Snow Country is considered to be a full-length novel written by Yasunari Kawabata. It is a wonderful tale about the love affair between provincial geisha and dilettante from Tokyo, taking place in the hot spring near the town of Yuzawa. The novel is written to illustrate the traditional Japanese culture in its all beauty. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is a famous novel by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. It depicts the harsh reality of life at Soviet labor camp and describes a typical day of a prisoner named Ivan Denisovich Shukhov who becomes the epitome of Stalinist repression. In this essay we are aimed at investigating how dominant themes in both texts reflect humans, creating the specific vision of reality.
Characters establish their life goals in accordance with love and freedom. In both texts we observe controversies, concerning the representation of human reality. If in Snow Country, we investigate the dire need in love for the sake of well-being, in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich completely different perception is depicted, where the protagonist Shukhov is devoid of any contact with physical world, but strives hard only for personal freedom. In our case, Shukhov represents freedom through work. This way, love in Snow Country is related to Shimamura and Komako who meet together to have love and sex affairs. “Komako is dedicated to her desires, striving to live without fear, though when meeting her loneliness she still feels her life is empty” (Kawabata 30). After Komako begins to fall in love with Shimamura, love is seen to drive the human. If Komako is obsessed with her feelings, Shimamura remains to be rather neutral towards a girl.
Beauty and life essentially shapes the life and development of characters in both novels. Again, we can investigate totally different distribution of values within two texts. In Snow Country we notice the ethereal beauty of Japanese females, which links us with the traditional Japanese culture, where beauty was only depicted and praised, but not specifically described. That is why beauty in Snow Country is created by time and place, but not by means of intention. And we can definitely conclude that beauty is symbolic, but not descriptive.
In One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich there is no beauty at all, instead – the ugly reality of life. Life for the personal sake is something that cannot be reached. Prisoners are forced to work hard, devoting their lives to their daily routine. That is why their personal life remains to be a huge mystery for them. For instance, “the prisoners knew the day was going to its end, but they suddenly realized they were ready to go on working even overnight” (Solzhenitsyn 72). This indicates that they have already accepted their failure and were intended to remain strong, showing their ability to work hard physically. The only time when they can feel the flow of their personal lives is mealtime and quarrels with other prisoners.
When uniting the idea of beauty and life within two texts, we should summarize that humans from both novels search for the ways to survive. If in Snow Country, Komako is intended to love and be loved in order to retrieve her absurd being and turn to a normal life, Shukhov in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich tries to survive for the sake of any future. This way we see the opposition of survival: emotional or psychological survival for self-preservation in Snow Country and physical survival in the labor camp in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.
The loss of identity is also closely related to human behavior, denoting human development. Identity can be preserved or found if the personal goals are pursued and reached. In Snow Country we can investigate the integration of Western culture into traditional Japanese one via the relationships of geisha and dilettante from Tokyo. With the flow of time the characters are confused about their actions. Emotional world is stronger than realistic facts. That is why, we can see that unification with nature for Shimamura is the best way to forget the dishonesty towards himself. “Shimamura had come to a point where he knew he was only parading his masculine shamelessness, and yet it seemed likely enough that the woman was familiar with the failing and need not be shocked by it" (Kawabata 21). Komako is devoid of self-realization, because she is not fully satisfied with her love affairs. In another masterpiece, Solzhenitsyn places Shukhov and other prisoners to reflect the whole danger and evil of Stalinist regime, which constantly destructed human solidarity. The Stalinist labor camp was designed to attack its prisoners’ physical and spiritual dignity. The camp has replaced the names of prisoners, which represent their private identities with the help of letters and numbers. Life is like competition for prisoners who mostly fight for the right to survive, not even thinking about their personal views. The Russian novelist describes the total lack of identity in characters who consider themselves to be lost in harsh reality of life and have to survive at any price. For example, Fetiukov lost all of his dignity in the camps and is his existence is viewed as the lowlife.
The atmosphere of futility and sadness is preserved within two novels and has the direct relation to protagonists. Shimamura always refers to numerous instances of wasted effort. He goes to the mountains in order to escape his life of idleness. This wasted effort in Snow Country is understood by the fact that Shimamura dabbles in Japanese dance, writing, collecting the prized Chijimi linen, though he had never actually seen any live performance. Women’s actions in Snow Country are observed as nothing more, but wasted efforts in life. We can see how difficult and not rewarding the work of mountain maidens really is when they produce Chijimi. Those women need to waste the entire winter so that they produce enough fabric to be collected by men like Shimamura and others. The life of Komako is wasted as well, despite she is beautiful. And this is the fate of Japanese geishas who are a bit more than prostitutes and have to live, though all of them need to move downwards and are destined to failure. Futility and sadness are closely connected in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. He is deprived of interest in life like all other prisoners. Such survival forces most of the characters into depression, where they are covered with the state of sadness and nonsense of life. Characters are motivated to live in order to work. They experience deviation from the reality of life. Gopchik is Shukhov’s good friend who resembles his dead son. When looking at him, he sometimes recalls such cruel memories from the past and the atmosphere becomes sad and tense. Prisoners find happiness even in simplicity. For instance, “Shukhov went to sleep fully content. He'd had many strokes of luck that day.” (Solzhenitsyn 139)
We can investigate that the plots in both novels are developed with relation to nature and anti-nature. In Snow Country all landscapes and sceneries are perceived as environment. Again, nature in Snow Country is not described, but presented to be in a perfect harmony of smells, colors and sounds. And this is the exclusively Kawabata’s writing style that id developed to combine motion and silence. In most cases, nature is even used to replace dialogues. When Shimamura and Komako are in a beautiful nature setting, they lack words to speak, enjoying the sceneries. In One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich we do not notice any references to nature.
That is why, environment should be treated like anti-nature. In the frame of anti-nature the prisoners are to follow their anti-lives in order to exist longer. Solzhenitsyn describes anti-nature as environment in tune with time as possession. Prisoners are imprisoned to do their sentence under Stalin’s regime, having to spend there from ten to twenty-five years. Unification with prisoners’ personal nature is possible only before eating and beginning to work. All in all, it becomes clear that human development in both texts reflects individuals’ behavior and creates the specific vision and understanding of reality. All of the characters’ actions are conveyed once we understood their environment. That is why the reader may treat the stories like the characters’ desire to follow the flow of their fate.