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Dignity in Ivan and the Sound of Waves Essay

In the novels, One Day in the life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn and The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima, the characters value their dignity and take many actions to preserve it. First of all, in One Day in the life of Ivan Denisovich, Shukhov attempts to maintain his human dignity in the face of oppression. As Shukhov begins his daily routine, he “quickly finished up the job. There’s work and work… If you’re working for human beings, then do a real job of it” (Solzhenitsyn 33). Shukhov is imprisoned in a gulag, one of the worst possible places to be, but he still maintains his human dignity by keeping a good work ethic. Shukhov knows that if he works well he will be treated well, but beyond that, the fact that he is working for another human being gives him reason to maintain a good work ethic, and his self-respect.

Furthermore, Shukhov always preforms many small, but meaning full actions in order to maintain his dignity. While eating his rations, Shukhov “removed his cap from his shaven head—however cold it was, he wouldn’t let himself eat with his cap on” (16). Shukhov still maintains his manners, even when he is forcibly kept in a gulag prison. His manners are very important as they allow him a way to remain human and keep his dignity, rather than deteriorating to the state of an animal, like some of the other prisoners. While the characters in One Day in the life of Ivan Denisovich, attempt to maintain their dignity as a means of refuge in the gulags, the characters of The Sound of Waves, retain their dignity as a means of protecting their status in society. To begin, the characters in the Sound of Waves do not tolerate any embarrassment or loss of respect to their peers.

When Shinji’s mother visits Terukichi Miyata’s home he ignores her visit and she replies, “[s]o you say you won’t see a poor widow…Well let me tell you something… never in life will I ever cross [Miyata’s] damned threshold again” (Mishima 128-129). Shinji’s mother vows never to cross paths with Miyata’s home after he insults her by refusing to meet with her. Shinji’s mother takes a hit to her pride and retaliates in a way that would imply her intolerance for disrespect. Moreover, the characters in the novel are virtuous and refrain from committing any acts that would call into question their morals and self-respect.

While resting naked with Shinji in the shrine, Hatsue says, “It’s bad. It’s bad! It’s bad for a girl to do that before she is married” (76-77). Although the urge to engage in a sexual relation with Shinji is strong, Hatsue knows it would hurt not only her self-respect but also defile her father’s reputation in the village. Although characters in both novels take actions to preserve their respective dignities, in One Day in the life of Ivan Denisovich, It is done to maintain their humanity and sanity when they are treated like animals. While in The Sound of Waves, the characters preserve their dignity to uphold the respect of the village and their peers. Overall, the characters in both novels value their dignity and take many actions to uphold it.


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