Darkness at Noon

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Arlova Character Analysis

Rubashov’s former secretary and lover, Arlova appears in the novel in flashback form, as Rubashov recalls his affair with her. She is large, womanly, and passive: she doesn’t ask anything of Rubashov and she tells him he can do what he likes with her. Arlova was appointed librarian in the bureaucratic unit where they both worked, but soon suspicions arose about her loyalty. While Rubashov initially delayed participating in the accusations against her, once the Party gave him an ultimatum, he betrayed her, which led to her execution. During Rubashov’s own trial, ironically, this fact is brought up as proof of Rubashov’s moral bankruptcy, since he gave her up to save himself. Arlova is the first in a list of people whom Rubashov, without much compunction, sacrificed on behalf of the Party. Throughout his own imprisonment, he comes to equate her with his newly awakened sense of the sacredness of the individual.

Arlova Quotes in Darkness at Noon

The Darkness at Noon quotes below are all either spoken by Arlova or refer to Arlova. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Ideology and Contradiction Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Scribner edition of Darkness at Noon published in 2006.
The Second Hearing: 4 Quotes

He had sacrificed Arlova because his own existence was more valuable to the Revolution. That was the decisive argument his friends had used to convince him; the duty to keep oneself in reserve for later on was more important than the commandments of petty bourgeois morality. For those who had changed the face of history, there was no other duty than to stay here and be ready. “You can do what you like with me,” Arlova had said, and so he had done. Why should he treat himself with more consideration?

Related Characters: Nicholas Salmanovitch Rubashov (speaker), Arlova
Page Number: 128-129
Explanation and Analysis:

Rubashov continues to muse about the relationship between the status of individual people and the collective goals of the revolutionary society. He’s beginning to sense, even if only implicitly, a contradiction in the Party’s espousal of using any means necessary to achieve collective ends: these ends always include the safety and security of those individuals who happen to be in power. Arlova was not, then, just sacrificed on behalf of something greater than herself, but on behalf of one other person, Rubashov. The Party doesn’t seem to have an answer to this contradiction, other than to continue to insist that the Party leadership perfectly embodies the goals of the collective. Now, though, Rubashov is beginning to see that even this logic must ultimately apply to himself if he continues to insist on being consistent and intellectually rigorous. He too, perhaps, will have to face the laws of history and be judged according to them, even if those laws of history end up having particular faces, like that of No. 1.

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The Second Hearing: 6 Quotes

Up till now, he had never imagined Arlova’s death in such detail. It had always been for him an abstract occurrence; it had left him with a feeling of strong uneasiness, but he had never doubted the logical rightness of his behavior. Now, in the nausea which turned his stomach and drove the wet perspiration from his forehead, his past mode of thought seemed lunacy. The whimpering of Bogrov unbalanced the logical equation.

Related Characters: Nicholas Salmanovitch Rubashov (speaker), Arlova, Michael Bogrov
Page Number: 145
Explanation and Analysis:

As Bogrov was led along the corridor on his way to be executed, he shouted out Rubashov’s name. As a result, Rubashov—who is familiar with such executions from his own time as interrogator and dictator—is forced to face the material, physical, and sensory nature of being led to one’s death. The notion of death as an abstract necessity in the interest of a larger, collective cause now gives way to the concrete horror of having to face one’s death or having to face one’s own responsibility for another’s death. The fact that Rubashov does begin to feel responsible for Bogrov, who is one of the people he didn’t actually betray personally, suggests that Rubashov is beginning to have a broader sense of his general role in perpetrating Party violence, even indirectly.

The “logical equation” of actions in pursuit of certain goals has always seemed airtight to Rubashov, but it no longer seems so. The public, performative nature of Bogrov’s death that serves the Party (as a warning to others and example of its own power) also creates a kind of stage on which Rubashov can set his own changing theories.

The Third Hearing: 3 Quotes

If history were a matter of calculation, how much did the sum of two thousand nightmares weigh, the pressure of a two-thousandfold helpless craving? Now he really felt the sisterly scent of Arlova; his body under the woolen blanket was covered with sweat….

Related Characters: Nicholas Salmanovitch Rubashov (speaker), Arlova
Page Number: 185
Explanation and Analysis:

Rubashov’s thoughts return to Arlova as he continues to grapple with the incommensurable ways of measuring individual suffering and collective striving. He himself has argued that history is a matter of calculation, a kind of science experiment, though he has also more recently challenged Ivanov’s espousal of that very concept of history. Now he almost ironically tries to imagine what it would look like to think of history not as abstract cause and effect, not as a physics experiment with “x” and “y” variables, but as an actual calculation of human suffering and desire. This is what makes him think back to Arlova and the individual idiosyncrasies of her body and his memories from the affair he had with her before he betrayed her. Again, it is through senses like smell and touch that Rubashov is convinced that abstract reasoning can be dangerously incomplete.

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Arlova Character Timeline in Darkness at Noon

The timeline below shows where the character Arlova appears in Darkness at Noon. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The First Hearing: 14
Logical Reasoning and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Change and the Laws of History Theme Icon
...months after beginning to lead the Trade Delegation, two of Rubashov’s collaborators, including his secretary Arlova, were suspected of conspiracy and condemned, but Rubashov remained silent. (full context)
The Individual, or the “Grammatical Fiction, vs. the Collective Theme Icon
Arlova, at her trial, referred to Rubashov in order to be cleared. It was only when... (full context)
The Second Hearing: 3
The Individual, or the “Grammatical Fiction, vs. the Collective Theme Icon
...remains silent, composed of disconnected parts: the hands of the Pietà, Little Loewy’s cats, something Arlova had once said, and so on. He dubs this half of his interior dialogue the... (full context)
Ideology and Contradiction Theme Icon
The Individual, or the “Grammatical Fiction, vs. the Collective Theme Icon
Rubashov remembers breathing in the smell of his Trade Delegation office, along with that of Arlova’s large, well-formed body, curved over her notebook as he dictated. She was slow and passive,... (full context)
Ideology and Contradiction Theme Icon
The Individual, or the “Grammatical Fiction, vs. the Collective Theme Icon
One day Rubashov asked, while dictating, why Arlova never said anything. She sleepily replied that she would henceforth repeat the last word of... (full context)
The Individual, or the “Grammatical Fiction, vs. the Collective Theme Icon
Truth, Confession, and Performance Theme Icon
From then on, during the day Arlova would sit bent over the desk, and at night would lie silhouetted against Rubashov’s bedroom... (full context)
The Individual, or the “Grammatical Fiction, vs. the Collective Theme Icon
An order also came from “above” to appoint a librarian, and Arlova was chosen. Then, at one meeting, she was attacked: someone complained that No. 1’s most... (full context)
The Individual, or the “Grammatical Fiction, vs. the Collective Theme Icon
Truth, Confession, and Performance Theme Icon
After a week, Arlova stopped coming to Rubashov’s apartment, saying that she had a migraine. He didn’t press her... (full context)
The Second Hearing: 4
Ideology and Contradiction Theme Icon
The Individual, or the “Grammatical Fiction, vs. the Collective Theme Icon
Rubashov knows that he sacrificed Arlova because he himself was more valuable to the Revolution: a more convincing argument than “petty... (full context)
The Second Hearing: 6
The Individual, or the “Grammatical Fiction, vs. the Collective Theme Icon
...the details of the execution as he smokes a cigarette. He senses the smell of Arlova. Then No. 402 taps to him that No. 380 is to be shot, and to... (full context)
The Individual, or the “Grammatical Fiction, vs. the Collective Theme Icon
Logical Reasoning and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
...to Bogrov to make the strong sailor whimper in such a way. He wonders if Arlova too whimpered. He sits up: he’s never imagined her death in such a way. Bogrov’s... (full context)
The Second Hearing: 7
Logical Reasoning and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
...there over him, a friend who is now an enemy. Rubashov thinks of Bogrov and Arlova, and Ivanov asks if he feels ill. Rubashov asks for a cigarette and he feels... (full context)
The Individual, or the “Grammatical Fiction, vs. the Collective Theme Icon
Logical Reasoning and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Change and the Laws of History Theme Icon
...cries continue to echo in Rubashov’s head, along with the image of the curve of Arlova’s breast. It’s no use weeping over humanity like their country’s greatest poets, Ivanov says. He... (full context)
The Individual, or the “Grammatical Fiction, vs. the Collective Theme Icon
...recognizes the “inner processes” not as abstractions but as a physical reality. When Ivanov sent Arlova to die, he hadn’t had the imagination to picture the details of the execution. Now... (full context)
The Individual, or the “Grammatical Fiction, vs. the Collective Theme Icon
Logical Reasoning and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
...the interest of a greater good. Rubashov is still wondering if he would have sent Arlova to her death today: he doesn’t know, even though logically, he knows Ivanov to be... (full context)
The Third Hearing: 3
Ideology and Contradiction Theme Icon
The Individual, or the “Grammatical Fiction, vs. the Collective Theme Icon
...he feels humiliated. Time slows almost to a still: he shuts his eyes and imagines Arlova lying next to him. He wonders about the 2,000 men in the cells of this... (full context)
Truth, Confession, and Performance Theme Icon
...his neck, Rubashov assents. Gletkin asks if the same was true for his betrayal of Arlova, which led to her death: Rubashov says he’s aware of this, and, sensing the irony,... (full context)
The Grammatical Fiction: 1
The Individual, or the “Grammatical Fiction, vs. the Collective Theme Icon
Truth, Confession, and Performance Theme Icon
...lesson to others. She reads that, at this point, the Public Prosecutor asked about Citizen Arlova, Rubashov’s former secretary, and it was revealed that Rubashov had accused her to save himself.... (full context)