Darkness at Noon

Darkness at Noon


Arthur Koestler

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No. 1’s Portrait Symbol Analysis

No. 1’s Portrait Symbol Icon

In almost every room (besides the prison cells), the portrait of the Party leader No. 1 hangs from the wall. Rubashov tends to perceive the leader’s facial expression differently depending on the circumstance. Sometimes, the portrait is described as staring at people with menacing “frozen eyes.” At other times it’s an expression of knowing irony that seems to characterize No. 1’s face. Whatever the attitude or tone, though, the ubiquity of the portrait underlines the ubiquity of No. 1’s orders throughout the society. In an environment in which people are encouraged to denounce others as traitors or counter-revolutionaries, it can indeed seem like No. 1’s eyes and ears have extended everywhere, just as his portrait has been hung on every wall. Rubashov often has to pause and wonder how his interrogators have learned about trifling, off-the-cuff conversations he’s had at cocktail parties, for instance, years before. The portrait of No. 1 also serves as a reminder of the ultimate source of stability in the Fatherland: even if No. 1 claims to be no more than a representative of the people in general, all policy eventually can be traced back to his desires and beliefs. No. 1’s portrait is not the only painting or even the only portrait to be found in the novel, but what distinguishes it is that, unlike the others, it never disappears or is altered. Portraits of other Party members and leaders are surreptitiously replaced or destroyed as their fortunes rise and fall. Rather than an equal, radical Communist society, the book seems to suggest that this world is the ultimate autocracy, one in which only one person can be considered safe.

No. 1’s Portrait Quotes in Darkness at Noon

The Darkness at Noon quotes below all refer to the symbol of No. 1’s Portrait. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Scribner edition of Darkness at Noon published in 2006.
The Third Hearing: 3 Quotes

Instead of the old portraits, a light patch shone from Ivanov’s wallpaper; philosophical incendiarism had given place to a period of wholesome sterility. Revolutionary theory had frozen to a dogmatic cult, with a simplified, easily graspable catechism, and with No. 1 as the high priest celebrating the Mass.

Related Characters: Nicholas Salmanovitch Rubashov (speaker), Ivanov, No. 1
Related Symbols: No. 1’s Portrait
Page Number: 179-180
Explanation and Analysis:
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No. 1’s Portrait Symbol Timeline in Darkness at Noon

The timeline below shows where the symbol No. 1’s Portrait appears in Darkness at Noon. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The First Hearing: 3
Ideology and Contradiction Theme Icon
The Individual, or the “Grammatical Fiction, vs. the Collective Theme Icon
...doesn’t hear, and then goes to bed, where a photo of Rubashov hangs by the portrait of No. 1, though he’d get in trouble if anyone knew that. (full context)
The Third Hearing: 6
Change and the Laws of History Theme Icon
Truth, Confession, and Performance Theme Icon
Rubashov signs the statement, and looks up to the portrait of No. 1, remembering the look of knowing irony he’d given him the last time... (full context)
The Grammatical Fiction: 1
Ideology and Contradiction Theme Icon
...who confessed of his own free will. Wassilij doesn’t move: over his head is the portrait of No. 1 next to a rusty nail where, until recently, the photo of Rubashov... (full context)