Tara Hughes as Goldmund

Dramatic Monologue

As I awake here on this curb, I recall the night that has just passed, spent in the company of a young lamb who I encountered in a neighboring east village bar. She still dozes, her head cradled on her denim jacket, like an angel from Narcissusís glorious heaven above. No doubt sheíll soon leap up and run off into the jungle of this city, as they all do. She will prefer, as have all the others, to face the wrath of her dorm monitor than to continue to drink of the wandering, vagrant life I would share with her. I no longer ask them to stay. I prefer to make my way from the narrow ethnic montage of Mulberry Street to the expansive, opulent corridors of Fifth Avenue hotels ‚ and back again - in contemplative solitude. Alone, I can truly revel in the vast possibilities of this great isle of Manhattan. Were I to have company I would inevitably be cajoled to enter into some sort of gainful employment, contrary to my disposition. I have come far enough already from the virtuous life of learning I once believed to be my destiny in the cloister. I now yearn only for sex, women (or, as is todayís case, girls) independence, and adventure. Perhaps I shall meander toward that mecca of youth and expression not so far distant from here, under the arch of Washington Square. Perhaps I should not leave this young miss sleeping here, unaware of her surroundings. Ah, it is regrettable, but I am unable to force myself neither to interfere in her life through waking her, nor to contain my urge to move on, so I will reluctantly surrender her to whatever fate should befall her here. Goodbye, my little dove. Thank you for the experience of your limbs and for sparing me any words or sentiment.

I say, what is this I see before me? Splayed out on the street before me I find the most humble and profound display of high art imaginable. Each on varying shifts of foam board, blackened with India inkÖthe images spring forth in etched, white perfection. The etchings are consistent in their brilliance, remarkably diverse despite the common form and subject, always a local building or landmark. And, delightfully, tenderly placed in every depiction is a small, black, omnipresent kitty cat. "Are you the creator of this magnificent work?" I ask a wizened man, who is squatting behind the display. Grumpily, he peers at me from under his bushy, judicious brow. The appeal of these crowded streets, bejeweled with chewing gum long-blackened by passersby, shimmering in the occasional hint of sunshine that filters through the polluted heights of the soaring buildings, has suddenly diminished for me. I no longer seek to enjoy the delicious respite from pigeon poop and air conditioning drippings in this or that storefront entry. I no longer am satisfied to spend endless days seeking meaningful patterns in the license plates of yellow cabs as they pass by the corner of 78th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. I now know what so long I have lacked. I now have a purpose if only you will bestow upon me the learnings that I might render such furry little muse of perfection amidst the banality of urban settings such as these.

Time in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

This novel takes place entirely in one day, from the pre-dawn hours of the waking camp to the belated ending of the lights-out inspection, in a Soviet forced labor camp populated with dissidents and political criminals. The alleged crimes of most prisoners were not illegal at the time they were committed, but nonetheless, all are serving terms of 10 years, 25 years, and as yet no one has been released. Combined with degrading living conditions, overwork in extreme weather conditions, lack of adequate nourishment, and daily injustices enacted upon them by fellow prisoners, miserable guards, and faceless administrators, the open-ended sentences have forced the men into a particular relationship with the passage of time.

They are not unaware of its occurrence; they constantly reference events in the past, old ways, and changes in policy and procedure within the camp. For instance, "Last winter there hadnít been any drying room for their felt boots in this camp and they had to keep them in the barracks all night. They were chased outside anywhere up to four times for a recount. So they didnít bother getting dressed even ‚ they went out with their blankets around them. This year theyíd put up drying rooms but they werenít big enough for everybody, so each gang could dry out their boots only two nights out of three. And now when they had recounts they let you stay inside and just chased you from one half of the barracks to the other." (page 193). Often they seek to understand how some new development will impact them the following day, or perhaps week, but never do they venture to foresee beyond the forthcoming few days.

In a sense they have adopted the campís concept of ënegotiableí sentences, though of course they are not truly negotiable as they can only increase. In a rare mention of progress against a sentence, "Shukhov sort of liked the way they pointed at him ‚ the lucky guy nearly through with his sentence. But he didnít really believe it. Take the fellows who shouldíve been let our in the war. They were all kept in till forty-six ‚ "till further notice." And then those with three years whoíd gotten five more slapped on. They twisted the law any way they wanted. You finished a ten-year stretch and they gave you another one. Or if not, they still wouldnít let you go home.

But sometimes you got a kind of funny feeling inside. Maybe your number really would come up one day. God, just to think you might walk out and go home!

So you just went on living like this, with your eyes on the ground, and you had no time to think about how you got in and when youíd get out."(page 75).

Unlike criminal prisoners serving a fixed period of time in a prison, never do the prisoners of this camp allow their thoughts, and certainly not their words, to settle on any concept of freedom, of returning home, or of anything pertaining to the end of their sentence. They know that even upon release they will not be allowed to return home, but rather forced to live nearby as ëfree workersí in the employment of the camps.

Upon conclusion of his day, contemplating the events of simultaneously trivial and monumental importance (an extra bowl of gruel, a cigarette, a smuggled piece of steel), Shukhov terms the day fortunate, but refuses to state its place amongst the three thousand six hundred and fifty-three that make up his sentence. He will not recognize progress against the total, but does seek to improve each day as it happens.

As a result, all of the prisoners are fixated with the minute details that comprise their own existence. The small tasks that might earn them an extra cigarette, an opportunity to warm their feet by the stove, steel a moment of rest, or seize and extra portion of food. Some rely on religious zeal to carry them through. Some on the intricacies of intimidation. Each has his own focus.

Character in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Emerging from this sea of small concerns that consume their days, are the characteristics that define each man in the camp. Some are ruthless and cowardly, and there are ample opportunities to practice their tendencies. Others are loyal.

Some can afford to be generous with food and tobacco, such as Kilgas, who receives packages and shares them with certain members of the gang. Still others cannot afford it, but occasionally find a way to do so nonetheless.

The protagonist, Shukhov, takes pride and finds an escape in his workmanship at whatever job he should be assigned. He will expend precious energy to do a job right, even risking reprisal for staying too long to finish up.

One example that showcases loyalty, workanship, courage:

"Come on, come on," Senka said over his shoulder.

"You go ahead. Iím coming," Shukhov said and waved his hand. And he went back inside. He couldnít leave his trowel just like that. Maybe he wouldnít be on the job tomorrow. Or maybe theyíd put the gang on the Socialist Community Development and they wouldnít be here for another six months. Heíd never see his trowel again. So he had to stash it away. Both stoves had gone out. It was dark and he felt sort of scared. He wasnít scared about the dark itself but because he was here alone. And heíd be missed at the checkout and the guards might beat him up.

All the same he took a close look around till he found a rock in the corner. He rolled it back, put the trowel under it, and covered it up. Now everything was okay!

All he had left to do was catch up with Senka fast as he could. But Senkaíd only gone a few yards and was waiting for him. He wasnít the kind to leave you in the lurch. If you were in trouble, he was always there to take the rap with you." (page 126).

Narcissism vs. Psychological Depth in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

In this way the concept of Narcissism versus Psychological Depth is present in this novel. Stalin, and his corrupted maniacal regime, as represented by the camps, the laws, the false sentences, and the individuals who attempt to take on varying roles of status and power within the camps ‚ are the embodiment of Narcissism. In fact, for them, communist ideals have faded and in their place is heralded the image of a single man, Stalin himself. Only those who persevere, who maintain their spirit, if not even their hope, achieve a level of psychological depth wherein they can accept the cruelty enacted upon them, and yet refuse to accept that all humanity is lost. They keep it alive each day that they survive.

Style in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Solzhenitsyn uses a clipped, rather simplistic style of language to depict the thoughts of a man, the narrator and protagonist, who is relatively detached from his emotional reactions to life in the camp. Many sentences begin in "but" and otherwise suggest a flow between each preceding event or thought and the next to follow. Paragraphís also split to highlight the conclusion surrounding the events, which are described with a great deal of detail. For example "It was every man for himself".

July 13, 2000

Goldmund on Incest

Anais Nin weaves an intricate web of passion in the obsessive composition of her journal. She drinks in the world as though it were a humble wine, delicious in itís very crudeness. She touches and tastes all that surrounds her, and brings it forth to life on every page with such imaginative skill that one may find himself captured by the interludes she describes. As she enters the private and confessional relationship with her diary, her own kind of God and the only sort she truly worships, she whisks her vicarious witnesses over and under the tumultuous heights and depths of her emotional landscape. One would have to be entirely insensitive to avoid sharing in her experiences of exaltation, so sensually is it rendered. She also conveys and shares her deepest desperation. There is no time but the current time. I admire her immersion in her immediate surroundings. She seeks to ignore the past and future of which she is a product.

Her wanton behaviors are recorded without censorship; submitted for judgment by her God, the diary. She bends to his (Godís) will upon documenting it in itís most truthful, thus beautiful form. I must appreciate even the most vulgar representation of human emotion and sexual conduct, for it is forthright. It is accurate, almost scientific, as art is for her defined.

July 16, 2000

Goldmund on Einsteinís Dreams

The many worlds created by Alan Lightman in Einsteinís Dreams are non-sensical playthings of the authorís imagination. I find it difficult to reflect upon the human life as a product of such varying perspectives. There are certain immutable truths of the human condition and tendency, of religious law, of lust and sex, of art and learning, that need not be questioned. A man will find that the events of his life will fall into place in an orderly fashion, as God and destiny decide, and should seek only to realize his true nature in the context of that reality. If, for instance, he is an artist, he should seek to fulfill himself with mastery of his form of expression. Or, should he be a peaceful soul seeking knowledge, he must dedicate himself to learning and perhaps priesthood in order to be content. What is the use of endless debate regarding how a single event should take on varying importance in a manís life depending on its relationship with time? A passionate kiss, for instance, is by all accounts a splendid suspension of time and its consequences, a moment apart for which the world is nothing but pleasure. You need not exaggerate to such an extent in order to find its place. My years of practice in search of artistic learning, the honing of my skills, and the execution of my best work merge into a single occurrence. The are distinct moments of experienceÖan injury to my hand, a task completed, a skill learning, a feature craftedÖand a cohesive event at the same time. Simultaneously one and many happenings.

For me, there is only the tension between the time of my physical body here on this Earth, and the time of heaven and eternity, beyond it. As I alternatively endure and revel in my life, I am beholden to the needs of my very body to sleep, to eat, to seek passionate release, all the while aware of the forthcoming destination of my soul, the eventual promise of heaven in the afterlife. Whilst here on this planet, however, I shall continue to seek an answer to the questions that seem to spring up from within me. I need seek the company of my friend, the thrill of restless wandering, the pleasure of the women to be found in travel.

July 21, 2000

Goldmund on One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Solzehnitzyn depicts his experience in intense, laborious detail. He assaults my understanding of the human spirit with the mundane occurrences that serve to profoundly define the individuals in the labor camp. He spares no vulgar or banal moment of revelation. Amidst this barrage of information is a constant divulgence of the calculating, ruminating brain of the prisoner. It should seem a great deal more favorable to my way of thinking to create a more fantastic version of his life; to allow himself some sort of respite from the glaring realities of being surrounded by soulless, self-serving, desperate individuals. I would prefer to drown myself in the thin gruel than to scheme unendingly to obtain slightly more of it. I do appreciate the intensity with which Shukov indulges in the rare pleasure of food, or even a smoke.

Though I donít pretend to while away much time in self-contemplation, I do feel that I would strive to realize my purest and most disciplined self in such a setting. Just as I once believed that I was to become a priest, so too would I, in a situation such a the one in which Shukov finds himself, be without a choice other than to turn to religious and spiritual pursuits.

Still, it would be a terrible shame to be without the company of a woman to soothe the soul.

July 24, 2000

Goldmund on Lolita

It is difficult to understand the deliberate, meticulous planning, and accompanying guilty, internal struggle, of Humbert in pursuit of his young lady love. He would, Iím sure, be envious of the wandererís life. He would be delightfully surprised to find himself, upon discovering a lonely farmhouse, with a lonely farmerís wife, receiving her beautiful gifts of strength and softness. In such a life there is no need for painstaking planning and unending effort to conceal, except perhaps a single nightís pleasure that must be hidden from an unresponsive husband. On the other hand, perhaps Mr. Humbert would struggle to find his desire without the restriction of virtuousness.

I cannot understand it, but maybe because he seeks to socially unfavorable companionship of a young mistress, he is fueled to maintain his attachment. Without the taboo, perhaps he could enjoy her tender body and then he would be free to progress to another path. We shall not know since he is now incarcerated and unable to pursue his whims. Oh, what a horrible and desperate fate to be confined by the will of anotherís morality. He does not subscribe to the laws that he has broken, and yet he must live among them.

July 29, 2000

Goldmund on No Exit

I am, therefore I am blessedly able to absorb the world around me. I am able to know many women, to learn many skills, to wander and explore all that life has to offer. Unthinkable that I should be forced to comply, to compromise, to mold my behavior to satisfy the inner desires of another person. They are free to pursue their own enlightenment, the realization of their life and nature, just as I am. In the threesome portrayed in No Exit, each person seeks the approval of another, and from each by each, it is withheld. The simple solution to their seeming quandary is to seek comfort within each of their selves. To reconcile their own actions with the intense needs and specific circumstances that surely precipitated their condemnation to this particular hell. It is apparent to me that one is capable of drastic action in times of desperation or fright, and so I believe that reasons exist to justify almost any act. The troublesome part is in asking another person, wholly unaware of your situation or needs, to comply with your assessment of that indescribable, but fateful moment. It is puzzling to me how each of these characters is so concerned with the inner thoughts and reactions of their companions. It is impossible to know another through anything other than their actions, through the exchange of friendship or by enacting a passionate desire, and yet they continuously torture themselves with the impossible task not only of understanding one anotherís deepest thoughts, but also in finding approval there. This is their downfall.

August 3, 2000

Goldmund on God Dies by the Nile

The archetypal characters in God Dies by the Nile are demonstrative of the class and gender each represents. The lives of the peasants, and of the women in particular, are largely arranged by the manipulative forces of others, either in the form of societal norms or through a specific, weighty figure who is superior in social standing. He is better, thus able to subject the other to his whim, either by virtue of the fact that he is male and has dominion over a female he wishes to control, or because he has a designated place in society that gives him reign over a low peasant. I find it interesting that the author has chosen to illustrate a deeply intuitive inner monologue for each of the peasants, the women in particular, in contrast to the unthinking selfishness of the manipulating men of status. By doing so, the author has imbued these people with an innately noble sense of self. Each possesses an individual interpretation of God and spirituality, even within the dictated constraints both of an unwavering religious order. Often present are arbitrarily complex instructions to combat specific afflictions, devised primarily to serve the monetary goals of their initiators, and secondarily to reinforce the role of stupid drone, whose time is worthless, that the peasant is seen to hold in this society. Faced with these dilemmas, the poor and troubled souls proceed in a demonstration of faith and self-reflection that undermines attempts to control them and even causes doubt as to who may actually be dictating the realityÖman (and if so, what men, by what means) or God. In this way they are redeemed in that they both dismantle the manipulative agenda of their masters and ultimately demonstrate that they serve only themselves, even as they comply with what they are told to do.

August 6, 2000

Goldmund on Brave New World

To be ostracized, too seek the experience of the world with or without accoutrements, to value solitude and passion, in these ways I relate to the Savage in Brave New World. His rejection of passion, a product, I suppose of the unpleasant consequences and overall confusion of his childhood, is hard to fathom. His mother sets a poor example. She does not fulfill the image of a virtuous and caring savior. She should not be like other women, the women whom he should be more willing to enjoy. Perhaps if she had acted differently, he would have been spared such pain, but then this is unlikely to have motivated her, with her utterly lack of motherly martyrdom. In this Brave New World, this paradox is ideally predicated. Mother and woman are entirely separate and can never be merged, as mother does not exist. Instead, she is state, and only there does she nurture the fledgling members of her society. But this is also a clear distinction in the world of the Savageís origin, the Reservation, where there is no acceptable woman outside the virtuous role of monogamous and reproductive mother.