Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Alexander Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.
- Full Title: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
- When Written: 1959-1962
- Where Written: Ryazan, Russia
- When Published: 1962
- Genre: Realism, Historical Fiction, Russian Literature
- Setting: A Soviet work camp (Gulag) known as H.Q. in an unspecified location in Russia
- Climax: The building of the wall in the power station, followed by Shukhov’s close call with being late for the head count
- Antagonist: The Soviet Regime, the camp, and the guards (embodied by Lieutenant Volkovoy)
- Point of View: A blend of limited omniscient, first person (narrated by Shukhov), and second person
Censorship. Beginning with Stalin’s rise to power during the 1920’s, literature was subjected to immense censorship, especially literature that questioned the moral foundations of Stalin’s ideologies or revealed the oppression Russian citizens experienced under his rule. Under the Stalinist regime, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich would have never seen the light of day, but when Nikita Khrushchev took power in Russia, he denounced Stalin, and literary censorship was greatly reduced. In 1962, Khrushchev gave Solzhenitsyn’s novel his official sanction, viewing the book as an asset in his goal of denouncing Stalin. Although the book found publication with Khrushchev’s approval, there are still some scholars who believe the book would have been bolder had it not been limited by the still present system overseeing publications at the time the work was released.
The Skaz. In One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Solzhenitsyn employs a narrative technique called, the Skaz. This technique is a variation on traditional forms of Russian narrative, often used in Russian folktales. In this form, the anonymous narrator possesses the same educational and social background as the characters in the story, is able to relate the main character's actions, and relay his or her thoughts. Skaz narratives use a close third-person point of view, and sometimes the first-person plural, allowing the reader to feel close to the characters, and even give the impression that the narrator is actually a character in the story.