gets awarded biscuits and a little bit of sausage
Thanks god
Alyoshka urges him to pray properly and to pursue the goods of the spirit not the flesh
Reflects on this comment
Gives him a biscuit


  1. Bread/food
  2. Parcel
  3. Spoon
  4. Prisoner #
  5. Moon
  6. Cold


  • Simile
  • Metaphor
  • Imagery
  • Personification
  • Diction (informal)
  • Foreshadowing
  • Repetition

Theme Statements

  • The little things in life should be appreciated.
  • You cannot understand someone if you are not them.
  • Maintaining your dignity in tough life situations makes life more bearable

Meaningful Quotations

  1. "Can a man who's warm understand one who's freezing?"
  2. "Writing letters was like throwing stones into a bottomless pool."
  3. "Even a prisoners thoughts aren't free…"
  4. "Easy money doesn't weigh anything…"
  5. "Beat a dog once and you'll only have to show him the whip."


  • Ivan - thin, weedy, darkeyed sergeant
  • Tyurin - the foreman of gang 104
  • Tetyukor - begs for scraps
  • Alyoshka - devout baptist
  • Pavlo - the deputy of gang 104
  • Kolya - a poet
  • Buyhovsky - the captain
  • Gopchik - innocent sixteen year old boy
  • Eino - estonian
  • Kildigs - talented bricklayer
  • Snub Nose - warden
  • Tsezar - receives regular packages

Symbols/ Motifs

  • Bread/food - Is mentioned all throughout the text. The prisoners obsess over the amount of food they get so much, it's clear how mistreated they are. The bread represents survival and that the little things in life should be cherished.
  • Cold - The cold not only represents the weather, but represents the abuse and mistreatment of the prisoners too. Also mentioned all throughout the text, usually along the lines of "Can a man who's warm understand one who's freezing." Also representing the theme of: you cannot understand someone if you are not them.
  • Parcel - The parcels represent survival; the inmates who keep them to themselves are healthier like Kildigs. They also represent corruption and bribery in Tsezars case; he bribes inmates to get his way. Which also ties into power because they have more power over the inmates and even some of the guards.
  • Spoon - Shukhov's spoon represents individuality and a struggle to keep humanity and free will. It is his and only his; not controlled by the camp. It's his little secret and his way of trying to keep some freedom and privacy.
  • Moon - The moon represents hope and reminds the inmates of the world beyond their confinement. It gives them something to hold on to and reminds them of home and the people they loved. Which I think ties into appreciation of the small things.


  • Ivan - We spend the whole day through Ivan and experience what he does. He is vital because the story through his eyes is what makes the story HIS story. Based on what the author has given us I think Ivan is a good man who just wants to be free.
  • Tsezar - Represents the higher class people having a hard time getting used to the camp. I think he's vital to the story because he's the one who always gets the parcel's and he chooses to share. Based on him getting gifts all the time from his family and him focusing on movies and film making, rather than his own survival, I think he is wealthy and is having a rough time adjusting to the life at camp.
  • Opening scene - The opening scene tells the ways of the camp. Shows that Ivan doesn't feel good and establishes the theme of injustice and oppression by authority with the unfair punishment should've received. Foreshadows to punishments that will be given later on.
  • Closing scene - The closing scene shows how his point of view on happiness has changed; and that he is almost happy. Emphasises how much of a survivor he is by showing us how he always looks on the brightside. And really makes us think back at the end when Alexander tells us that this is only one of his 3,653 day sentence.


  • "Then he took out the piece of bread in the white rag and, holding it under his coat so that not a crumb would be lost, began nibbling and chewing it bit by bit. He'd carried the bread underneath two layers of clothing, warming it with his body, so it wasn't the least bit frozen." Shows that even the slightest bit of food is treasured so much because they get so little. Ties into the themes of mistreatment and appreciation of what you have.
  • "Shukhov licked his spoon clean and returned it to his boot, then put on his cap and made for sick bay." and then "Shukhov licked his spoon and tucked it inside his boot, crammed his cap on his head, rose, picked up the bread- his own ration and Tsezar's - and left." These scenes show him trying to gain some individuality and some humanity by having this spoon be his little secret.
  • " Shukhov went to sleep fully content. He'd had so many strokes of luck that day: they hadn't put him in the cells; they hadn't sent his squad to the settlement; he'd swiped a bowl of kasha dinner; the squad leader had fixed the rates well; he'd built a wall and enjoyed doing it; he'd smuggled that bit of the hacksaw blade and through; he'd earned a favor from Tsezar that evening; he'd bought that tobacco. And he hadn't fallen ill. He'd got over it. A day without a dark cloud. Almost a happy day." Shows how drastically his idea of happiness changed. Ties into the theme of appreciation of the little things.

Cite this Page

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. (2018, Aug 27). Retrieved from

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