The narrative style of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich strikes me as different from any other novels we’ve read previously. It seems to be from the third person omniscient perspective of Ivan Denisovich Shukov, but it contains various second person asides to the reader. These asides usually describe some aspect of life in the camps.
For example: “Let your work warm you up, that was your only salvation” (6).
“Anyway, you should never be conspicuous. The main thing was never to be seen by a campguard on your own, only in a group” (18).
“There is nothing as bitter as this moment when you go out to the morning roll call--in the dark, in the cold, with a hungry belly, to face a whole day of work. You lose your tongue. You lose all desire to speak to anyone” (27).
At times it reads like an instructional guide for surviving in the work camps:
“A squad leader needs a lot of salt pork--to take to the planning department, and to satisfy his own belly too. ... No one in the squad who received any lost a moment in taking him some as a gift. Otherwise you’d never survive” (27).
But sometimes the narrational style is slightly different:
“The 38th, naturally, wouldn’t let any stranger near their stove. Their own men sat around it, drying their footrags. Never mind, we’ll sit here in the corner, it’s not so bad” (46).
For me, so far, the power of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich comes from its ability to take the readers directly into the work camps. The narrative style accomplishes this by passing off cold, starvation, and the other atrocities the men experience as just another part of everyday life, to be accepted as unavoidable facts.