First published in 1962, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is considered one of the most significant works ever to emerge from Soviet Russia.
The novel takes place in a Soviet labor camp in the 1950s and describes a single day of ordinary prisoner Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, accused of becoming a spy after being captured by the Germans as a prisoner of war during World War II. He is innocent, but is sentenced to ten years in a forced labor camp. It is a novel about oppression and survival.
Solzhenitsyn presents chilling details about the oppression of totalitarian regimes, and he was one of the first authors to open Western eyes to the terrors of Stalin’s prison camps. In almost half a century, more than 30 million of his books have been sold worldwide and translated into some 40 languages. In 1970 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
This curriculum unit includes tested and proven materials for teaching One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich to high school students. We have developed it to offer other teachers a sample plan that introduces students to the work of Alexander Solzhenitsyn. You will notice that the sample time line suggests a four-week unit. This is the format we often use with the novel, but we have done it in a variety of other sequences. Our students have found the novel easy reading, and some of us assign the book to be completely finished as homework before we begin discussion and close analysis. Regardless of which approach you use, we hope that these materials will make your job easier and more productive.
This brings us to one final comment: this unit is very flexible. We offer approaches based on first-hand experience, but we know that there are many other combinations that will work as well. We believe that all teachers adapt ideas to fit their own teaching styles, and this format, like those in all of our curriculum packets, is easily and successfully modified.