The porter Wassilij’s daughter reads to her father about Rubashov’s trial and his public confession. She reads that he’s guilty as a counter-revolutionary and member of the opposition, 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 had hung. Wassilij used to hide a Bible under the mattress where he now lies, but after Rubashov’s arrest his daughter had found it, and for “educational reasons” had thrown it away.
Back outside the prison, Wassilij’s daughter is another example of a member of the masses who has been totally convinced by the official Party line and has lost all ability to think for herself. Wassilij, meanwhile, continues to cling to unpopular and dangerous opinions, from his loyalty to Rubashov to his continued faith in the Bible and in Christianity.
The daughter reads that Rubashov had described how his story proves that the slightest bend from the Party line inevitably leads to counter-revolutionary crime. He described the “sad progress of a traitor” as a 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. In response to the Prosecutor’s remark that he lacked any moral sense, Rubashov responded sarcastically, leading to outrage from the audience.
Rubashov evidently learned his lines well, as, following his capitulation, he finally agreed to say whatever was necessary in order that people be shocked into submission. He cannot, though, quite keep himself from drawing attention to the irony of the Prosecutor’s outrage at Rubashov’s lack of moral sense, when the entire interrogation belittled this very notion of individual morality.
Recalling Rubashov’s former life, being carried through the streets triumphantly, Wassilij mumbles a Bible verse about Jesus being mocked and given a crown of thorns. He hadn’t protested when his daughter had taken Rubashov’s portrait from the wall: he’s too old to stand prison. Vera Wassiljovna, his daughter, says that Rubashov must be a traitor: if it weren’t true, he wouldn’t say it—at her factory they’ve all signed a resolution against him. Wassilij sighs that there’s much she doesn’t know about it.
Wassilij compares Rubashov’s trial to the final days of the life of Jesus Christ, called the Passion, in which he was scorned and mocked less than a week after having ridden into Jerusalem triumphantly. Vera’s sincere conviction, meanwhile, underlines the success of the Party leadership in forcing their own narrative and version of the truth.
Wassilij is reminded that his daughter wants the porter’s lodge for herself: she wants to marry a junior mechanic from her factory, but they have as yet no home. Vera says the resolution demands that traitors be executed mercilessly, and that anyone who shows pity to them be renounced. They’re now collecting signatures: she takes a sheet of paper out of her blouse and puts it on the table. Glancing at it from his bed, Wassilij mumbles another Bible verse about Peter’s denial that he knows Jesus.
Vera has been taught that one need not feel guilty for sacrificing individuals to a collective cause: the contradiction in this ideology is that “collective cause” so often comes to mean benefits for a particular person claiming to espouse that cause. Wassilij continues to think of Rubashov as a Christ figure, sacrificed for others’ sins.
Wassilij asks if those who were in the Civil War must also sign, and Vera, looking at him again peculiarly, says that no one has to. She adds that the cell secretary has asked how long he and Rubashov were friends. Wassilij asks her to give him the damn paper, and he writes his name on it. She continues reading from the newspaper, and remarks that Rubashov makes her sick. Wassilij angrily tells her that the Party has taught them all to be cunning, and whoever becomes too cunning loses decency.
Vera seems to realize that her father is not as enthusiastic as she is about participating in Party activity. Wassilij is aware that she may well be storing up evidence with which to betray him later, but he can’t manage either to stand up for Rubashov explicitly or to feign conviction and enthusiasm for Rubashov’s trial.
As Vera concludes by reading the 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 says that he bows to the masses and to his country, and that the time of conspiracy is over. He’s overcome the temptation to die in silence: he’s paid, and has settled his account with history. She reads the sentence: death by shooting. Wassilij murmurs, “Thy will be done. Amen,” and turns to the wall.