What does the novel Darkness at Noon tell us about totalitarianism and life under Stalin?

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Darkness at Noon is a fictionalized treatment of the purge trials that took place In the Soviet Union in the late 1930's. Stalin's aim was basically to eliminate the Bolshevik old guard, people like Trotsky and Bukharin who had been instrumental in making the 1917 coup a success but whom Stalin no longer trusted. Huge numbers of these men were thrown in jail, forced to sign false confessions that they had betrayed the Revolution, and shot. (Trotsky himself escaped the Soviet Union but was assassinated in Mexico by a probable agent of Stalin.) Koestler presents the fictitious character Rubashov as a kind of composite of the old Bolsheviks. He is arrested in the night and thrown in prison. Though this is obviously taking place in the Soviet Union, Koestler never actually names the country, and the leader, Stalin himself, is referred to simply as "Number One."

From the moment he's placed in isolation in his cell, Rubashov knows he is going to be shot. He expects to be beaten and tortured...

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