The Conflict Between Individual and State and the Grammatical Fiction in Darkness At Noon
The Conflict Between Individual
and State and the Grammatical Fiction in Darkness At Noon
The Conflict Between the Individual and
the State and the Grammatical Fiction in Darkness At Noon
"The Party denied the free will of an individual-and
at the same time exacted his willing self-sacrifice." The obvious contradiction
of the above definition of the Communist party is depicts the conflict
between the individual and the State in Arthur Koestler’s novel Darkness
at Noon. Koestler’s protagonist Nicolas Salamanovich Rubashov, devout communist
and former leader of the Communist party, falls victim to his own system
during the time of the Moscow trials. Accused and imprisoned for crimes
he did not commit, Rubashov is forced to choose between the ideology he
has faithfully followed for the past forty years of his life, or a new
found sense of self, which he calls the "grammatical fiction".
During the beginning of Rubashov’s solitary
incarceration, he begins to doubt the infallibility of the Communist regime,
and for a time, views himself independent from the Party. Rubashov’s pulling
away from Communism is evident in his conversation with the examining magistrate,
Ivanov, during his first hearing. Rubashov addresses Ivanov’s collective
viewpoint with the developing views of his own:
"Your argument is somewhat anachronistic,"
said Rubashov. "As you quite rightly remarked, we were accustomed always
to use the plural ‘we’ and to avoid as far as possible the first person
singular. I have rather lost the habit of this form of speech; you stick
to it. But who is this ‘we’ in whose name you speak to-day? It needs re-defining.
That is the point."
Apart from the Party, Rubashov no longer
functions as part of the Communist unit, but rather as an individual. Within
communist doctrine the individual is only a piece of a larger system, and
for the true communist the pronoun ‘I’ is not even part of his or her vocabulary.
Rather, the personal ‘I’ is replaced by ‘we’, which represents the Party.
The significance of Rubashov’s statement is that even his speech patterns,
a physical manifestation of one’s subconscious, display his self-detachment
from the Communist Party in that he has lost his ability to associate with
the communist We.
Over and over Rubashov is tormented by
the idea "I shall pay", an unrest due to his uncertainty about the foundation
of Communism he has placed himself on. Shortly after his first hearing
he writes in his diary "The fact is: I no longer believe in my infallibility.
That is why I am lost." It is evident that he is beginning to take personal
responsibility for the actions he has committed on behalf of the Party,
the people that he has betrayed and the seemingly absurd doctrines he has
readily submitted to. Both Rubashov’s mental disquiet, and his observable,
critical actions are owed to his new found recognition of himself as an
individual, a loophole in Communist doctrine.
All his life Rubashov had "burnt the remains
of the old illogical morality from his consciousness", and was unaware
that ideas outside of those expressed by the Party had any logical basis.
He once thought that any other view was irrational and false. In his cell
waiting to be taken to his execution, Rubashov reflects on his former devotion
to the Party:
For in a struggle one must have both legs
firmly planted on the earth. The Party had taught one how to do it. The
infinite was a politically suspect quantity, and the "I" a suspect quality.
The Party did not recognize its existence. The definition of an individual
was a multitude of one million divided by one million.
As a Communist he had sacrificed his individuality
for the benefit of the Party, and forty years later he had lost the capability
to even think outside the lines of the Party’s dogmas. He had denied the
individual within himself, which is why he is confused at the emergence
of his "silent partner", the free-thinking individual within himself. His
conscious self had been founded in the ‘we’, until he was imprisoned. Facing
death, Rubashov realizes the destructiveness of a political system that
doesn’t account for the individual.
No longer confused by his apathy for the
Party, Rubashov’s final hours are marked by a fatalistic mindset and an
internal sense of peace. In Rubashov’s conversation with Ivanov during
Rubashov’s second hearing, Ivanov states: "The greatest temptaion for the
like of us is: to renounce violence, to repent, to make peace with oneself".
Ivanov represents rubashov’s former viewpoint. However, no longer subject
to the repressive Communist order,