Summary and Analysis Tyurin's Story


Returning to his workplace, Ivan picks up a small piece of steel, for which he may have some use later, and he puts it into his pocket. Tyurin has managed to get them better work rates, which means more bread for the next five days. Before the signal to return to work after their meal break, the men huddle around the two stoves, listening to Tyurin tell a story.

In 1930, Tyurin was dishonorably discharged from the army for being the son of a kulak, a member of the land-owning middle-class who had fallen into disfavor with the Soviet regime for resisting the collectivization of their farms. Ivan borrows a cigarette from Eino, one of the Estonians, and listens to the continuation of his gang boss' story.

After his dismissal from the army, Tyurin says, he managed to get on a train which would take him home. Since train tickets were available only by voucher, he secretly boarded a train and got to his hometown with the help of some girls who hid him under their coats. He later met one of them again, in a labor camp, and he was able to return the favor which she had done for him. Then, when he got home, he took his young brother with him to the south of Russia and put him into the care of a group of street thugs, who would teach the child how to survive. He never saw his brother again. He himself ended up in prison soon afterward, during a wave of arrests directed at the kulaks.

This episode could rightly be entitled "Tyurin's Story." It serves to direct interest away from the protagonist for a short time and to demonstrate how many Russians of all backgrounds have been sent to the camps during the Stalin regime. Tyurin's only crime is that he is the son of a kulak, a farmer who had understandably resisted the government takeover of his private farm. Rather than expose his young brother to the inevitable wrath of the Stalin regime, he gives him into the care of a street gang, where he might learn the necessary techniques for survival. The power of Tyurin's story, like much of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, lies in the matter-of-fact way in which it is told — with no attributes of anger or sorrow accompanying Tyurin's account of his own fate and that of his brother. Indignation is really impossible because Tyurin's story is not extraordinary at all. It has been experienced by all of his listeners in the camp and by uncounted Russians outside.

There is also a brief glimpse of Ivan's basic, uncalculated humanity when he gives the butt of his cigarette to the deaf Senka Klevshin, whom he pities for not being able to follow the boss' story; before that, he even considers — momentarily — giving the butt to the scavenger Fetyukov, because he feels sorry for him.

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