Nicolas Salmanovitch Rubashov
Rubashov is the protagonist of Darkness at Noon and is intended to represent an amalgamation of real Soviet intellectuals and politicians. A former Commissar of the People, he is a member of the “old guard,” the intelligentsia who led the Russian Revolution and fought in the Russian Civil War—and who are now being eliminated by their former comrade No. 1, leader of the Communist Party and the USSR. Described as a small man in his fifties with a pointed beard and a pince-nez, Rubashov is arrested at his apartment in the middle of the night and taken to prison, where he is kept in solitary confinement in cell No. 404. During his imprisonment, Rubashov—already disillusioned with what has become of the Party—undergoes a crisis in which he questions the Party logic and rationality that he believed in for most of his life. He also becomes aware of what he terms the “grammatical fiction”: his repressed individuality with all its illogical associations and its tendency to manifest in the form of toothache. After ruminating on the people he has denounced and, especially, hearing his old friend Bogrov call his name on his way to be executed, Rubashov comes to the conclusion that, contrary to Party ideology, the end does not always justify the means. Nevertheless, while being interrogated and deprived of sleep by Gletkin, he agrees to confess to false crimes and denounce the opposition to the Party at a public trial. At the end of the novel, Rubashov is executed.
The porter in Rubashov’s apartment building, Wassilij is a thin, elderly man with a scar on his neck from a wound received in the Russian Civil War, where he served as a soldier in Rubashov’s Partisan regiment. Until his daughter, Vera, threw it out along with his Bible, Wassilij had a portrait of Rubashov hanging above his bed next to a portrait of No. 1. The news of his former commander’s downfall fills him with despair, and he mumbles Bible verses to himself, comparing Rubashov to Christ, as Vera reads him the description of the trial from the newspaper. Fearing being denounced by Vera—who he believes wants to take over his apartment by sending him to prison—Wassilij agrees to sign her petition demanding the extermination of traitors.
“No. 1” is the name given to the novel’s fictionalized representation of Joseph Stalin, the real-life leader of the Communist Party and dictator of the USSR at the time. He appears in the novel only in Rubashov’s thoughts and memories, but his behind-the-scenes role as the powerful, inscrutable embodiment of Party logic and the orchestrator of the novel’s trials and executions is an important one.
Rubashov’s neighbor in prison never reveals his name, so Rubashov refers to him by his cell number, No. 402. Now serving a twenty-year sentence, No. 402 is an old-fashioned military man who fought on the side of the Czarist counter-revolutionaries during the Russian Civil War. He argues with...
(The entire section is 4,285 words.)