Darkness at Noon Part One: Chapters 1-8 Summary & Analysis

Arthur Koestler

Darkness at Noon

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Darkness at Noon Part One: Chapters 1-8 Summary & Analysis

Part One: The First Hearing 

Chapters 1-8 Summary

The book opens with the prison-cell door slamming behind Rubashov, whose casual survey of his new living quarters—and how they compare with previous prison cells he’s inhabited—illustrates his familiarity with incarceration.  It’s not yet dawn, and Rubashov is asleep within a few minutes of being introduced to his new bed, apparently unconcerned by his situation. 

Chapter 2 backtracks from the present moment of Chapter 1, describing the recurring dream Rubashov was having when he was arrested.  The dream is of an earlier arrest, and the two realities—the dream of his first arrest and actuality of his most recent one—meld, weaving together the realities of both arrests.

Chapter 3 focuses on the details of Rubashov’s arrest when he wakes from his dream.  The porter in his apartment building, Vassilij, an elderly civil war veteran andRubashov’s friend, is compelled to bring the two arresting officers to Rubashov’s door.  The officers, one older and one younger, display in brief what becomes apparent later in the book—that ideological differences often take the form of generational divides.  The older officer, who knows Rubashov’s history with “the Party,” is more respectful of him, while the younger officer’s brutality, while restrained, is evident.

Chapter 4 describes the half-hour drive, in an American-made car, from Rubashov’s apartment to the prison.  Rubashov shares his cigarettes with the men who have arrested him, and is confronted, once again, with the aggressive ignorance of the younger officer.

Chapter 5 finds Rubashov escorted through the corridors of the “new model” prison, with its electric lights, iron galleries, whitewashed walls, and “cell doors with the name cards and the black holes of the judas-eyes” (10). Rubashov wants to believe he is still dreaming, but doing so makes him feel ashamed. He is locked into cell 404.

In Chapter 6, Rubashov awakes after two hours asleep to a 7 a.m. bugle call.  Noticing that he is being held in an isolation cell, he realizes that “he was to stay there until he was shot” (12).  This realization does not cause him alarm.  Instead, he drowses, warm and sleepy, contemplating his feet and feeling…

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