61 pages 2 hours read

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

The Gulag Archipelago

Nonfiction | Biography | Adult | Published in 1973

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Part 3, Chapters 8-14Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 3, Chapter 8 Summary: “Women in Camp”

Solzhenitsyn explains how life in the Gulag was “harder for the women” (232). He recalls how women who arrived at the camp were paraded naked past the guards and more privileged prisoners, who selected the most attractive women and made them an offer: In exchange for sexual favors, the women’s lives would be made easier. Those women who refused for any reason found their lives made yet more miserable. For women, “attractiveness was a curse” (234) and the only protection against rape or unwanted attention was old age and unattractiveness. An attractive woman was constantly surrounded by men and threatened with violence. Solzhenitsyn believes that she had no hope of refusing them, but she had to carefully select when and to whom she relented. If she picked the right man, he could protect her from the other men, as well as the desperate teenage boys and the envious women. Many sexual diseases spread in the camps. Women were also forced into exhausting physical labor, their bodies worn out by the endless work. By official decree, any marriages were dissolved on arrival at the Gulag. Any woman who became pregnant was transferred out of the camp one month before she gave birth.