Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the author of 'One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich', has clearly brought about the theme of authority and power on several levels. The power and authority existing among the camp inhabitants are a hierarchical power structure. This essay seeks to look into the role of power and authority in the book.
In the labor camp power and authority is used to show how the prisoners must abide by the authorities. The authorities are very stern, and their presence is felt almost everywhere in the prison. One early morning Ivan Denisovich intentionally fails to wake up because of his presumption that a lenient guard was on duty. However, that was not the case; he was wrong and was almost being taken to the guard house. Their lives as prisoners were determined by the whims of the authority figures and the authorities. The authorities had different reactions and thus a wise inmate knew which authorities or guards to avoid and how they could get away with some things. Ivan Denisovich is brought out as being very careful not to be found on the wrong side of the law (Farrar 69).
Power and authority are also evident in Lieutenant Volkvoi, who is the chief security of the labor camp. He is the most feared leader of the guards and the prisoners. He is a dictator and thus his authority has given power. The role of authority is that it gives a person power to dictate and rule. Prisoners and the guards had named him a wolf due to his actions. He always carried a whip around which he used while he sneaked up on a detainee. He is an epitome of ruthless authority figure, and whenever prisoners see him, they get freaked out. He is a dictator, for instance when Captain Buinovsky gives his sentiments, Lieutenant without any reluctance gives him ten days in the guardhouse. An outline of the regulations is read every morning by the chief. The aim of reciting the prayer or the outline of the rules is to instill in the inmates the regulations of the authorities. Part of the prayer states A step to right or left is considered an attempt to escape and the escort has orders to shoot without warning" which clearly denotes authority (Solzhenitsyn & Willetts 99).
Power and authority are also described to be used for personal gains. Buinovsky, who is a former naval captain, still acts as an authority figure despite having retired. Buinovsky and Fetiukov retort each other. Buinovsky rebukes Fetiukov for taking peoples cigarettes.
Despite the uncouth leadership exhibited by the camp authorities, Tiurin who is the squad leader of the 104 is different. He commands the obedience and loyalty of his members due to his effective leadership styles and his know-how experience (Farrar 69). Tiurin brings out the role of authority as that which gives direction and guidance to the team members. He is respected, and everybody in his team is willing and able to do whatever he says since their lives depend on his leadership. Even the tough and bad prisoners such as Pavlo respect him and give him the way.
Power and authority are also brought about by the prisoners who were given powers to go to their fellow prisoners and the camp authorities. Der, who is a prisoner, and a chief building foreman exhibits his authority at the expense of his fellow prisoners. For instance, he confronted Turin concerning the stolen prefabs. However, after getting threats from the 104 members he backs down.
Another role of authority figures is to come up with policies. The Soviet authorities were authorized to come up with an official story which in most cases was overlooked. Power, in this case, is used for manipulation. Captain Buinovsky is branded a spy and was even imprisoned for obtaining a gift from the British admiral. Authorities cannot be fought by an individual, Moldavian, who was found sleeping in the shop, was retained in the guardhouse by the authorities. The reason for his retention was that he tried to escape.
Servants are always against the authorities, and they always perceive them always to have the scheme to harden and make their lives miserable. This is the same with the prisoners. Power and authority are used to suppress and control servants. The prisoners are oppressed for instance Ivan Denisovich finds out that they are required to work on Sunday which should be a resting day and a day for worship. They have to do but to abide by the oppression (Solzhenitsyn 84). To overcome the oppression Ivan Denisovich forgets about the oppression and focuses on the positive. Tsezar is not trusted very much by his fellows especially by Ivan Denisovich since they feel he would spy them to the authorities.
The role of power and authority is also evitable through the role played by the Soviet Union under Stalins rule. Power and authority lie in a hierarchical structure where the top officials such as guards, wardens and commandants are above the prisoners. This gives the Soviet Union the authority to decide what happens in the camp and conditions that should prevail in the camp (Rus 170). Their authority gives them power over both prisoners and officials.
Power and authority make the officials arrogant and abusive in nature. Though camps are designed to punish political prisoners and those that oppose Soviets Government, power has turned officials to individuals who punish the prisoners unjustly. For instance, Gopchik, who supplied milk to freedom fighters hiding in woods, is jailed, Shukhov was wrongly accused of being a spy and Tyurin is punished by the officials for having a rich peasant father. Stalin used his authority to create social stratification by trying to eliminate the wealthy (McDonough 296). Power and authority make the camp officials to oppress the prisoners. However, they are also oppressed by the power of the Soviet state. This makes the guards, wardens, and commandants to unleash their anger at oppression to the prisoners. It is, therefore, evident that power and authority have the power to make officials oppressive.
Power and authority make the camp officials to come up with rules and regulations that are not for the prisoners. The rules create conducive atmosphere for the prisoners to exist. Furthermore, the rules put in place makes the prisoners turn against each other in their quest to fulfill their basic needs (McDonough 296). It is ironical that the camp which was set to correct law breakers and make them good citizens of the Soviet is governed by rules that promote the exact opposite. Power and authority are therefore capable of making those who possess it leave a comfortable and frustrate those being governed.
In conclusion, it is evident that the author has extensively brought up the theme of power and authority through various characters. Power and authority plays have been described to have particular roles such as to lead to giving guidance as shown through the leadership of Tiurin, power gives authority to dictate as evidenced in the character trait of Lieutenant Volkvoi. The power exhibited by Tiurin should be embraced and not that exhibited by Lieutenant Volkvoi.
McDonough, John J. "One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich: A study of the structural requisites of the organization." Human Relations 28.4 (1975): 295-328.
Rus, Vladimir J. "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich: A Point of View Analysis." Canadian Slavonic Papers 13.2-3 (1971): 165-178.
Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr I, and H T. Willetts. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. , 2005. Internet resource.
Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr I, and H T. Willetts. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1991. Print.
Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr. One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich. ProQuest LLC, 2002.
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