Rubashov continues to write, his handwriting becoming disciplined again after growing wild and unsteady over the last few days. At eleven in the morning he’s brought out to exercise, though Rip Van Winkle isn’t in the yard. Instead there’s a peasant beside him, who says he comes from the province D and asks if Rubashov has ever been there. When Rubashov says no, the peasant asks if he’s a political gentleman: Rubashov says that he is. The peasant is a reactionary, he says, and he’s heard he’ll be imprisoned for 10 years. He was unmasked when the Government sent its yearly commission to the village, this time in the form of glass pipes with needles to prick the children. He and his wife barred the official from entering their home. Rubashov is silent: the peasant thinks Rubashov must disapprove, and he says no more.
Rubashov’s theoretical writing is portrayed partly as the obsessive work of someone who no longer harbors much of a link to reality, but also as the work of an intellectual, even a genius, who possesses a privileged relationship to truth in an oppressive society. Upon going out to the yard, Rubashov meets someone who is struggling with the regime from another perspective, that of the counter-revolutionaries who never agreed with Party ideology in the first place: nonetheless, all kinds of opposition ultimately prove intolerable to the Party.
Rubashov takes a nap. When he wakes up, No. 402 is tapping eagerly at him. Smiling, Rubashov taps that he is capitulating. After a long silence, 402 taps that he’d rather hang. 402 asks if Rubashov has no honor, to which he answers that they have different ideas of honor. For Rubashov honor is to be useful rather than vain, whereas 402 thinks honor is about decency and living and dying for one’s beliefs. After Rubashov says that they’ve replaced decency with reason, 402 no longer answers.
Rubashov’s decision to capitulate reveals his acknowledgment that there is no way out of the contradictions of his position: he too has considered alternate ways of thinking about power and individual honor, but, unlike No. 402, he thinks these methods are doomed to failure in their society.
Rubashov reads over the letter to the Public Prosecutor of the Republic that he’s written, vowing to renounce his oppositional attitude in public.
It’s vital that Rubashov perform the speech in public, enacting the Party’s form of truth as confession.