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Backgrounds • Solzhenitsyn was released from a a specialized prison in Marfino for inmates who performed mathematical and scientific research in 1953 and was exiled to a village in Kazakhstan to a forced labor camp. The village was called Kok-Terek. There he developed stomach cancer and was operated on for a tumor and kept from knowing his diagnoses. • During his stay in Kok-Terek he wrote in secret and by the age of 42 had a large collection of writings but had published nothing. After his release from a hospital in Tashkent and a year after Khrushchev was appointed Soviet primier (1961) One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was published in Novyi Mir.
Settings, Characters, and Plot • Ward 13 in a hospital in South Central Asia in the U.S.S.R. in 1955 • Pavel Rusanov-(antagonist) • Communist Party leader with a neck tumor; • Wife;s name is Kapitolina • Framed a friend for a crime against the government and sent him to a gulag in order to attain power • “Loves his country, but hates its people” • hypocrite
Settings, Characters, and Plot • Oleg Kostoglotov-(protagonist) • former gulag prisoner and exile living in Kazakhstan with a stomach tumor • Believes in right of choice in terms of cancer treatment • Solzhenitsyn based Kostoglotov on himself and his own experiences • Doesn’t like Rusanov
Settings, Characters, and Plot • Ludmilla Dontosova-head of radiation therapy; Kostoglotov often argues with her to stop his treatment • Vera Gangart- radiologist and love interest of Kostoglotov • Zoya-young medical student; supplies Kostoglotov with literature about his disease which is against policy • Yevgenia Ustinovna-senior surgeon • Efrem Podduyev-a pessimistic, patient with cancer of the tongue • Vadim Zatsyrko-a young geologist with terminal cancer • Asya- young female patient, who is interested in Western culture
Settings, Character, and Plot • Most of the story takes place in the cancer ward of a provincial, Soviet government. Solzhenitsyn introduces the scene from the perspective of Pavel Rusanov, a Soviet party leader. The book’s main character however, is Kostoglotov, a former prisoner living in exile living in Ush-Terek a village in Kazakhstan. • Moving mainly in dialogue, the book features Soviet citizens of different ethnicities, characteristics and social classes. Their opinions on the Soviet system, “the cult of personality” and cancer itself are discussed. • Through the characters of Rusanov and Kostoglotov, Solzhenitsyn presents two feuding points of view existing in the Soviet system. Kostoglotov being the protagonist he most clearly represents the good side while Rusanov represents the oppressive injustice of the U.S.S.R.
Symbols • Kostoglotov- acts as a symbol for Solzhenitsyn himself. Because of his role in the novel it becomes a type of semi-autobiographical piece of literature. Like Solzhenitsyn, Kostoglotov was imprisoned for critizing the government and Stalin. He also develops stomach cancer and must be operated. Solzhenitsyn’s views on medical treatment are discussed as views of Kostoglotov as well. • Rusanov- represents the people who imprisoned Solzhenitsyn: “if he was exiled, he must have done something.” Rusanov himself sold out an old friend and sent him to the camps in order to gain a better position for himself. Rusanov and his family also represent the hypocrisy of the Russian Soviet system.
Symbols • Cancer- represents Communism itself. It affects everyone with out discrimination and kills people slowly • Patients have no choice in treatment, and many times do not even know they have it, or what it is that they have
Symbols • Ludmilla Dontosova – unquestioning doctor who treats patients with therapy just as deadly as cancer itself; metaphor for minor Soviet officers • Zoya and Vera Gangart- metaphor for Russian women who have suffered through generations of war and loss • Asya- teenage concerned with sex and rock and roll (Western influeneces) • Vadim- young professional, intellectual who is capable of being swayed in either way, but has not yet discovered his ideals
Communism- injustices that exist: Pavel and wife are members of the party but are anti-worker and anti-”real people”; they don’t live in communal homes, etc. Spreads to all people and “infects” with out prejudice creating a vapid society devoid of life and art Themes
Themes Death/Cancer- the most obvious conflict in the book, eventually is something all characters must deal with; torments each character, from doctors to patients who must deal with it • Ethics- Main conflict between Dontosova and Kostoglotov. Should patients have the right to deny treatments? Represents the power people do not have over their own lives • Hope- throughout all their hardships, the people all hold on to the idea that they will live to see another day. When Kostoglotov is discharged, he searches for a tree that grows a certain fungus which can cure cancer when brewed in tea (chaga).
Themes • Ethics- Main conflict between Dontosova and Kostoglotov. Should patients have the right to deny treatments? Represents the power people do not have over their own lives • Hope- throughout all their hardships, the people all hold on to the idea that they will live to see another day. When Kostoglotov is discharged, he searches for a tree that grows a certain fungus which can cure cancer when brewed in tea (chaga).
Conclusions • A some what depressing book that leaves the reader with belief that all hope is in vain. • Presents a unique view of Soviet life and society.