In the book We written by Yevgeny Zamyatin, the characters lack names similar to those within our society and instead are called ciphers and labeled with a letter and number. The main character D-503, a mathematician, struggles throughout the book with his understanding of the One State society and what exists outside of the Green Wall. The One State society promotes a “mathematically perfect life” devoid of imagination or individuality. D-503 meets I-330 early on in record two, a woman who’s very physical appearance with her extremely white teeth defy the principle of uniformity within the State.

I-330 is important in the development of D-503 as a character and his evolving relation to One State policies and society. I-330 challenges D-503’s conception of life and happiness as a mathematical equation. In the beginning I-330 plays Ancient songs on the piano rather than the industrial music of the One State. Unlike his comrades, D-503 finds himself enjoying the music rather than laughing at it. In relation to I-330’s effect on D-503, Zamaytin frequently mentions her while describing the sun. The sun has two forms, one in which it exists in the One State in a “pale-bluish-crystalline” state and one in which it is “burning” and “shedding itself in little tufts.” The former represents the control of the One State over all aspects of society and it’s extension of control over nature’s interaction with the State within the Green Wall. The latter represents the uncontrolled wild, which exists outside of the One State and defies the State’s scientific and authoritarian control.

I-330’s impact on D-503 continues in her introduction of D-503 to alcohol and tobacco, both of which are banned by the One State because it is considered to be poison. After drinking D-503 finds himself torn between two identities the one he has created under the One State, that of the scientific mathematician living harmoniously under the state ideology and rules. The second identity released by the alcohol is one of a wild and emotional being characterized by “shaggy paws” which has climbed out of the “shell” created by the One State. D-503’s “shaggy paws” are a physical representation of his inherent originality, which is hidden beneath the self created by the indoctrination of the One State. I-330’s flagrant violations of One State policy and D-503’s awakening to his own individualism represent a threat to the survival of the collective and therefore a threat to the Guardians and Benefactor controlling the State. In this way Zamaytin is commenting on the threat of individuality and deviation from the imposed ideology as the internal enemy of the Soviet Union and it’s existence.

One thought on “We

  1. D-503’s hands, or “shaggy paws”, serve as a reminder that he is imperfectly human and can never become a perfectly efficient machine. D-503’s shame in his shaggy hands is most prevalent when he is experiencing irrational and unexplainable human emotions, such as jealousy. When he sees R and I-133 sitting next to each other, for example, he suddenly becomes aware of “those strange shaggy hands that I hate so much” (125). D-503’s appendages are always mentioned when he exhibits behavior that separates him from the collective. For example, after obtaining a doctor’s note due to his sudden, unfortunate acquisition of “a soul”, D-503 goes on a walk while everyone else is in an auditorium. He describes himself as “a human finger, cut off from the whole, from the hand…” and, what’s more, he realizes that “the finger doesn’t want to be on the hand, with the others, at all” (92). The imagery of hands surfaces more and more often as D-503 falls in love with I-330 and, in doing so, discovers his soul as separate from the One State.

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