61 pages 2 hours read

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

The Gulag Archipelago

Nonfiction | Biography | Adult | Published in 1973

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Part 4, Chapters 1-3

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 4, Chapter 1 Summary: “The Ascent”

Not only was the Gulag Archipelago not designed to reform or rehabilitate, but the inmates did not believe themselves to be guilty, so reform was impossible. The inmates’ conscious innocence, Solzhenitsyn believes, was the reason so few inmates attempted suicide. Inmates resolved to survive “at any price” (302) rather than reflect on their supposed crimes. Solzhenitsyn recalls the stories of several prisoners who struggled with their will to survive. He notes that life in the camp differed from life outside the camp as no inmate had to attend ideological meetings. Inmates did not have to worry about being a party member or joining a trade union or being accused of transgressing somehow against the party. As such, inmates had more time to think on whatever they please. This was a form of liberation, according to Solzhenitsyn.

Solzhenitsyn recalls the time inmates were made to watch an uninteresting film. The moral of the film—one which he believes was meant to apply to society at large—was that “the result is what counts” (307). Solzhenitsyn disagrees, maintaining that any ‘result’ is not important compared to how that result was attained. If inmates wished to survive at any cost, then they had to become stool pigeons and generally submit to the guards.