How does Koestler depict Soviet Communism in Darkness at Noon?

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Koestler depicts Soviet Communism as a paradoxical system that breeds both unquestioning loyalty and paranoia. It is a system that demands all its people to give their unquestioning support to its leadership. At the same time, the system is capable of purging its own people to serve the needs and wishes of the leadership that views human life as expendable.

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Although it is never named outright in the novel, Koestler clearly intends the setting of Darkness at Noon to be the Soviet Union. References to the nation's shadowy leader, Number One, are meant to refer to Joseph Stalin. The background of this novel is the 1938 purges in which Stalin had real and perceived enemies executed on trumped-up charges after being convicted in show trials.

In Darkness at Noon, the Soviet Union is depicted as a land of paranoia and betrayal. Nikolai Salmanovich Rubashov, the story's protagonist, is a loyal supporter of the state. He feels that no matter what atrocities the state may commit, history will judge it kindly in the end as having done what was necessary at the time. In this sense, Communism is depicted as an ideology capable of great evils in the name of what it sees as the greater good.

However, Rubashov's loyalty to the ideology does not save him. As a victim of the purges, Rubashov's fate illustrates how Soviet Communist ideology leads the party to destroy its own. It also shows the hypocrisy of the system. The rank and file of the regime are expected to fall into line and exalt the party leadership without question. Yet the Communist elite does not think twice about sacrificing these loyal followers at the earliest convenience.

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