Darkness at Noon

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Gletkin Character Analysis

In many ways Gletkin, who is first Ivanov’s subordinate and then replaces him as Rubashov’s interrogator, serves a foil to Ivanov. Where Ivanov is pragmatic and ironic, Gletkin is earnest and grave. For Gletkin, it’s not enough to perform a confession: each party must fully believe it. There’s also no difference to Gletkin between one’s actions and one’s thoughts, both of which make someone equally guilty. Gletkin is of peasant origin, and he didn’t learn to read, write, or tell time until he was almost an adult. He bears the marks of this heritage in the difficulty he has reading, but he also possesses a unique glimpse into the psychology of the masses and how the Party can ensure their loyalty. Gletkin is the epitome of the new guard: around 37 years old, he is too young to remember the Revolution or to have fought in the Civil War, so he has little sense of the dramatic changes that have taken place, or of the irony that those now being tried and executed for treason were some of the nation’s heroes.

Gletkin Quotes in Darkness at Noon

The Darkness at Noon quotes below are all either spoken by Gletkin or refer to Gletkin. 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 Third Hearing: 3 Quotes

Gletkin read straight on, stiffly and with deadly monotony. Did he really believe what he was reading? Was he not aware of the grotesque absurdity of the text?

Related Characters: Nicholas Salmanovitch Rubashov (speaker), Gletkin
Page Number: 191-192
Explanation and Analysis:

Gletkin is reading through the list of charges brought against Rubashov, which include the accusation that Rubashov plotted to have No. 1 murdered. Now that the interrogator is Gletkin instead of Ivanov, the tone of the examination has shifted. There’s no sense of banter or intellectual conviviality between Gletkin and Rubashov, nor does it seem evident to both parties that this is a performance that needs to happen rather than a deadly serious accusation with a real, historical basis.

Rubashov is struck by this difference, especially given what he considers to be the absurd claims leveled against him. He finds it difficult to believe not so much that the Party would make dramatic accusations of his guilt and treason, but rather that someone could actually believe them. To Rubashov, these kinds of accusations make sense as a matter of expediency, as means enacted in order to further the Party cause: this is how Rubashov has used accusations in the past himself. But the framework seems to be shifting—now the Party line is not a convenient mask but an insisted-upon truth that holds no room for knowing irony or casual treatment.

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The Third Hearing: 4 Quotes

“If one told the people in my village,” said Gletkin, “that they were still slow and backward in spite of the Revolution and the factories, it would have no effect on them. If one tells them that they are heroes of work, more efficient than the Americans, and that all evil only comes from devils and saboteurs, it has at least some effect. Truth is what is useful to humanity, falsehood what is harmful.”

Related Characters: Gletkin (speaker)
Page Number: 232
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Gletkin begins to speak more honestly to Rubashov, explaining his own theory of history and its relationship to Party ideology. Unlike Rubashov, Gletkin has grown up as a peasant, far from the intellectual life of the cities or the heady revolutionary times among the central committee. Now he tries to make the case for the kind of public trial into which he is attempting to coerce Rubashov. For him, the most important thing is to advance the interests of the Party; that can be done by improving morale among the people, though even that is only a means of increasing their efficiency and gaining greater wealth for the country. Gletkin employs the same kind of logical reasoning that Rubashov and Ivanov have in the past, though he, unlike Ivanov, for instance, has no sense of ironic detachment from such instrumental reason. As a result, he doesn’t feel the need to conceal or make euphemisms about his conclusion, but instead states baldly his fully cold, instrumental view of the very definition of truth as “useful.” The question of course, that arises is to whom it is useful—one to which the answer, for Gletkin, will always be the Party.

The Third Hearing: 6 Quotes

“The policy of the opposition is wrong. Your task is therefore to make the opposition contemptible; to make the masses understand that opposition is a crime and that the leaders of the opposition are criminals. That is the simple language which the masses understand. If you begin to talk of your complicated motives, you will only create confusion amongst them.”

Related Characters: Gletkin (speaker), Nicholas Salmanovitch Rubashov
Page Number: 243
Explanation and Analysis:

As Gletkin instructs Rubashov in the use Rubashov can play for the Party, Gletkin emphasizes direct, clear messages without ambiguity. Little could be further from the way Rubashov once thought about communist ideology, which was intellectually rich enough to foster debate and disagreement. Now logic continues to be considered the goal to strive for, but it’s a kind of logic that pares down any complexity into discrete, replicable steps. Gletkin also emphasizes the importance of performance and rhetorical skill in convincing the masses of the truth. Indeed, it’s not altogether clear whether Gletkin fervently believes that what Rubashov is being tried for is the truth or whether Gletkin really is simply pragmatic and means-focused, dedicated to considering truth as a function of Party necessity, just as Ivanov and Rubashov had been. The novel contains evidence for both notions; one way of reconciling them would be to say that in the framework in which Gletkin is working, there is no difference between truth as historical reality and truth as convenient fiction—the boundaries have blurred too much.

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Gletkin Character Timeline in Darkness at Noon

The timeline below shows where the character Gletkin appears in Darkness at Noon. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Second Hearing: 2
Logical Reasoning and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
The day after the first hearing, Ivanov and his colleague Gletkin are resting in the canteen. Ivanov is tired and he slouches; Gletkin is formal and... (full context)
Truth, Confession, and Performance Theme Icon
During the Civil War, Gletkin had been taken prisoner, and they’d tied a lighted candlewick to his skull to make... (full context)
Ideology and Contradiction Theme Icon
Logical Reasoning and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Gletkin recalls a peasant that he cross-examined a few years ago. The Revolution, Gletkins says, is... (full context)
The Second Hearing: 7
Truth, Confession, and Performance Theme Icon
Ivanov, meanwhile, visits Gletkin, who is working through the night. He’s had to undo Gletkin’s damage, but Rubashov will... (full context)
The Third Hearing: 3
Change and the Laws of History Theme Icon
...relieved. Then he’s marched into a room like Ivanov’s office, but behind the desk is Gletkin. (full context)
Ideology and Contradiction Theme Icon
Logical Reasoning and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
In a monotone, Gletkin tells Rubashov to sit down and then says that he will examine Rubashov in Ivanov’s... (full context)
Truth, Confession, and Performance Theme Icon
Rubashov says he’s ready to make a statement, but only if Gletkin stops the tricks and turns down the harsh light. Gletkin reminds Rubashov of the gravity... (full context)
Ideology and Contradiction Theme Icon
Logical Reasoning and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
...know what the accusation is. He suddenly realizes that he has as much power over Gletkin as Gletkin has over him, even if Gletkin thinks it’s his own tricks, not Ivanov’s... (full context)
Truth, Confession, and Performance Theme Icon
Gletkin says that this is nothing new: Rubashov has made similar statements two years ago, then... (full context)
Truth, Confession, and Performance Theme Icon
Rubashov recognizes that Gletkin is right not to believe him: he himself is now lost in a labyrinth of... (full context)
Truth, Confession, and Performance Theme Icon
...have fallen asleep, dreaming of luminous landscapes and the poplars of his father’s estate. Then Gletkin’s voice booms over him, asking if he recognizes a third person now in the room:... (full context)
Ideology and Contradiction Theme Icon
Logical Reasoning and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Gletkin turns to Hare-lip, who says in a deep, resounding voice, that Citizen Rubashov ordered him... (full context)
Truth, Confession, and Performance Theme Icon
...this was correct. That evening they all met at Rubashov’s house, where he served alcohol. Gletkin interrupts to prod Hare-lip to say that Rubashov intended to intoxicate him. The two older... (full context)
Ideology and Contradiction Theme Icon
Logical Reasoning and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
...one’s own beliefs, so he’d never resign, but could only be removed by force. To Gletkin’s question, Hare-lip responds that Rubashov did stress the necessity to use violence. It strikes Rubashov... (full context)
Logical Reasoning and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Truth, Confession, and Performance Theme Icon
Then Gletkin asks Hare-lip if what followed was Rubashov’s direct instigation to violence. After a silence, Gletkin... (full context)
Ideology and Contradiction Theme Icon
Truth, Confession, and Performance Theme Icon
Hare-lip looks at Gletkin in fear and astonishment. Rubashov feels fleetingly triumphant, but the feeling vanishes. Quietly, Gletkin says... (full context)
Ideology and Contradiction Theme Icon
Logical Reasoning and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
...the moderates: now he too is condemned. He feels like he sees No. 1, not Gletkin, in front of him, and he thinks of the cemetery at Errancis that holds Saint-Just,... (full context)
Truth, Confession, and Performance Theme Icon
...through his statement, feels a sudden desire to tear it up, then returns it to Gletkin intact. The next he can remember, he’s walking through the hallway to his cell, and... (full context)
The Third Hearing: 4
Truth, Confession, and Performance Theme Icon
Rubashov can only recall fragments of his dialogue with Gletkin. He’s reminded that he has heard that the accused can be physically crushed through continuous... (full context)
Truth, Confession, and Performance Theme Icon
...the barber’s command to “die in silence,” even though all the logical arguments are on Gletkin’s side. (full context)
Logical Reasoning and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Change and the Laws of History Theme Icon
Once, for instance, Gletkin questions Rubashov about negotiating with a foreign power for the opposition, to overthrow the regime,... (full context)
Ideology and Contradiction Theme Icon
Rubashov recognizes that Gletkin is a proletarian by origin, since Gletkin’s halting style shows that he learned to read... (full context)
Change and the Laws of History Theme Icon
...victory: all that was left to them was to sleep. Now Rubashov asks about Ivanov. Gletkin tells him that he’s been arrested for his negligent management of Rubashov’s case, and his... (full context)
Truth, Confession, and Performance Theme Icon
Rubashov then asks Gletkin why, since he’s been known to use harsh physical methods, he didn’t use them on... (full context)
Truth, Confession, and Performance Theme Icon
Rubashov has only one other desire, that Gletkin let him sleep and come to his senses. Why does he continue on? he asks... (full context)
The Individual, or the “Grammatical Fiction, vs. the Collective Theme Icon
Truth, Confession, and Performance Theme Icon
As time goes on, Gletkin, too, seems to change, his voice losing its former brutality. Once, when Rubashov’s cigarettes ran... (full context)
Ideology and Contradiction Theme Icon
Change and the Laws of History Theme Icon
After the stenographer leaves, Gletkin asks why Rubashov is so stubbornly denying that he used industrial sabotage, one of the... (full context)
Ideology and Contradiction Theme Icon
Change and the Laws of History Theme Icon
Gletkin asks if Rubashov was given a watch as a boy: astonished, he says yes. Gletkin... (full context)
Ideology and Contradiction Theme Icon
Change and the Laws of History Theme Icon
Rubashov admits that Gletkin may be right, but he asks what use it is to invent scapegoats. Gletkin responds... (full context)
Ideology and Contradiction Theme Icon
Change and the Laws of History Theme Icon
Ivanov, Gletkin says, was shot in an administrative decision last night. Gletkin lets Rubashov sleep for two... (full context)
The Third Hearing: 6
Logical Reasoning and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Truth, Confession, and Performance Theme Icon
...the doctor is pouring water on his face, recommending that he be taken outside. Expressionless, Gletkin orders Rubashov back to his cell, and then he’s taken to the yard to exercise.... (full context)
Ideology and Contradiction Theme Icon
Change and the Laws of History Theme Icon
Rubashov is taken back to Gletkin’s room, and he realizes it’s only been an hour. This question of motive is the... (full context)
Ideology and Contradiction Theme Icon
Logical Reasoning and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Change and the Laws of History Theme Icon
Gletkin again cites from Rubashov’s diary, saying that repetition and simplification is necessary for the masses.... (full context)
Change and the Laws of History Theme Icon
Truth, Confession, and Performance Theme Icon
Gletkin continues that Rubashov’s faction is destroyed, and now the Party can continue united. Rubashov’s task... (full context)
Change and the Laws of History Theme Icon
Truth, Confession, and Performance Theme Icon
...1, remembering the look of knowing irony he’d given him the last time they’d met. Gletkin says Rubashov won’t be bothered until the trial, and asks if there’s anything else he... (full context)