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In Alexander Solzhenitsyn's novel 'One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich', the strong themes of hope and perseverance are undercut by the realization that for Ivan there is little or no purpose in life. Good Afternoon and welcome to 'reading of the world youth literature festival'. My name is Stephanie Campbell and I'm here to explore literature with you through this novel. It's a prime example of an ordinary mans hope and perseverance to survive.
There are numerous instances in the novel where Ivan is filled with hope. However, these moments of hope within the narrative of the novel raise the interesting question, 'Are these moments of hope pointless?' The answer to this question may lie more in the individual human nature of the reader than in Solzhenitsyn's literary technique. Whether pointless or not, Solzhenitsyn offers many instances in the novel where the themes of hope and perseverance are evident. The glimpses of hope which Ivan sees includes the few moments after reveille that the prisoners have to themselves; respecting his fellow prisoners, taking pride in a job well done, and enjoying simple food and tobacco. This meant doing anything from sewing someone a cover for his mittens out of a piece of old lining to bringing one of the big gang bosses his dry felt boots while he was still in his bunk. Tasks like these, done for his own personal satisfaction rather than the satisfaction of the gang bosses gave Ivan hope and reinforced his own personal self-worth. When reading this novel I found Ivan's sense of hope moving yet disheartening. As a reader I feel compassion for the reason that he did immense amounts of work for everyone else and never expected anything considerable in return. Majority of people in society today from our generation are selfish and will only help when there is compensation involved.
An average prisoner would not wake up every morning of his sentence feeling inspired and hopeful. Although Solzhenitsyn later portrays Ivan as hopeful and inspired, it would have been misleading to the other themes of the novel if he had made Ivan hopeful and inspired all of the time. Solzhenitsyn wrote 'One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich' in such a fashion that the brutality of the Soviet labour camps is not emphasized. Instead of focusing on the brutality of the camps, Solzhenitsyn focused on one day in the life of a very ordinary prisoner. However, the fact that Ivan is such an ordinary man and is still able to find hope in the most degrading of tasks is inspiring. In Solzhenitsyn's representation of this ordinary day he manages to show what could be the worst morning possible for a prisoner. Ivan does not get on the sick list and he is dragged out of bed to complete the menial task of mopping a floor simply because he failed to get up at reveille. The novel made me realise how easy our life is living in Australia and how lucky we are that we live in a country where no one can make us do something we don't want to. Compare the chores you do at home to what Ivan does and consider which one is easier. While he is moping the floor, despite his aches and pains and the freezing cold, Ivan is able to ponder a hopeful philosophy, 'There is work and work, it's like the two ends of a stick. If you're working for human beings, then do a real job of it, but if you work for dopes, then you just go through the motions.' The reflects of hope in this morning are so vibrant that after the publication of the novel Solzhenitsyn was informed by thousands of letters from former prisoners, the integrity of his Novel's character had returned to them the conviction of their own human worth.
The theme of Hope reflects my personal experiences through the start of high school. Searching for hope in tough circumstances isn't easy when you think there's nothing left to hope for. After an incident that happened to me I found it impossible to find a reason to get out of bed in the morning, to go to school or even to eat. Unlike Ivan it took a while for me to find that hope in my life. Going to school every day takes your mind off the things bothering you, similarly Ivan went to work each day which distanced his thoughts of the camp since his work area was outside it. One thing I had to help me persevere was family. Unfortunately Ivan was all alone with only the friends he made in the camp. Solzhenitsyn really captured the emotion, feelings and thoughts that go through a persons mind when they're taken from familiar surroundings and thrown into somewhere new. As a reader you wonder, will each day get easier? How much longer will things be like this? Human nature is
Without perseverance there is no hope. It's not just in the novel and my life there is hope, the residents of Tully up in far north Queensland are hoping they're houses are ok, while the victims families from the earthquake in Christchurch are hoping their loved ones survive. The perseverance of the families in Brisbane that have been affected by the floods to rebuild their ruined houses is an inspiration to everyone. I realised through this man's story that the relationship between the novel, my life and the rest of the world is that what happens in your life is out of your control. Ivan didn't choose to be in a soviet camp, I didn't choose what happened to me and the victims of natural disasters certainly weren't given a choice in losing everything. I've learnt from this novel that hope can pull you through anything and when things seem hard and it seems as though your problems are the biggest struggle in the world remember to talk to your friends and your family because they give you the most hope of all. It's a small word but it can change a person's life. Without hope and perseverance I wouldn't be here today. You wouldn't be here today. Ivan Denisovich held the hope in his hand of the day he would be released. I held the hope of the day they would be locked up.
In conclusion I would like to thank everyone for coming and listening. The purpose of this festival is to teach everyone that literature is important and 'One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich' really emphasis the theme of hope. If you haven't already read the novel be sure to pick up a copy because it's an inspiring story everyone can relate to.