26 March 2012
Darkness At Noon
Many critics consider Arthur Koestler's novel, Darkness At Noon, to be one of the most insightful literary works regarding the qualitative attributes and characteristics of a totalitarian regime. Because of Koestler's personal experience as a Fascists prisoner under Franco, one can understand and appreciate the deep connecting parallels between Nicholas Rubashov, the protagonist, and Arthur Koestler, the author. At the time when this novel was published, few books existed that could accurately describe the inner workings of a totalitarian government, and the ideology that directed its course of action. It is easy to identify Koestler's personal testimony interwoven throughout the binding of this incredibly detailed fictitious account.
There are numerous underling themes that constitute the overarching framework of this novel. The primary focus of this work deals explicitly with utilitarianism and situational ethics; and ultimately the consequences of Machiavellian ideology. Initially—when looking at this novel through a literary lens—one of the primary successes of this work, is the mastery of character development and symbolism. Nicholas Rubashov is a veteran of the Civil War, and a member of the old revolutionary Party—(Historically he is often compared with Leon Trotsky, they both wore pince-nez). He has dedicated his life the Party's vision; being that that all men are born equal and that the masses should govern themselves. Rubashov personally fought to ensure that this future vision became a present reality. The ultimate goal was to create a utopia, where every person acted altruistically for the good of all. There was a time when Rubashov believed that their cause had began to succeed. But then, as the ideology of party continued to evolve, so did its members.
There are several reoccurring examples within the novel that allude to the natural transition from the old to the new, and the significance thereof. The first example is when Koestler describes Vassilij, Rubashov's Porter. He is described first as an old thin man, with a military overcoat, and a scar that he had received in the Civil War (Darkness At Noon, 5-6). Another example is when Rubashov is arrested. He is arrested by two officers, one was described as a young man with a gun, and the other as an old man standing at attention (7). The foundational pillar of faith for all party members was that 'they'—the party and its leader No. 1—were infallible. "The Party can never be mistaken...You and I can make a mistake. Not the Party. The Party, comrade, is more than you and I and a thousand others like you and I. The Party is the embodiment of the revolutionary idea in history" (43). In light of this knowledge, it is interesting to observe the contrast between the older generation, and the younger generation. Both claim to believe in the infallibility of the Party—which represents the maxim of their ideology, but it seems that the older generation is limited by their individual moral obligations, whereas the younger generation have completely done away with the concept of absolute morality: rejecting it completely as bourgeois romanticism. Rubashov is among that older generation.
After he is arrested, he is fortuitously interrogated by Ivanov—an old friend and Party member. Ivanov arduously endeavors to convince Rubashov that he has become politically divergent. Rubashov initially rejects this claim. He asserts that, "You [the younger generation] killed the 'We'; you destroyed it." "[You] no longer represent the interests of the Revolution, or the masses or, if you like, the progress of humanity" (85, 86). Ivanov demonstrates to Rubashov that such an accusation, cannot be true. He continues to elucidate that rationally, it is not the Party that has evolved, but the people's understanding the Party's ideology. That is not to say that the ideology has shifted. On the...