Darkness at Noon 9.5分
读书笔记 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 assertions. At the beginning of the novel, Rubashov, steeped in Communist ideology, considers the collective to be inherently superior to the individual: in fact, the individual is no more than what he calls a “grammatical fiction,” a reference to his idea that the grammatical “first-person singular” represents a notion of individuality that does not (and should not) exist in the world. Rubashov’s conviction that the individual is irrelevant allows him to pursue Party goals with little thought of the destruction or suffering that the Party might cause along the way.
However, as Rubashov ruminates on his own past while locked inside his cell, he begins to wonder how much of a fiction the “grammatical fiction” truly is. He thinks back on the personal relationships he’s had with unique, idiosyncratic individuals, including an affair with his secretary Arlova. His thoughts about Arlova, including his memories about his willingness (despite her innocence) to have her executed “for the cause,” begin to make Rubashov wonder if the promotion of an abstract ideal is worth the suffering of real people. The Party member named Richard (presumably part of the German Communist Party) whom Rubashov refused to protect while abroad is another example of Rubashov’s initially unwavering commitment to the collective over the individual. This man may be a loyal member of the party, but his insistence on printing his own flyers rather than using those put out by the central committee was enough to make Rubashov consider him to be a traitor.
As Rubashov returns to these memories, the tension between the individual and the collective becomes increasingly clear to him. Ivanov is well aware of this tension himself: he deals with it ironically while interrogating Rubashov, suggesting that it doesn’t matter what really goes on at the level of the individual, as long as the wishes of the Party are fulfilled on a superficial level. But Ivanov’s ironic distance proves fatal, as he’s executed and replaced with Gletkin, who seems to believe far more earnestly that the individual is nothing in the face of the collective. But even as Rubashov himself loses faith in the philosophy of collectivism, he never replaces his ideology with staunch individualism or any other guiding attitude. Ultimately, the novel indicates that the individual and the collective cannot in fact be reconciled in Party ideology, in Rubashov’s own mind, or in the narrative he puts forward about his own life.
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