Darkness at Noon

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Professor Kieffer Character Analysis

A famous historian of the Revolution, and once No. 1’s closest friend, Kieffer was also quite close to Rubashov. He works on No. 1’s biography for ten years, but when certain changes are required and he’s asked to change some of the facts, he refuses. Kieffer is an intellectual and, while he believes in the Party and the Revolution, he thinks that the cause is best served by truth—a belief that turns out to be woefully old-fashioned, as Kieffer too is imprisoned and executed.

Professor Kieffer Quotes in Darkness at Noon

The Darkness at Noon quotes below are all either spoken by Professor Kieffer or refer to Professor Kieffer. 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

“Rubashov laughed at my father, and repeated that he was a fool and a Don Quixote. Then he declared that No. 1 was no accidental phenomenon, but the embodiment of a certain human characteristic—namely, of an absolute belief in the infallibility of one’s own conviction, from which he drew the strength for his complete unscrupulousness.”

Related Characters: Hare-lip (Young Kieffer) (speaker), Nicholas Salmanovitch Rubashov, Professor Kieffer
Page Number: 208
Explanation and Analysis:

Hare-lip has been brought in by Gletkin, presumably after having been tortured, in order to rehearse an accusation against Rubashov. Rubashov has been in something resembling Hare-lip’s position before: Rubashov falsely betrayed Arlova, and now he himself has been falsely accused. As the center of his story, Hare-lip uses a meeting between Rubashov and Hare-lip’s father, Profssor Kieffer, who was executed for refusing to change the history books in response to changing “necessities” of the Party.

Rubashov, in this anecdote, comes across as a pragmatist—he is willing to laugh and roll his eyes at No. 1, at least among friends, while also continuing to work in the service of the cause. That’s why he calls Kieffer a “Don Quixote”: he refers to the Cervantes character who pursues a hopeless quest because of his naïve idealism (this reference comes up, in fact, several times in the novel). The anecdote also serves as a reminder of Rubashov’s insistence on thinking in logical, abstract terms, even as he’s coming to question what the implications of this type of thinking are. He takes No. 1’s attitude not just as a quirk, but as indicative of a broader trend, one that can perhaps define totalitarian dictators. It’s uncertain how Hare-lip overheard this conversation, and it’s clear that what Rubashov really meant is up for question, but, in this environment of constant surveillance, such critiques are all too dangerous.

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Professor Kieffer Character Timeline in Darkness at Noon

The timeline below shows where the character Professor Kieffer appears in Darkness at Noon. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Third Hearing: 3
Ideology and Contradiction Theme Icon
Logical Reasoning and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
...Hare-lip says. Now the mists clear and Rubashov says that he initially didn’t recognize Professor Kieffer’s son. Rubashov thinks of his friend Kieffer, the great historian of the Revolution who was... (full context)
Truth, Confession, and Performance Theme Icon
...mood. Gletkin reminds Hare-lip that three months later, his father’s crimes would be discovered, and Kieffer would be executed three months after that. Gletkin asks Hare-lip if, at that time, Kieffer... (full context)
Ideology and Contradiction Theme Icon
Logical Reasoning and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
...that the two men talked scornfully about the present state of affairs of the party. Kieffer had laughed at Rubashov’s decision to make a declaration of loyalty to No. 1, and... (full context)
Logical Reasoning and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Truth, Confession, and Performance Theme Icon
...was alone with Rubashov, the instigation took place. Rubashov smiles, realizing that the idea that Kieffer would have been present for such a plot was too absurd even for this group. (full context)
The Grammatical Fiction: 1
The Individual, or the “Grammatical Fiction, vs. the Collective Theme Icon
...Prosecutor’s speech, Wassilij turns to the wall and dozes, waking up as she reads about Kieffer’s stammering attempt to throw guilt onto Rubashov entirely. Then she reads Rubashov’s final speech, which... (full context)