Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Prison. Soviet detention center in which Rubashov is being held. With its dark corridors, closed off from the outside world and operating under its own logic, the suffocating prison is a physical manifestation of the communist dystopia and a metaphor for the communist rationale. Outside the prison, seasons change from cold, dismal winter to early spring. Inside its grim multistoried brick structure, prisoners are confined in cells behind thick doors with spy-holes. Barred windows overlook a snow-packed courtyard, where prisoners exercise. Armed guards patrol the ramparts. Down a dimly lit corridor is a barber shop and an unsanitary infirmary that reeks of carbolic and tobacco. The doctor’s desk is cluttered with bandages, swabs, and instruments. Beneath the prison is a room where beatings and near-boiling steam baths are used to force prisoners to confess to imaginary crimes against the state. Those found guilty are taken down a spiral staircase, stunned by blows to the head, and shot behind the ears with pistols.

Rubashov’s own cell, number 404, has a basin, a cot, and a bucket for his bodily wastes. At first, he hears only muffled sounds and echoes in the prison building. Later, neighboring prisoners communicate by tapping messages on the walls in a simple code. From the window, Rubashov observes other prisoners exercising in the courtyard. Through the spy-hole, guards observe him writing in a diary or lying on a straw mattress. Rubashov gets a limited view of the corridor and cells across the gallery. He observes Bogrov, a...

(The entire section is 641 words.)

Historical Context

(Novels for Students)

Leninism and the Bolsheviks
Between the first unsuccessful Russian Revolution of 1905 to 1907 and the beginning of the...

(The entire section is 909 words.)

Literary Style

(Novels for Students)

Rational Arguments
In order to convincingly evaluate the Communist emphasis on the furthest extent of rationality and...

(The entire section is 427 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Novels for Students)

  • 1930s: The USSR is the first Communist state in the world, in the precursory stages to a half-century of...

(The entire section is 230 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Novels for Students)

  • Rubashov has been compared to Soviet political leaders Karl Radek, Nicolai Bukharin, and Christian Rakovsky, as well as to Koestler...

(The entire section is 234 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Novels for Students)

Darkness at Noon was produced on Broadway in 1951, with a stage adaptation by Sidney Kingsley.

(The entire section is 15 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Novels for Students)

  • Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1970 principally for his novel One Day in the Life...

(The entire section is 187 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Novels for Students)

Cesarani, David. Arthur Koestler: The Homeless Mind. William Heinemann, 1998.


(The entire section is 271 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Koestler, Arthur. The Invisible Writing: The Second Volume of an Autobiography, 1932-1940. London: Hutchinson, 1969. Koestler discusses his activism in the Communist Party, his travels to the Soviet Union, his imprisonment in fascist Spain, and his denunciation of communism in Darkness at Noon.

Levene, Mark. Arthur Koestler. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1984. Overview of Koestler’s political writing, including a chapter on Darkness at Noon.

Pearson, Sidney A. Arthur Koestler. Boston: Twayne, 1978. Includes a chapter on Darkness at Noon.

Rothkopf, Carol Z. “Darkness at Noon”: A Critical Commentary. New York: American R.D.M., 1963. Scholarly, complete, and well-written discussion.

Sperber, Murray A. ed. Arthur Koestler: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1977. Includes essays by George Orwell and Saul Bellow. With an intellectually tortuous attack on Darkness at Noon by a French Marxist.