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A discussion of how the main characters from ‘Crime and Punishment’ and ‘One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich’ cope differently with each of their own sufferings.

Survival Through Suffering How the main characters from ‘Crime and Punishment’ and ‘One Day in the Life of I van Denisovich’ cope differently to each of their own sufferings. Survival trough suffering is a general theme running through the novels. Different forms of survival occur because in different scenarios. In One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, the story takes place in a prison camp, whereas in Crime and Punishment takes place in society.

During the course of the two novels, it becomes quite apparent to the reader that some characters have a reason that helps them drive forward through times of suffering. The types of suffering are differentiated for each character and so is their own individual way of tolerating the pain. For example, in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, the main character, Shukov, suffers due to the harshly cold conditions that he has to deal with in the prison camp.

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In Crime and Punishment, the main character, Raskolnikov, suffers from his guilt which he induces on himself when he realises that killing the old moneylender was wrong. Therefore, this essay is similar to an investigation into how the main characters of each novel manage to cope with each of their individual sufferings. In One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, the main character, Shukov, is coping with a tremendous amount pain.

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“But try and spend eight years in a ‘special’- doing hard labour. No-one’s come out of a ‘special’ alive.” This shows how severe the conditions are as no-one has ever lasted a mere eight years. “A couple of hundred grams ruled your life.” Here, he tells the reader that a few hundred grams of bread would determine a man’s life in that camp showing how little food is given to the prisoners. He is forced to live and work in conditions that would repulse the average person today. “The belly is a rascal. It doesn’t remember how well you treated it yesterday , it’ll cry out for more tomorrow.” The way these people were treated were inhumane and intolerable, yet Shukov continued to survive. Work was used as a distraction from thinking about his pains, problems and family. Physical labour was one of two elements of Shukov’s life that help him survive. “And now Shukov and the other masons felt the cold no longer. Thanks to the urgent work, the first wave of heat had come over them…” work obviously plays a large role on how Shukov copes. The work helped them through the cold, that is, it helped them take their mind off it and the movement gave their body warmth a slight boost that was welcomed by all of the prisoners. In addition, “If it’s necessary to work faster then lets work faster. Just as you say.” This shows that workers did not mind working harder as they would benefit in the form of more body heat and a greater reward in terms of food. This acted as a large incentive to work motivating the to work hard and well. Another quote that shows how it was work that helped Shukov survive is “Difficult as it was to start working in such cold, the important thing was to get going.” The inmates worked was not because they were told to, but because they knew that to get their minds off the cold they had to work or they would be forced to face the cold and they would then freeze. Once they begin to work, all their pains go away and sometimes the team even has fun once the good work gets started. Shukov gives an example of this at the very beginning of the book he could be heard complaining of his aches and pains, however, as soon as he begins working there is no more mention of any pains whatsoever. The team leader also helped Shukov survive throughout the entire camp. “That’s what a team is. A guard can’t get people to budge even in working hours, but a team leader can tell his men to get on with the job even during the break, and they’ll do it. Because he’s the one who feeds them. And he’d never make them work for nothing.” The team leader is an extremely important element in survival in the camps as a good team leader could possibly mean that the members of his team would get more food and better jobs than the other teams in the camp, “You can cheat anyone you like in camp, but not your team leader. Then you’ll live.” This quote shows how important it is to stay on good grounds with the team leader as it is he who gives you your rations for the day. Another quote that emphasises that the team leader is important is the following, “In camp the team leader is everything: a good one will give you a second life, a bad one will put you in your coffin.” An additional extract from the novel shows how teamwork helped the population of prisoners in the camp survive: “Everything was so arranged in the camp that the prisoners egged one another on. It was like this: either you all got a little bit extra or you croaked. You’re slacking you rat – d’you think I’m willing to go hungry just because of you?” This shows how all prisoners are pushed by the other team members to keep on working hard. This is because if a prisoner didn’t work, extra food would be kept from the entire team giving each individual a huge incentive to push another person on to work harder. In Crime and Punishment Raskolnikov, deals with his sufferings in a different way as to that of Shukov. This is obvious as Raskolnikov has completely different types of sufferings to deal with. Guilt overwhelms Raskolnikov as he is aware that what he believed was wrong. “There are people who are able….who have every right to commit anything wrong or crime, and that laws….are not made for them….People are divided into two classes, the ‘ordinary’ and the ‘extraordinary’. The ordinary ones must live in submission and have no right to transgress laws, because, you see, they are ordinary. And the extraordinary have the right to commit any crime just because they are extraordinary.” This was Raskolnikov’s belief, that he was ‘special’ therefore meaning above the law and that he could do whatever whenever he wanted to do. This gives him the justification to murder the old money lender. However, his theory later backfires as he begins to feel guilty “Oh…I am a louse, nothing more….I myself am perhaps even worse and viler than the louse I killed.” This is his form of punishment, to feel more ordinary and insignificant than the old lady. “I am grieved to observe that the only original idea you adduce, is a moral right to shed blood – this opinion I find you support, even defend with fanaticism. Moral license or authority to kill is, to my mind, even more terrible than official legal authority to the same effect.” When Razumikhin says this to Raskolnikov, it is realised how strongly Raskolnikov believes in his idea of superiority. Raskolnikov’s imprisonment is created by his own guilt and this causes one of the sufferings that he has to endure. In fact, it isn’t until he meets Sonya that he begins to accept the fact that that was going to be his life. (reword) Sonya, a catholic forced into prostitution through poverty, has an unselfish love for Raskolnikov that helps him realise that he is an ordinary human. Sonya also helps Raskolnikov ridding him of his suffering from guilt. Sonya, being extremely religious, believes that everyone deserves a second chance. She then shows Raskolnikov how to be forgiven in God’s eyes. She convinces him to confess to everyone that he murdered the old money lender so that in God’s eyes, he will be forgiven. “Go immediately, this very moment, go and stand at the cross-roads, bow down, first kiss the ground that you’ve desecrated, and then bow to the whole world, to all four points of the compass and tell everyone, out loud: ‘I have I have killed!’ Then God will send you life again… you must accept suffering and redeem yourself by it, that’s what.” The two stories required different forms of coping with sufferings. In Crime and Punishment Raskolnikov realises that what he did was wrong and separated himself from his guilt by confessing to his crime. In One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich however, Shukov survives through the usage of work and teamwork. The combination of these two elements are the very reason why Shukov was still alive during the story. The two stories are, however, similar in one aspect. Both of the main characters in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and Crime and Punishment find themselves in a situation and they realise what it is that they have to do in order to continue to survive in this lifetime. They then continue to live using the methods they learnt of surviving in the different extreme environments that they are both in. the way the protagonists cope with their suffering not only helps to resolve their suffering but provides the basis for two stories I so thoroughly enjoyed.

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Survival Through Suffering. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

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