One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

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Tsezar’s Parcel Symbol Analysis

Tsezar’s Parcel Symbol Icon
Tsezar’s parcel symbolizes the worldly pleasures the men are denied within the gulag. Tsezar is the envy of the men of Gang 104, as the contents of his parcels allow him to assuage his hunger and grant him the ability to attain special privileges by paying off the guards. But even though Tsezar receives help with his physical needs, he struggles to adapt to camp life and develop the skills that allow a Zek to survive successfully in the camp. In fact, his parcel makes him a target in the camp, as shown by his fear of losing the contents during the count. In this way, the parcel depicts the futility of investing oneself in the material world. This idea is furthered upon considering Tsezar’s name. “Tsezar” translates to the name “Caesar” in English, who signifies power and privilege in the Bible, and Jesus famously instructs that his followers should "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's” (Matthew 22:21)—to separate the spiritual from the material, with an emphasis on the importance of the spiritual. Although the Zek’s situation seems as far from “the kingdom of God” as one could possibly go, Alyoshka does find happiness and meaning in the camp by turning away from the material world that Tsezar’s parcel represents, and Shukhov shares this sense of joy after he shares his bread freely with Alyoshka.

Tsezar’s Parcel Quotes in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

The One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich quotes below all refer to the symbol of Tsezar’s Parcel. 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 12 Quotes

Even eight years as a convict hadn’t turned him into a jackal—and the longer he spent at the camp the stronger he made himself.

Related Characters: Ivan Denisovich Shukhov
Related Symbols: Bread, Tsezar’s Parcel
Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote occurs when Shukhov delivers Tsezar's bread ration. Shukhov, having stood in line to receive Tsezar's ration while he went to see if a parcel had arrived for himself, arrives at Tsezar's bunk and sees him surrounded by various foods. Having received a bountiful parcel, Tsezar tells Shukhov to keep his ration of bread.

Instead of directly asking Tsezar whether his parcel arrived or not--for this would give a hint that Shukhov held Tsezar's place in line in order to have rights to part of his parcel--he simply says: "Your bread, Tsezar Markovich." After Shukhov refrains from asking about the parcel directly, the narrator explains that "even eight years as a convict hadn't turned him into a jackal." 

Shukhov's ulterior motive for standing in line for Tsezar, however self-interested, is counterbalanced in this scene by Shukhov's dignity in respecting Tsezar's right to his own parcel. Shukhov doesn't pressure Tsezar into giving him anything; he doesn't behave like a desperate, starving "jackal" (a kind of small wild dog). Instead, he gladly accepts Tsezar's bread ration. Further, the narrator reveals that prison hasn't eroded Shukhov's principles of self-conduct--prison hasn't made him into a meaner, rougher, or more aggressive person. Rather, prison has been a place where Shukhov has strengthened his sense of self-control.

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Tsezar’s Parcel Symbol Timeline in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

The timeline below shows where the symbol Tsezar’s Parcel appears in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Section1 (Shukhov wakes up to Kolya taking Shukhov’s temperature)
Power and Authority Theme Icon
...he’d received. This could be his last opportunity to buy any for a month because parcels are only allowed once a month and the supply is limited. He decides to go... (full context)
Section 7 (The news of the murdered stoop pigeons to Tyurin’s story)
Identity, Principles, and Dignity Theme Icon
Competition vs. Camaraderie Theme Icon
...will give him his bowl. He notes that it’s unlikely since Tsezar hasn’t received a parcel for more than two weeks. (full context)
Section 8 (Tyurin’s story to the end of the work day)
Power and Authority Theme Icon
Identity, Principles, and Dignity Theme Icon
Competition vs. Camaraderie Theme Icon
...Kildigs looks at him funny. Kildigs doesn't have to worry about working because he receives parcels that help him survive. Eventually Kildigs gets up because you can’t keep the gang waiting... (full context)
Section 10 (Arrival at the camp to Tsezar’s arrival at the parcel room)
Identity, Principles, and Dignity Theme Icon
Competition vs. Camaraderie Theme Icon
As the search begins, Shukhov tells Tsezar he will go wait at the parcel room and save his place in line. Tsezar tells him that there may be no... (full context)
Power and Authority Theme Icon
Identity, Principles, and Dignity Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
After passing through the count, Shukhov hurries off to the parcel room. Tyurin must stay behind to report the day’s work. Tsezar walks calmly toward the... (full context)
Power and Authority Theme Icon
Identity, Principles, and Dignity Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
Upon entering the parcel room, Shukhov imagines someone coming up to tell him that a parcel has arrived for... (full context)
Section 12 (The purchase of the tobacco to Shukhov’s going to bed)
Identity, Principles, and Dignity Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
Shukhov hurries back to barracks 9 so he doesn't miss Tsezar’s arrival with his parcel. Tsezar has already arrived, and has the contents of his parcel out on his bed.... (full context)
Power and Authority Theme Icon
Identity, Principles, and Dignity Theme Icon
Competition vs. Camaraderie Theme Icon
...explains that one would expect a man to be overjoyed at the arrival of a parcel, but before even opening it a Zek is already scheming on how to get more.... (full context)
Power and Authority Theme Icon
Identity, Principles, and Dignity Theme Icon
Competition vs. Camaraderie Theme Icon
As Shukhov gets his valenki on, notices the contents of Tsezar’s parcel are on his bunk. Shukhov notes that he should have taken the items directly to... (full context)
Power and Authority Theme Icon
Identity, Principles, and Dignity Theme Icon
Competition vs. Camaraderie Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
...Shukhov is not the first back in, but he watches for anyone messing with Tsezar’s parcel. He quickly puts his boots near the stove and goes back to his bunk, yelling... (full context)
Power and Authority Theme Icon
Identity, Principles, and Dignity Theme Icon
Competition vs. Camaraderie Theme Icon
...and a piece of sausage. Shukhov thanks him and tells him to hand up his parcel to hide in Shukhov’s bed. (full context)
Identity, Principles, and Dignity Theme Icon
Competition vs. Camaraderie Theme Icon
Belief and Faith Theme Icon
The count goes smoothly, and Shukhov returns to bed. He hands Tsezar’s parcel back to him. As Alyoshka enters the room Shukhov notes that his problem is that... (full context)