How does Arthur Koestler critique Stalinism through key tensions in Darkness at Noon?

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Koestler uses logic and absurdity along with morality and the Machiavellian idea of the ends justifying the means to critique Stalinism. Rubashov is haunted by his failures in life. He has always prided himself on his logic, but now he realizes that this was not always true. He has been willing to work for the Party, even to sacrifice others, because it promoted a vision that he believed in. Yet he is able to see clearly that this was never true. Now Rubashov is caught in a net of absurdity as a prisoner himself. He knows deep down that confessing will not save him, yet Ivanov tries to convince him of the logic of confessing to a lesser charge.

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Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon is a sharp denunciation of Stalinism through the story of Nicolas Rubashov, a former Communist official under Lenin who is imprisoned and executed under Stalin's rule. Koestler focuses on the themes of logic versus reason and Machiavellian ideas to show the horrors of Stalinism. Let's look more closely at this.

Rubashov has always prided himself on his logic and his reason. He believes that these are what he has lived by and made his decisions by, but now that he is in prison, he realizes that this is not true. He is haunted by the people he has denounced over the years and his failure to stand up for the innocent. These were not acts of logic and reason but acts of fear and self-promotion.

Now Rubashov is caught in a net of absurdity as a prisoner himself. His friend Ivanov, who is managing his case, tries to convince him of the logic of confessing to a lesser charge, but deep down, Rubashov knows that this is absurd. Indeed, Rubashov is executed even after he gives in to the “logic” and confesses.

We can also see the Machiavellian ideas here, especially the idea that the end justifies the means. Rubashov has always operated by that principle. He has made his choices based on promoting the Communist agenda, but now that Communist agenda has turned against him as Stalin is “liquidating” the old Leninists that he believes are disloyal. Stalin will use any means to secure and increase his power, including the deaths of Rubashov and his colleagues.

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