1. Don’t you know he’s been arrested? Can you imagine anyone’s being arrested unless there’s something definite against him?
These words, from Part One, Section 3, are spoken by a nameless speaker at a party meeting at the Red Tartary office just after Elvov’s arrest. When Ginzburg finds herself accused of not doing enough to condemn Elvov in the first place, her protests are met with indignation and anger. Again and again, the other party members ask her why she did nothing to indicate that Elvov was not to be trusted. When Ginzburg tries to use common sense, explaining that no one else had criticized Elvov prior to his arrest and that he was even an elected municipal leader, the party officials refuse to listen to reason. Finally, Ginzburg asks them how they even know, for certain, that Elvov is guilty. That’s when they explode, asking, “Can you imagine anyone’s being arrested unless there’s something definite against him?” This question epitomizes the atmosphere at the time, in which anyone accused was considered guilty beyond question. A trial was a mere formality, as in Ginzburg’s own case. The accusers would not listen to reason and would not even consider the possibility of innocence. Once someone was accused, he or she was tainted, and the stain of that person’s possible offense could never be washed off.
This quote is part of a series of questions and answers. Ginzburg presents much of her confrontation with the party leaders in detail, providing a sort of transcript of the meeting. One of the effects of doing so is to elicit a feeling of outrage. The party’s answers are so clearly inane that no reasonable person today could find them adequate. No one could find their reasoning sufficient justification for imprisoning a person, let alone sentencing him or her to prison for years or possibly executing him. Ginzburg’s method of quoting the party leader’s responses is an effective rhetorical device as well as a clever means of letting the facts speak for themselves.