Everything Flows Chapter Summary

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Throughout Everything Flows by Vasily Grossman, Ivan Grigoryevich encounters unwelcoming people during his visit to Moscow and Leningrad. Charles Petersen, a book critic, describes him as “a man cured of the plague but still contagious.” In order to cope with these struggles, Ivan begins to rely on his memories of the Gulag. After spending more than 30 years as a prisoner, he had become accustomed to that life. Therefore, whenever he returns to his Soviet life, he meets many struggles. In chapter 9 of Everything Flows, Ivan states that he would rather go through these struggles than give up his freedom. However, other instances throughout the book prove that if he was given the chance, he would return to the Gulag in order to receive his old …show more content…

Many prisoners felt a bond between each other because of the difficult life within the prison. The criminal tattoo also became common throughout the camps. This tattoo possessed a lot of information about the bearer: “sexual preference, marital status, the number of prison convictions served, and membership in a thieving fraternity” (Dobson 114). These symbols were another way prisoners felt connected to one another. The permanent markings and connections caused prisoners to feel incomplete when they returned to normal life. Ivan remembers his time in camp when a man told him, “’I’m not leaving camp to go anywhere else. It’s warm in here. There are people I know” (Grossman 75). Life within the camp was not easy, but it became a home for the prisoners. The guards always fed them, and they had a place the live. The uncertainty of the outside world caused the Gulag members to questioned what they would do if they were released. “Where indeed were they to go?” they asked themselves (Grossman 75). Ivan encountered the same feelings as he wandered throughout Russia. He did not have guaranteed food or shelter. Ivan could not stop reminiscing on how simple and certain life was while he was a …show more content…

However, he would have gone on to say that “there is no higher happiness than to leave the camp” (Grossman 76). Even though Ivan states this, if he were to return to the camps, he would never want to leave again. He would remain in the Gulag because of his difficult life and the subculture he could count on. Ivan demonstrates these feelings as he walks throughout Leningrad. While his visit to the Hermitage leaves him “cold and bored,” he feels “calm and abstracted” as remembers being “surrounded by prison faces and the sound of camp conversations” (Grossman 52). Just like many of the other prisoners who returned to civilian life, Ivan cannot stop thinking about his time in the Gulag. The only thing that can bring Ivan peace is the memories of his life in prison. For over 30 years, Ivan was in prison and that was the only life he knew. He tries to adjust to freedom, but he hopes for his old life back. As he further explores Leningrad “his eyes now looked for other things” (Grossman 53). These “other things” that Ivan is searching for are the certainty and companionship he felt while in the camps. In the Gulags, Ivan was certain he would have food to eat and a place to sleep. Furthermore, he knew he had friends around him that were going through the same struggles. However, when he experienced freedom he was unsure where he would eat and sleep next. He was also enduring

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