The guard signals the end of work by clanging a length of rail. Gang 104 is caught with a box full of freshly mixed mortar. The men continue working, knowing that if they leave the mortar behind they will be punished for it in the morning. Pavlo begins laying bricks to finish off the freshly mixed mortar. Shukhov pushes Senka out of the way to lay the corner himself because 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 a horse he’d once owned that had been worked to death after collectivization.
The men once again face a catch 22 because of the authorities. Because of their dedication to the work they are stuck with the remaining supplies and face punishment. Shukhov takes Senka’s place because he takes pride in his work and wants it done right. Stepping in will also save him time in the morning, which means a better work report and more rations. By comparing Buynovsky to a horse, he speaks to the way in which the camp dehumanizes the men, working them like animals. The connection between the horse’s death and collectivization shows the destructive force of Communist ideologies.
The men from the other gangs have begun turning their tools. Tyurin examines the work completed that day, and satisfied with their progress, tells them to throw the rest of the mortar over the wall and turn in their tools. Kildigs, Senka, and Shukhov continue using the rest of the mortar. Shukhov tells Kildigs to bring the trowels and he will finish since his trowel is not accounted for. The other men rush toward the count, as being late means solitary confinement.
Shukhov, Senka, and Kildigs’ decision to finish the mortar shows their dedication to doing a good job despite the risk of punishment by the authorities for being late. That they would be punished for doing good work is ironic, as their selfless devotion to the work seems to fit with the Soviet ideal, and yet this camp meant to make them into true Soviets punishes them for it.
Tyurin tells Shukhov to hurry to the count, but Shukhov tells him not to wait, to go with the other men to the count. He refers to Tyurin as “foreman” instead of his more official title. Tyurin leaves, and Shukhov is left at the site with Senka. They continue laying bricks, even though Tyurin had told them to throw the rest of the mortar out. Shukhov notes that he wasn't made that way, and eight years in the camp couldn't change him.
Referring to Tyurin as “Foreman” instead of his official title shows the way in which work levels the hierarchy among the Zeks. Shukhov continues laying the mortar because he was raised with principals. Shukhov maintains his identity by holding onto the principals he was given before being incarcerated.
Eventually Senka bails, leaving Shukhov alone at the power station. Shukhov runs to the back of the wall and checks to make sure their work is solid. Before going to count, Shukhov runs to the machine shop and hides his trowel. As he hides it, he feels frightened, not because of the dark, but because the space is empty and if he misses the count he will be beaten and put into solitary.
Taking extra time to check the wall shows that Shukhov’s dignity is more important than the risk of punishment. The guards can take his freedom, but not his dignity. He hides his trowel so that no one will find it and take it from him. Having adjusted to the lack of privacy in the camp, Shukhov feels afraid when he is alone.
Shukhov darts toward the count and meets Senka, who had stopped to wait. Senka would rather wait for Shukhov and share the punishment than make Shukhov suffer alone. When the approach the camp, the other Zeks boo them. Shukhov is not worried, knowing that Tyurin had explained for them.
The fact that Senka risks being late for Shukhov shows the camaraderie they share. Their trust in Tyurin to explain for them shows Tyurin’s dedication to his men.
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 it sinks below the horizon. Buynovsky tells Shukhov is question is stupid, that it just isn’t visible. Shukhov rejects Buynovsky’s scientific explanation, explaining that the people in his village believe God crumbles the moon and turns it into stars. Buynovsky calls Shukhov’s beliefs savage.
During their conversation, Shukhov and Buynovsky represent the contention between the logic of the soviet state and the beliefs of the Russian people. Shukhov holds onto the beliefs that he grew up with, which act as a subtle resistance to the Soviet regime’s attempts to strip the Zeks of their religious beliefs. Holding onto these beliefs allows Shukhov to maintain his identity, and survive in the camp.
The Zeks catch wind that someone is missing during the count. They make the men line up again to redo the count, which infuriates the Zeks because they are losing precious time. There would still be another search at the camp before getting in. The first gang back was “the top dog” for the evening because they had free reign on the mess hall, parcel room, barber, and baths. The narrator notes that the guards too are in a hurry to get back because their lives in the camp are full of work and little free time.
The missing man angers the Zeks because the extra counts waste their precious free time. The count also puts the gangs at a disadvantage as they compete with gangs from other work sites to get back to the camp first. When it comes to free time, the guards are also oppressed like the prisoners, showing the way in which all of the camp inhabitants are oppressed by the Soviet regime.
As the guards count again, Shukhov notices that they’d worked so late that none of the men had gathered any firewood. Each night the men would gather whatever twigs and chips of wood they could find. Most of it would be confiscated by the guards upon entering the camp, but the Zeks knew that if everyone brought a few pieces of wood, they would be able to get some in.
By working late, gang 104 was unable to gather firewood, showing the way that the limited time the men are afforded forces the men to constantly make sacrifices that affect their wellbeing. The way the guards take the Zeks’ wood to warm themselves shows the way they exploit their power for their own benefit.
Tsezar joins the group from the office where he’d worked all day. He asks the men how the work went, 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 him some tobacco. Buynovsky is the one person who Tsezar sticks to in the camp because the two men can relate to one another.
Tsezar is disconnected from the gang because of his privilege. By giving Buynovsky some tobacco it shows a sense of camaraderie between the two men. Their friendship is based on their backgrounds as educated men, showing the way that among the Zeks, one’s character before entering the camp is still present, despite the camp’s attempt to strip the men of their identities.
The Zeks find out a Moldovan man from Gang 32 is the one missing. The missing man is known in the camp as a “real” spy. The narrator says that there are at least five men in each squad who are imprisoned as spies, but most of them are just Ex-POW’s who were wrongly accused. Shukhov is one of these men. The crowd begins to fly into a rage. The weather is growing colder, and the men’s anger continues to escalate.
The small number of men in the camp who are actual spies shows the injustice of the soviet power. The Zeks become so enraged because their time is their most precious possession and the man is essentially stealing from them, making it even more difficult to survive.
The Zeks begin to postulate that the man has escaped. The narrator explains that if a man escapes, the guards are punished, forced to hunt the prisoner down without food or sleep until the prisoner is found. At times the guards would become so enraged they’d kill the prisoner before bringing him back. Meanwhile, Tsezar and Buynovsky continue their conversation about Eisenstein’s films.
The fact that the guards are punished by the denial of food and sleep shows that they are oppressed in ways similar to the Zeks. Their time is precious too, and taking it from them could cost a Zek his life. The continuation of the conversation about art distracts Tsezar and Buynovsky from the severity of the situation; furthering the critique that art distracts individuals from the real world.
Finally, the missing prisoner emerges from the repair shop where he’d fallen asleep in the warmth. The prisoners curse at him. A guard approaches and notes the man’s number. He then he raises the butt of his rifle to him. The Zeks continue cursing the man. The deputy squad leader of Gang 32 approaches and hits the man in the face and neck until he falls to the ground. As the Moldovan reels back, a Hungarian man from his own squad leaps out and kicks him hard from behind. The assault continues until the guards call for another count.
The assault by his own men shows the severity of the Moldovan’s crime and the way in which camaraderie fades when it comes to wasting the time of the gang’s individual members. Although camaraderie exists within the gangs, each man is still concerned with his own needs.
As the guards recount, Shukhov notices that the back group has four men in it, meaning there will be another miscount, which means an additional count. He notices that Fetyukov was out of line bumming a cigarette from another Zek. The guard strikes Fetyukov in the back of the neck for being out of line, and Shukhov thinks it serves him right. The count turns out correct, and the men leave the work site.
Fetyukov’s selfishness leads him to get out of line despite the fact he is risking wasting the time of the other men. The assault he receives from the guard shows the way in which scrounging carries the risk of real physical harm as well as harm to one’s dignity.
On the walk back to the camp, Shukhov listens to two former naval officers talk about their service. Shukhov ponders the irony of decorated naval officers working alongside men like Fetyukov. The Zeks continue to walk at a steady pace as the guards yell at them to “step lively”. Shukhov remembers he’d planned to go to the sick bay that morning, but notes that it is funny that he’d forgotten about his aches and fever during the work day. He decides that going to dinner would be a better idea.
To the authorities, one’s social standing outside of the camp does not matter in the eyes of the authorities, which leads to decorated men having to work beside scroungers like Fetyukov. After putting a full day in at work, the Zeks no longer listen to the guards telling them to hurry, as work gives them men a restored sense of power. Work has also made Shukhov feel better; showing that working hard has a redeeming effect on him.
As the men approach the camp, they begin to move faster. As they come over the top of the hill, they see gangs from other work sites rushing in groups toward the camp. The men begin running in hopes of arriving at the camp first. Even the guards run alongside the Zeks, and the narrator notes that as they rush toward the camp, they began to see the guards as friends and the gangs from the other work sites as their foes. The men are determined to beat the engineers working at the machine shop, as these men are searched slowly because they are suspected of smuggling in the weapons that were used to slit the throats of the snitches. Gang 104 rejoices when they discover they have beaten the engineers to the camp.
As they rush back to the camp, the guards become comrades and the competition becomes the other gangs. Both Zeks and guards are competing for the same thing—food, warmth, and time—so the hierarchy among them is diminished. Getting back before the machine shop laborers is of the utmost importance, as they are searched thoroughly for weapons, which takes time from the other gangs. A sense of camaraderie emerges when the gang realizes they have beaten the engineers.