Professor Jodi McBride
20th of April 2010
“Darkness at noon” Individualism in a Communist Society
'Darkness at Noon' is the second novel of a trilogy, which revolves around the central theme of revolutionary ethics, and of political ethics in general: the problem whether, or to what extent, a noble ends justifies ignoble means, and the related conflict between morality and expediency. The theme of the novel relates to the ever-present predicament faced by the leaders of any political party or revolutionary movement, from the slave revolt in the first century to the Old Bolsheviks of the nineteen thirties. Revolutionary ethics or the issues faced in revolutionary movements are timeless, and as an incentive to writing his novel, Arthur Koestler was troubled by this theory, and also by the regime of terror that was governed by Stalin this century. This issue of whether a noble end justifies ignoble means is the revolutionary predicament that Koestler refers to, and was the question that he aspired to resolve. “Darkness at noon” takes place in Soviet Union in the late1930’s during the “Great Purge” a time of political repression and persecution lead by Joseph Stalin. After the Russian Revolution, a time when communism was at its peak, the Russian government controlled by Stalin conducted the famous Moscow trials more recently known as show trial, which was basically predetermined trial of political prisoners who where tortured by lack of sleep, mental exhaustion or whatever means necessary, forced into confessing crimes that they did not commit and later tried publicly in order justify the eventual execution of any political challenger who opposed Stalin. “Darkness at noon” is written by Arthur Koestler a former member of the Communist party. Although his story is fictional, it gives us a unique and real insight on the political situation that was going on in the Soviet Union at the time. Political themes of totalitarianism, socialism, communism and individualism are all explained by the imprisonment and confession of the main character Nicolas Salmanovitch Rubashov, who represents key Soviet politicians and intellectual leaders form the Bolshevik Revolution. Koestler’s novel begins with this main character Rubashov, who fought in the revolution and was once part of the Central Committee of the party. He has been accused of taking part in oppositional counter revolutionary activities and instigating a plan to assassinate No.1 who represents Stalin in Koestlers novel. Under the above charges Rubashov is taken to prison. Locked in his solitary cell, Rubashov begins to reflect upon his past and begins to feel guilt specifically for the times that he was required to expel devoted revolutionaries from the party condemning them to their death. Although he does not recognize it at the time, these subconscious feelings of guilt are often represented by mental and physical pain in the form of day dreams and a severe toothache which he experiences throughout the novel. Upon recollection of flashbacks of his foreign missions, the first one in southern Germany, where Richard the leader of a satellite Communist group had questioned and altered the Party’s propaganda, Rubashov told him he was no longer a member of the Party and left him to his unfortunate fate. Another, when he met a long-standing Party member, Little Loewy, in a Belgian seaport. He had to tell Little Loewy and the dock workers to break the strike they have loyally followed for many years and allow Russian-made weapons into Italy. And the one that made him feel the worst, his inaction towards the expulsion and execution of Arlova his secretary and Lover. Every time he experienced the tooth aches, he doused off into these day dreams which he then later associates the two and relates it all to his guilt or what he calls his “grammatical fiction”. Koestler shows us how communism forces its participants to act like machines, in a way that they...
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