The warder regularly peers into Rubashov’s room. At 7 a.m. the bugle sounds, then cedes to silence. He knows he’s in an isolation cell, so he’ll hear nothing of the other prisoners, and he will stay there until he gets shot. He keeps repeating this fact to himself, while still feeling warm and comfortable under his blanket.
Although he’s been introduced to a new and unfamiliar environment, Rubashov’s knowledge of Party bureaucracy gives him a sense of stability and comfort rather than fear of the unknown.
Rubashov says to himself that he’s the last of the old guard, about to be destroyed. He tries to recall the faces of the Chairman of the International and the second Prime Minister, both already executed. Rubashov tells himself, without much conviction, that history will rehabilitate him.
Rubashov isn’t the first of the old guard to fall out of favor—others, too, have apparently fallen to the new guard. It’s unclear exactly what Rubashov’s thoughts regarding the laws of history are at this point.
Rubashov can’t bring himself to hate No. 1—the only name that’s stuck for the leader—though he’s often tried. No. 1’s power lies in the possibility that he is right (which No. 1 has forced all those he has killed to affirm). These people can only place their hope in the “mocking oracle” of History, which may (though may not) eventualy absolve them long after their deat.
No. 1 has evidently ordered Rubashov’s arrest, but Rubashov could only hate No. 1 in good conscience if he knew No. 1 was wrong. The workings of history, though, remain closed to them both.
Rubashov feels that he’s being watched: a minute later the warder enters and asks why Rubashov hasn’t gotten up. Rubashov says he’s sick with a toothache, and he’s left alone. He’s bored and has a sudden craving for a newspaper, though he realizes his arrest won’t be in it for a while, even if the sensational news leaks out abroad. He wonders what’s going on in No. 1’s mind, and then he realizes that he’s been pacing up and down the cell without realizing it, thinking about No. 1 sitting and dictating at his desk.
Rubashov’s feeling that he is being watched is indicative of a broader climate of surveillance, which pervades the society even outside of prison. But because he knows something of how imprisonment and interrogation works, he feels more in control than the typical arrestee. At the same time, questions about the inner, private thoughts of No. 1 are never far from his mind.
Rubashov tries to picture a cross-section of the leader’s brain and can’t manage it: this is why history is more an oracle than a science, he thinks. Perhaps in the future teachers will point to an algebraic function that connects the masses’ life conditions to a diagram of No. 1’s brain. Until then politics will remain mere superstition.
Rubashov understands that his own life, as well as much of the Party and nation, depend upon what No. 1 is thinking at any given moment: the leader directs history, and yet, because his mind can’t be read, history remains opaque to others.
Rubashov hears marching steps outside, and he waits for the scream that will indicate torture. He knows that people all end up behaving the same way—the screams become whining and choking—and he tells himself that he won’t scream. But instead of a scream, he hears a clanging and he sees, through a spy-hole, the men stop at No. 407 across from him, handing out bread. Rubashov continues pacing up and down, thinking of the man’s thin arms and curved hands. The arms and hands were all he could see of the man and they seemed eerily familiar.
Rubasohv seems to expect that he will be tortured, a tactic with which he is familiar, evidently from his own time spent in the Party bureaucracy. Nevertheless, torture is not what he’s confronted with, at least at this juncture. Once again, the book describes the action in a dreamlike way, melding reality with Rubashov’s own imagination.