Date of Award

Spring 1981

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Languages & Literature

First Advisor

Joseph Ward

Second Advisor

Henry Burgess

Third Advisor

Donald Roy

Abstract

As man addresses himself to the moral and ethical challenges the world confronts him with, he must ultimately ask himself what it means to he human. Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn explores the concept of being and becoming through a startling expose of Russian society. His writing, from the beginning, has been motivated by a sense of duty to the millions of innocent victims who perished under Stalin’s rule and by the belief that the miracle of self-healing and resurrection can take place only when Russia clears her conscience by telling the truth about the past. On the creative level, Solzhenitsyn is uniquely capable of revealing the Soviet world from within, of creatively explaining it, and finally overcoming it. The Gulag Archipelago. volumes I-III, and The First Circle are representative examples of Solzhenitsyn’s unparalleled force in the realm of values, thought, action and conscience. These two mediums of art become the principal expression of Aleksandr Solzhenitysn’s human conviction: that great souls are formed by the contest of courage with intense suffering. His artistic power, demonstrated in these works, supplies the world with the painful, clear awareness of truth. The precise nature of the relationship between The First Circle and the rest of country, being The Gulag Archipelago. lies in the study of the Soviet judicial and penal systems. Both are supreme examples of Russian incarceration and both involve the ultimate decision of humanity. The Gulag Archipelago provides the reader with an extensive inventory of prisoners within the camp system. As each of these prisoners responds to the prison experience, Solzhenitsyn illustrates the moral and ethical choices involved. The prison experience is described explicitly in The Gulag Archipelago - we sense the horror and torment of inhumanity on a phenomenonal scale. The reader is treated to the preliminary phases of the life of a victim in the Archipelagoi arrest, the first days of interrogation, including all the various forms of pressure and torture; the death cells.- But Solzhenitsyn goes well beyond that, describing in detail the results of incarceration, the effect that it has on the human being and the'consequences produced by such a system. Solzhenitsyn challenges the victims of the Archipelago, tests each of them for their spiritual capacity to resist evil. Through an examination of these victims' response to the prison experience, we are able to judge whether they attain redemption or remain fundamentally depraved.

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