One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich: Hidden Social Criticism

March 18, 2021 by Essay Writer

Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s novel, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, follows a single day in the life of a prisoner, Ivan Denisovich, who is referred to as Shukhov. Solzhenitsyn draws the readers into the story and takes us on a long, dark journey, exposing us to a lifestyle that the world has been unaware of for years. By developing a strong image of the scenery and conditions of the gulag, the camp where the story takes place, the author allows the readers to experience of horror that the prisoners had to go through for days in 1937. This causes many to wonder if One Day is a literary artwork or actually a social criticism.

As mentioned in the foreword, Solzhenitsyn’s novel is not a documentary or a memoir, rather, it is a work of art. What makes this literature unique and artistic are its boundaries in time and place. The author does not write about general, already known historic events that occurred during the 1930s. If he had, the story may not have been as provoking and controversial. Instead, One Day is set in one place and one day. The novel’s boundaries are strict and clear. By taking the concept of chapters away from the readers, and the knowledge of time away from the prisoners, the author forces the readers to concentrate and truly experience the drudge.

Another trait that makes this novel a beautiful artwork is its style. Solzhenitsyn’s canvas may have limited space, as the story details a single day of a prisoner, but that does not prevent him from creating an eye-opening, powerful piece that has a clear, to-the-point message. In a small amount of space, Solzhenitsyn successfully manages to develop a story that truly echoes the agony of the prisoners in the gulag.

The novel reminds me of a famous painting by Hieronymus Bosch called “The Garden of Earthly Delights.” These two artworks are very similar because they make the audience feel uncomfortable by revealing the truth. They are also full of vivid descriptions that really pull the audience into the art. Similar to that of One Day, each and every section of Bosch’s painting has a story to tell, and for a brief moment, no one can do anything but try to soak in every little detail. This is where people might confuse One Day with artwork and social criticism.

Social criticism is another detail in the large painting of words that Solzhenitsyn created. One Day is a historical fiction from Soviet Union, a country full of political and social secrets and controversies. One Day is a treasure chest of hidden social criticisms. There is no real right or wrong answer to the question, is Solzhenitsyn’s novel a work of art or a social criticism? One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is a combination of the two, and they both mix to create a magnificent piece of artwork.

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