Tuesday, December 12

Symbols in Both 1984 And One Day in The Life of Ivan Denisovich by George Orwell And Alexander Solzhenitsyn

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Introduction: Symbols are objects or ideas used to represent something else. Author often uses symbols in novels to add a certain depth.

Thesis:In both1984 and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich , George Orwell  and Alexander Solzhenitsyn uses symbols as a device to foreshadow, to reveal theme, to characterize as well as to portray the extent of the Party’s power.


Topic sentence: The paperweight which symbolizes hope helps to foreshadow loss of hope and in turn presents the power that the party has over the citizens.

“in the corner, on the gate –leg table, the glass paperweight which he had bought on his last visit gleamed softly out of the half-darkness.” (page 143)

“it belonged to the vanished, romantic past, the olden times as he liked to call it in his secret thoughts” (page 232)

  • The paperweight is the symbol of Winston’s hope, which in the midst of all the control and oppression still burned

  • it is something of the past which shows that Winston hoped that things could be the way it was before the Party and Big Brother, even though he did not fully remember the past

  • the past became a fantasy of sorts

  • the wish that things can be better

  • without the oppression, the ever watchful eyes and the constant fear

  • Characterizes Winston as a dreamer, a thinker

there was a crash. Someone had picked up the glass paperweight from the table and smashed it to pieces on the hearth-stone” (Page 232)

  • When Winston is carried away, the paperweight smashes into pieces

  • Foreshadows what would happen to Winston

  • The paperweight which represented hope is now shattered and thus represents the loss of hope

  • Shows that Winston’s attempts to resist is ultimately futile

    • The power that party has is absolute


Topic sentence: The Diary further shows the Party’s oppressive nature by exhibiting Winston’s inner desire to rebel.

“he had been stricken immediately by an overwhelming desire to possess it…He had carried it guiltily home in his briefcase” (Page 8)

  • Though Winston’s head is telling him that what he is doing is dangerous, his inner feelings took control

    • He expresses his dissatisfaction with the Party and Big Brother in the Diary

      • Act of rebellion against the party

“He could not help but feel a twinge of panic…he was tempted to tear out the spoiled pages and abandon the enterprise altogether” (page11)

  • The way that Winston reacted with his own inner thoughts shows just how fearful of the Party he is

    • Fear is an instrument which the Party uses to control the people

    • Again shows the Party’s power

      • Even in private, such thoughts and feelings cannot be tolerated

      • The Party even control’s people’s thoughts

“He was already dead he reflected”(page 30)

  • The diary, like the paperweight, expresses the theme of futility

    • It is futile to try and rebel

  • Even when Winston hides his dairy carefully, the Party always have ways to find out

    • Shows the extent of the party’s omnipresence and power

The Chestnut Tree

Topic Sentence: The chestnut tree symbol also foreshadows and illustrates the futility of rebellion to the Party’s absolute control

“Some time after their release Winston had actually seen all three of them in the Chestnut Tree café…They were sitting in silence” (Page79)

  • This scene foreshadows what would eventually become of Winston

  • Winston, like the old leaders who were accused of being traitors, is futile to resist and would end up the same

  • This places symbolises the Party’s ability to brainwash people

  • People who are here are the one’s who are in the complete control of the Party

“Under the spreading chestnut tree I sold you and you sold me”

  • Again foreshadows what would become of Winston

  • Show’s the extent of the Party’s control by implying that even love could be controlled by the Party

  • Winston thought that if he loves Julia then he wins

  • The love is then substituted by the love of Big Brother and thus the ultimate control

  • Even emotions and feelings are controlled and inputted by the Party

  • The Party becomes the ultimate power


Topic Sentence: The spoon in One Day plays a similar role to the Diary in 1984 in that it helps to characterize the protagonist.

“He’d made it himself from aluminum wire and cast it in sand.” (Page 12)

  • Characteristics that this symbol define:

  • Resourceful àone of the key component to Ivan’s survival is his resourcefulness

  • This quality also gained him respect

  • His ability to use scraps as tools also further fit him into the role of a Russian peasant

  • Unique

  • In a camp full of prisoners, Ivan manage to be unique and as himself

  • His spirit was not lost in the mundane fight for survival

  • Upheld his individuality even in the harsh conditions of the prison camps

  • To be able to be himself might have been one of the things that helped to keep him alive in that torturous place

Food and boots

In One Day, Boots and Food are the two necessities that keep the prisoners alive.

Topic Sentence: From the way that Ivan treats his food and boots, the readers can see just how important this basic necessities are, which in turn emphasize the cruel reality that these prisons are going through and also help characterize Ivan.

“The felt boots were issued in December and life was great. You don’t want to die” (Page

  • Bluntly put, good boots equals survival

  • Shows just how much the prisoner’s lives are dependent upon these basic necessities

  • Which is taken away from them

  • A guard suggested that the prisoners should only get one pair of boots

“He’d treat them with loving care, he rubbed them with grease to make the leather soft, those lovely new boots.” (Page9)

  • The way Ivan treats his boots shows his capacity for careful and skilful works which contributes to his survival

  • By taking it away from him, the reality seems that much more cruel to the readers

  • His devotion to his boots almost makes this seem less like work

  • The physiological strength of a peasant which intellectual could not achieve

  • His dedication make him seem noble

Just like the bread which he saved for later

  • Shows the importance of food and the horrid condition they live in

  • Physical torture -> huger

  • Again Characterize Ivan as resource

  • Not greedy but sensible enough to save the food for a more needed time

“It was great! This is what a prisoner lived for, this one little moment. Shukhov didn’t have a grudge in the world now.” (Page120)

  • Again shows the importance of food

  • The fact that the prisoners can be liberated with happiness from such simple things in turn shows the extent of the horrible conditions they live in

  • understatement

  • Ivan’s simple spirit to be able to rejoice with so little shows his optimism and his ability to remain human even in the worst of conditions

Fish Eyes and Hat

Topic Sentence: The fish eyes and hats help to characterize Ivan as well as show the readers the how morals help people survive.

“Then Shukhov took is cap off his shaved head – however cold it was, he would never eat with it on” (Page 12)

“…but when they’d come off and were floating around in the bowl on their own he didn’t eat them. The others laughed at him for this.” (Page 13)

  • Despite the awful situation Ivan is I, he does not forget who he is or what his morals are

  • Stands firm to his beliefs even when others ridicule him

  • Help him retain his humanity

  • Will not sell out who he is even for survival

  • Ironically, this has helped him survive

  • Characterize him as noble

  • When higher class people such as Caesar will stoop low for comfort

  • The contrast shows how much more human Ivan is compared to others

  • Gains Ivan respect from his peers

  • Shown by the fact that his fellow prisoners automatically lets him take leadership during the wall building

Conclusion: In both 1984 and One Day, symbols help to shed light upon the qualities of a character, the themes, the authors’ message to the readers and to foreshadow.


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