Summary and Analysis: Part 1—The First Hearing—Chapters 1-7

New Characters
Nicolas Salmanovitch Rubashov: a distinguished Party official who is arrested and put on trial for his alleged crimes against the Party

Vassilij (also known as "Wassilij"): an old porter as well as a veteran who served on the Party's side of the Civil War

Vera Wassiljovna: Vassilij's daughter

Warder: the warder of Rubashov's prison

No. 1: this is Rubashov's name for Stalin, the leader of the Soviet regime and the Party

Rubashov has just been escorted into his cell. He pauses for a cigarette before taking his coat off, putting it on his straw mattress, and looking out the cell window into the prison yard. As he lies down and removes his pince-nez, he feels safe and believes he will not be questioned for a few days. It is 5:00 on a winter morning as Rubashov, an ex-Commissar of the People, lies down to sleep.

An hour earlier, as two men from the People's Commissariat of the Interior were coming to arrest him in his apartment, Rubashov dreamt of his earlier arrest by three Nazi policemen. In his dream, the three men came into his bedroom and waited for him to put on his dressing gown. Growing impatient, they beat him with the butt of a pistol. He emerged from the dream to look up at a print of the Party leader, No. 1, and heard the two Commissariat men pounding on his door. Vassilij, a porter and veteran of the Civil War, stood in the elevator of Rubashov's building as the two men banged open the door to his apartment and informed him of his arrest. Rubashov responded skeptically to the news, but got his clothes together and walked with them out to their car.

Rubashov arrived at the prison and was put in his isolation cell, No. 404. The prison is filled with electric light, and each cell is equipped with judas-eyes that allow the authorities to look into the cells.

Rubashov wakes at 7 a.m. to a bugle call, smokes the end of his cigarette, and realizes that he is going to be executed. He ponders the demise of the Revolutionary old guard, of which he is a member, before sensing the warder watching him through the judas-eye, and telling him he has a toothache. Thinking about No. 1 as he walks in his cell, Rubashov anticipates hearing the screams of tortured prisoners, but instead only sees the upturned palms of No. 407 being given his bread. This sight prompts Rubashov to recollect a vague memory that he cannot quite elaborate on. Rubashov impatiently waits for his bread before raising a fuss...

(The entire section is 1041 words.)