Darkness at Noon is a fictionalized treatment of the Stalinist purge trials of the late 1930s. An urge to consolidate power and to satisfy his own paranoia led Stalin to turn on many of the "old Bolsheviks," those men who had been most instrumental in the success of the Russian...
Darkness at Noon is a fictionalized treatment of the Stalinist purge trials of the late 1930s. An urge to consolidate power and to satisfy his own paranoia led Stalin to turn on many of the "old Bolsheviks," those men who had been most instrumental in the success of the Russian Revolution twenty years earlier. These men were thrown in jail, forced to sign false confessions, and executed.
Rubashov in Darkness at Noon is a kind of composite of different men who suffered this fate. What we see is that Rubashov, in reviewing his life, questions his own motives and the rightness of the communist cause. For instance, as a Party chief, he had ruthlessly dealt with fellow Party members who had presumably not followed orders to the letter but had also not been traitors. It is partly his guilt about this past behavior that makes Rubashov believe his own life is not worth saving. At the same time, he realizes that the revolution has gone astray from its true goal. In the opening pages of the story, Rubashov already appears to be cynical about the regime, commenting on the poor quality of the roads and scolding a young officer by asking rhetorically, "Have you ever been on the outside?"
The relentless interrogation by the Party apparatchik Gletkin wears Rubashov down so that ultimately he is no longer sure of the truth, of what he remembers his own actions to have been. This, coupled with his guilt and disillusionment, makes him confess, for this seems no better or worse than any other option in a life he looks back upon as a failure. The situation is similar to that of Winston in 1984; Orwell had read Arthur Koestler's books and was heavily influenced by them. In both Darkness at Noon and 1984,we are shown how totalitarian regimes manipulate facts in order to destroy their victims' sense of objective reality. Rubashov no longer fully knows what is true and what isn't. But his realization is that the regime he had fought for supports goals which are the opposite of what he believed in and what he believed he was working for. The one positive thing at the close of the story is that, as Rubashov is led to the prison cellars to be shot, the other prisoners express their solidarity by rapping on the walls and shouting their approval of him.