One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

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Buynovsky Character Analysis

Also known as “The Captain” because of his naval background, Buynovsky has not been in the Gulag as long as Shukhov and other characters. Despite his education and esteemed naval background, he struggles to adapt to life as a Zek, and his pride lands him in solitary by the end of the novel. Shukhov notes that Buynovsky has the potential to become a hardy Zek, but through the novel he barks orders at his fellow prisoners as he would have in the Navy and expends his energy too quickly during the day, depicting the way one’s identity and values outside of the camp are not beneficial on the inside. Buynovsky’s character shows the difficulty prisoners experience in shedding their identities and adapting to life in the camp.

Buynovsky Quotes in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

The One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich quotes below are all either spoken by Buynovsky or refer to Buynovsky. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Power and Authority Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the New American Library edition of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich published in 2008.
Section 3 Quotes

The thoughts of a prisoner—they’re not free either. They kept returning to the same things. A single idea keeps stirring. Would they feel that piece of bread in the mattress? Would he have any luck at the sick bay that evening? Would they put Buynovsky in the cells? And how did Tsezar get his hands on that warm vest. He’d probably greased a palm or two in the warehouse for people’s private belongings? How else?

Related Characters: Ivan Denisovich Shukhov (speaker), Buynovsky, Tsezar
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage occurs while Shukhov and his fellow zeks are marching from the prison camp to the town where they'll be working for the day.

Here, we get a sense of how imprisonment in the camp affects not only a prisoner's external actions and behaviors--what he does and does not do in order to avoid punishment--but a prisoner's inner mental life as well. The psychological realm of one's inner thoughts--which some might conceive as a private, inner refuge which the outer world cannot ultimately influence--is revealed here, in the case of Shukhov, to actually be deeply impacted by the prison environment.

Even Shukhov's intimate, internal train of thought is somehow regulated by the prison: he's worried that his hidden piece of bread might be discovered, that he'll be rejected again by the sick bay, and he envies Tsezar's vest, which leads him to speculate about the manner in which Tsezar acquired it. This illustrates the severity of the anxiety which occupies much of Shukhov's thought. A moment of peace and contentment--though such a thing does exist, however crudely, at certain points in the novel--is something which seems very out of reach for Shukhov, here. His mind can never be steady or contently rested, for his thoughts are always "returning to the same things." Shukhov's thoughts are almost always subconsciously running through a mental checklist about the rights and wrongs of his behavior in order to gauge the probability of his being punished by the authorities.

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Section 6 Quotes

“The sun’s already reached its peak,” he announced.
“If it's reached its peak,” said the captain reflectively, “it’s one o’clock, not noon.”
“What do you mean?” Shukhov demurred. “Every old-timer knows that the sun stands highest at dinner-time.”
“Old timers, maybe,” snapped the captain. “But since their day a new decree has been passed, and now the sun stands highest at one.”
“Who passed that decree?”
“Soviet power.”

Related Characters: Ivan Denisovich Shukhov (speaker), Buynovsky (speaker)
Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage occurs shortly after Shukhov, working with his squad in the power plant, looks up at the sky and realizes that, based on the sun's position (it's at its peak), it's dinner time.

Seeking to confirm with someone (no name is given) who has informed him and his squad members that it is noon, Shukhov cites his observation of the sun at its peak. Buynovsky, however, challenges Shukhov's belief that the sun reaches its peak at noon. Mocking the severity and largely unchecked authoritarian rule of Soviet power, Buynovsky says that Soviet rule has decreed that the sun's peak now corresponds to one o'clock, and no longer noon. 

Buynovsky's comment satirizes the vast reach and extensiveness of Soviet power. That something seemingly so beyond the reaches of state power and intervention--the correspondence of the cycles of the natural world with the human clock--could become regulated and managed by Soviet rule seems absurd. Buynovsky has rather tellingly dramatized the seeming omnipotence of Soviet power for those living in the Gulag.

Section 7 Quotes

[Buynovsky] was a newcomer. He was unused to the hard life of the Zeks. Though he didn't know it, moments like this were particularly important to him, for they were transforming him from an eager, confident naval officer with a ringing voice into an inert, though wary, Zek.

Related Characters: Buynovsky
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote occurs during the dinner scene at the work site. Buynovsky is behaving obnoxiously; the narrator claims he's just yelled at several people to leave the work site canteen and is sitting somewhere in the way of the incoming squad.

The narrator hints here at the process by which Buynovsky's confidence and vivacity will be broken and torn from him by the challenges of prison life. But the narrator goes on to say that it is only through the process of becoming an "inert" zek that Buynovsky will be able to survive his twenty-five-year sentence. Only by succumbing to the harsh reality of prison life and putting aside his pride (and even his individuality) will Buynovsky acquire the personality and way of thinking required to meet the challenges of his new environment.

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Buynovsky Character Timeline in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

The timeline below shows where the character Buynovsky appears in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Section 3 (Volkovoy’s search to the story of Shukhov leaving home)
Power and Authority Theme Icon
Identity, Principles, and Dignity Theme Icon
...jacket is a human chest, and beneath that, his soul. They discover that Tsezar and Buynovsky are wearing unregulated clothing. When the guards mark him down, Buynovsky tells them it’s against... (full context)
Identity, Principles, and Dignity Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
Buynovsky explains that the air is always coldest at sunrise. Buynovsky, who was a naval captain,... (full context)
Competition vs. Camaraderie Theme Icon
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...his mattress? Would he have any luck with the doctors that night? Would they put Buynovsky in the prison? He is hungry, and to draw his focus away from the ache,... (full context)
Section 5 (The arrival at the work site to the beginning of work)
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Buynovsky tells Fetyukov to stop picking up the cigarette butts, that he is going to catch... (full context)
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Identity, Principles, and Dignity Theme Icon
Senka, who is deaf, speaks up, thinking the men are talking about Buynovsky’s bad luck that morning when Volkovoy caught him with extra layers on. He tells Buynovsky... (full context)
Section 6 (The beginning of work to news of the murdered stool pigeons)
Identity, Principles, and Dignity Theme Icon
Competition vs. Camaraderie Theme Icon
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...another stove burns in order to dry the sand to make the mortar. Fetyukov and Buynovsky are bringing wheelbarrows of sand to dry on it. The narrator notes that jobs such... (full context)
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Identity, Principles, and Dignity Theme Icon
Fetyukov and Buynovsky edge up to the stove to warm up. Tyurin drives them off and the narrator... (full context)
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Belief and Faith Theme Icon
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...a cozy corner and had his boots up to the heat of the stove. Eventually, Buynovsky orders him to haul sand. Buynovsky is still in the mindset he had during his... (full context)
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...notes that the sun is at its highest point, which must mean it is noon. Buynovsky jokes that the sun is highest at one, as declared by the Soviet government. (full context)
Section 7 (The news of the murdered stoop pigeons to Tyurin’s story)
Power and Authority Theme Icon
Competition vs. Camaraderie Theme Icon
...has grown warm enough to lay bricks. He looks up at the sun, thinking about Buynovsky comment about the soviets decree that the sun is highest at one. (full context)
Identity, Principles, and Dignity Theme Icon
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Buynovsky is sitting near Shukhov. Having finished his food, he is trying to warm up before... (full context)
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Pavlo hands Buynovsky one of the extra bowls. The narrator notes that Buynovsky, a man who has sailed... (full context)
Section 8 (Tyurin’s story to the end of the work day)
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Buynovsky and Fetyukov are assigned to carry mortar. Buynovsky goes slowly at first because the ramps... (full context)
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Competition vs. Camaraderie Theme Icon
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...commands the men to place the bricks on the wall to keep the pace up. Buynovsky would have agreed, but he lacked the strength. Alyoshka, on the other hand, happily agrees... (full context)
Section 9 (The end of the work day to the arrival at the camp)
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Identity, Principles, and Dignity Theme Icon
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...he knows haste leads to sloppy work, which will cost him time in the morning. Buynovsky delivers the last load of mortar, and Shukhov compares him to a horse, reflecting on... (full context)
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The guards begin telling the gangs to line up. While waiting, Shukhov nudges Buynovsky in the ribs and asks him what science says about where the moon goes after... (full context)
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...and the narrator notes that a man who’s warm can’t understand a man who’s freezing. Buynovsky tells Tsezar he worked so hard he can no longer stand up straight. Tsezar give... (full context)
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...would become so enraged they’d kill the prisoner before bringing him back. Meanwhile, Tsezar and Buynovsky continue their conversation about Eisenstein’s films. (full context)
Section 12 (The purchase of the tobacco to Shukhov’s going to bed)
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Just then, Buynovsky returns delighted because Tsezar has given him tea to make for them. Shukhov ignores the... (full context)
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Identity, Principles, and Dignity Theme Icon
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...nose” enters the barracks. He tells Tyurin he is there to as why signatures from Buynovsky and Tsezar for wearing extra clothing that morning had not been turned in. Tyurin tells... (full context)
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Identity, Principles, and Dignity Theme Icon
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The call for the evening count rings out. Buynovsky wonders whether he should bring his coat and tobacco to the cells. He hadn't prepared... (full context)