One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Understatement in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich 12th Grade

Harsh climatic conditions, no food and hard work; all of these aspects symbolize the daily life of a prisoner inside the Gulag. The horrifying treatment of the prisoners is very well documented in many prison novels. However, the way that the conditions are described can vary from novel to novel, depending upon the author’s purpose. Some authors prefer to exaggerate the horrors faced by the prisoners to spark outrage from the reader, while others prefer to depict the horrors in a more subtle way to achieve a similar objective. Alexander Solzhenitsyn evokes emotions through the use of understatement. In One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Solzhenitsyn utilizes the literary technique of understatement to highlight the extent to which dehumanization is present in the Gulag.
From the beginning of the novel until the very end, the physical setting of the Gulag and its harsh climatic implications are understated. The first description of the weather appears when the prisoners can barely hear the morning reveille as it couldn’t “penetrate the windowpanes on which the frost lay two fingers thick.” The frost on the windowpanes represents the true cold the zeks face daily. The author’s casual mention of the frost being two...

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