Darkness at Noon

Darkness at Noon


Arthur Koestler

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Themes and Colors
Ideology and Contradiction Theme Icon
The Individual, or the “Grammatical Fiction, vs. the Collective Theme Icon
Logical Reasoning and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Change and the Laws of History Theme Icon
Truth, Confession, and Performance Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Darkness at Noon, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Ideology and Contradiction

In Darkness at Noon, the Soviet Union’s Communist ideology is shown through the pervading assumption that, in the Fatherland of the Revolution, there is a “dictatorship of the proletariat” (that is, rule by the industrial workers that form the vast majority of the population). In theory, this means that the masses possess all state and national power, and any existing government apparatus is in place solely to promote its own gradual dissolution until there…

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The Individual, or the “Grammatical Fiction, vs. the Collective

While Communist thought proposes that society’s masses are not subject to any one person’s power, the truth of this idea is challenged by, among other things, the cult around the leader “No. 1.” His photograph adorns every room, even though those in charge insist that they and No. 1 are only working in the interests of the collective. Only gradually, over the course of the novel, does Rubashov come to question the validity of these…

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Logical Reasoning and Bureaucracy

The interrogation tactics that Ivanov and Gletkin use on Rubashov and other inmates might seem senseless and cruel, but these two members of the Party bureaucracy—like all its members—pride themselves on their impeccable logic and rational thinking. To them, acknowledging one’s individual opinion or moral intuition by questioning Party tactics or their role within the Party would be anathema to the values of the collective. An ideological commitment to logical reasoning, then, allows these characters…

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Change and the Laws of History

Darkness at Noon is concerned with the laws by which history functions: it asks fundamental questions about whether historical laws should be considered scientific or social, whether historical laws can be used to predict or enforce change, and whether it’s wise, in the first place, to reduce to a “law” the complex interplay of forces that shape a society over time. Each major character’s actions and choices about his relationship to the Party and his…

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Truth, Confession, and Performance

The histories of nations can be understood as stories that members of a society tell themselves about where they came from and where they are going. The defining characteristic of the history of a totalitarian state (like the one in Darkness at Noon) is the political necessity of unquestioned adherence to a singular narrative that benefits the Party. In other words, the Party gets to define the only story that citizens are permitted to…

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