In Alexander Solzhenitsyn, One Day in The Life of Ivan Denisovich, the main character Shukhov, is portrayed as nonreligious man who lacks in faith of a creator due to his current circumstances.
Shukhov lost faith in hope and in god, but through his foil of Aloysha, a Baptist who is steadfast and sees this imprisonment as a trial and blessing, we see the changes that come to Shukhov’s understanding and faith as the two converse and explain their own perspectives to one another about their situation. When the author first introduces us to Aloysha we see that he is a very religious person who’s faith in god is evident and this makes him contrast to other characters within the novel, Solzhenitsyn highlights his strong attachment to his Christian belief and Aloysha was a character created to portray religion. As the prisons further weakened the prisoner’s faith in god, it only made it stronger within Aloysha and we see this strength when he proclaims to the other prisoners who spoke about freedom “What good is a freedom to you? If you’re free your faith will soon be chocked by thorns. Be glad you’re in prison. Here you have time to think about your soul” (Pg. 87) Solzhenitsyn’s choice in Aloysha as a bunk roommate from Shukhov, was strategically chosen to allow this contrast to be formed between the two.
As the novel progresses, we see how Aloysha’s religious and spiritual connection with God slowly, but surely begins to rub off onto Shukhov. Towards the end of the novel we begin seeing this change that was slowly shifting inside Shukhov. Alyosha’s words had struck a cord with Shukhov, and he slowly begins to see things through a different lens and perspective enabling him to gain a bit more understanding over his own matters. We see this a little while later in the book, when Shukhov gives up his biscuit to Alyosha not expecting anything in return. Perhaps this is the first time in the novel when Shukhov does something for his spirit and soul rather than his flesh and desires from this materialistic world thus giving evidence to the changes in his ideals.
Solzhenitsyn chose Ivan, the main character, to begin the novel having little belief in god as most people did during the communist era. The reason for this, in my opinion Solzhenitsyn chose to have a progressive main character was to emphasize his spiritual and mental evolution in a way that wouldn’t overshadow his other characteristics. He created Aloysha as a representation of religion which many people had long forgotten and by allowing the two characters to be foils of each other’s, it produced a form of recognition and understanding of what religion was and how each character survived within these gulogs differently. When Shukhov began to understand religion it affected his behavior and his choice of action which may have allowed him to find a sense of ease in his thoughts and accept his situation by regaining a sense of hope.