Tsezar is a well-to-do, cultured prisoner who strikes awe in Shukhov and who represents worldliness and abundance. His regular parcels of lush food items grant him special privileges in the camp that make his fellow prisoners envious. He is allowed to eat in the camp office rather than in the mess hall and to wear a fur cap, for example, and the fact that he has obtained such privileges from the frigid Soviet officers greatly increases his stature. But Tsezar’s relative glamour derives also from his cultured background. He is from Moscow, a wondrous city of which Shukhov can only dream, and he enjoys discussing film with Buynovsky.
Tsezar’s material abundance gives a deeper significance to his name, which is a Russian form of “Caesar,” a title that many Roman emperors adopted. Tsezar’s name reminds us of Jesus’ reference in the New Testament to Caesar as a symbol of worldly pursuits that stand in the way of spiritual well-being. For Shukhov, Tsezar represents the earthly pleasures that Alyoshka, the spokesman for nourishing the soul, urges Shukhov to reject at the end of the novel.