Darkness at Noon Summary and Analysis: Part 3—The Third Hearing—Chapters 4-6
by Arthur Koestler

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Summary and Analysis: Part 3—The Third Hearing—Chapters 4-6

Rubashov descends the stairs to submit again to the examination by Gletkin. These examinations continue for at least several days and nights, and they are broken only by one- or two-hour intervals. Gletkin, by doing all the examinations himself, deprives Rubashov of "the moral superiority of the victim" and destroys Rubashov's sense of day and night. Gletkin's impressive durability contrasts with Rubashov's sense of degradation. He faces an accusation with seven points, and each point is examined by Gletkin and resisted by Rubashov. Rubashov recalls his meeting with Herr von Z., a representative of a foreign Power, after a diplomatic lunch. In this meeting, the two went from lightly discussing the breeding of guinea pigs to engaging in a loosely veiled talk about the possible overthrow of No. 1. Rubashov feels it was only "idle chatter," but Gletkin charges it was a conspiracy. Suddenly Rubashov doubts if it really was idle chatter, and he begins to feel old and worn-out by his "years of illegal struggle," exile, and Party struggles. He confesses to this conspiracy and is told by Gletkin that Ivanov is under arrest.

At their next meeting, Gletkin tells Rubashov that he has not been tortured because it would not do any good, and a public trial is the best way to produce his confession. Rubashov's peculiar, twisted sense of duty keeps him determined to struggle against Gletkin. Meanwhile, Gletkin's voice has become gentler and nearly normal, and Gletkin even grows nervous when he fails to get Rubashov to admit to sabotaging the aluminum trust. After this victory, Rubashov tells Gletkin that he refused to admit to this point "'because it is a technical absurdity.'" In the ensuing discussion, Gletkin replies to Rubashov's contention that it is silly to fire workers for being two minutes late to work by pointing out that his village had no sense of punctuality or work ethic. This makes harsh treatment of the peasantry essential to create a productive, orderly work force.

Gletkin adds that the masses require "'a simple, easily grasped explanation'" for hard and complicated processes: this is why the Party invents scapegoats of saboteurs and devils. These dissidents are accused of causing the persistent low standard of living of the citizenry. At the end of the discussion, Gletkin reveals that Ivanov was killed the night before.

Before Rubashov goes to sleep for two hours, he wonders why Ivanov's death has failed to move him. He concludes that he has "reached a state which precluded any deeper emotion" than a desire for sleep, and he muses that Gletkin and other young Party members have no past because they reached maturity only after the Party had already come into power and are merely completing the work of the original Party members. This reflection prompts him to make another diary entry in which he compares his dismissive attitude toward people like Gletkin with the attitude the apes must have had toward the Neanderthals. He speculates that the apes regarded the Neanderthals with amusement and horror because of the Neanderthal's barbarism and crudeness. However, the Neanderthals eventually displaced the apes, and he proposes that Gletkin and the other crude young Party members are similarly displacing the original Party members.

Five or six days after the start of the examinations, Rubashov faints as his motives are discussed. The prison doctor revives him and sends Rubashov out to the yard for fresh air. There, he encounters the peasant, who recollects the time when he lived in his village and the sheepherders would take their sheep into the hills as the snow melted in spring. Rubashov picks up a handful of snow, rubs it on his face, and goes to Gletkin's room.

When the questioning resumes, Gletkin reads from Rubashov's diary where he stated that good faith does not matter, only right and wrong. This, Rubashov suspects, is why he is going to be put on display at the public trial as a devil. Gletkin reiterates the high stakes...

(The entire section is 1,073 words.)