Summary and Analysis: Part 3—The Third Hearing—Chapters 1-2

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Rubashov's second diary entry, made on the twentieth day of his imprisonment, discusses the "'pendulum movement in history, swinging from absolutism to democracy.'" He theorizes that the alternation between absolutism (which is also known as totalitarian dictatorship) and democracy reflects a situation in which economic and technological change outpaces the ability of a population to comprehend and adapt to this change. When the population has adapted to change, it becomes a democracy. However, Rubashov argues that until the population does adapt, absolutism is possible and sometimes even necessary. He claims that socialist theory failed to recognize this. Instead, it mistakenly believed "'that the level of mass-consciousness rose constantly and steadily.'" In the Party homeland, the population is lagging behind the change brought about by the elimination of private property under Communism, so a democracy is not possible. Rubashov concludes that during this period when the population lags behind change, the members of the political opposition can spark a coup d'état and depose the government, they can "'die in silence,'" or they can deny and suppress their individual convictions. He adds that in the Party homeland, this last option has become a moral system. In this system, denying one's own convictions is preferable to hopelessly struggling against the Party.

Rubashov writes his diary entry on the morning after Bogrov's execution. On that morning, he met a peasant in the prison yard. The peasant told him about his village's resistance to the Government and the resulting arrests. After eating lunch, Rubashov tells No. 402 that he will capitulate. He reads through his statement, which he copies out as a letter to the Public Prosecutor, and signs it.

Rubashov returns to his earlier thought that the Party is "sailing without ballast" in his diary entry from the twentieth day of prison. This implies that there is no grounding or weight to the Party's actions, and even small winds can blow the Party off course. Rubashov proposes that the only way for errant Party officials to preserve themselves is to deny and suppress "'one's own conviction when there is no prospect of materializing it.'" By denying one's own feelings, one can still serve the Party. However, Rubashov leaves unaddressed the question of how one can successfully deny one's feelings. This may be because he himself is still struggling to achieve this denial. At the same time that he mentions the need to deny one's feelings in order to serve the Party, he charges that the theory the Party follows has failed to correctly analyze the historical circumstances that it claims to be the product of. If the Party has made such a basic mistake, why should Rubashov continue to serve it?

Rubashov's sense that he must deny his own feelings and serve the Party has already created many problems in his own life. This may make the readers wonder why he persists in following the Party, and why he continues to feel that he should sacrifice himself to the Party when it has produced so much suffering in its homeland. When Rubashov meets the peasant, he becomes convinced of the rightness of his theory of limited maturation of the masses. Again, this conclusion produces in Rubashov the sense that reason can govern his actions. However, this conviction has already done so much damage to his life that the readers may wonder why he persists in believing in it, and why he continues to feel that he should sacrifice himself to the malign Party that has produced such suffering in its homeland.

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Summary and Analysis: Part 2—The Second Hearing—Chapter 7


Summary and Analysis: Part 3—The Third Hearing—Chapter 3