We by Yevgeny Zamyatin is a complex and revolutionary novel of Science fiction. D-503 is a mathematician living in the One State, journaling his daily life in order for future generations to learn about his society once the journal is put on the Integral (the spaceship D-503 is building). As a mathematician D-503 experiences the world in equations, from describing pleasing aesthetics to eventually emotions such as love with math (L=f(D): love is a function of death).1 Everything in the One State is measured and accounted for, using a Taylor system of time tables to block off the day. I-330 is the catalyst of all change in D-503’s life. Through the acquaintance of I-330, D-503 develops “an incurable… soul” and becomes aware of the confines of life within the One State.2 I-330 is a member of MEPHI (Mephisto), a rebellion group which stands for Anarchy, and who’s goal is to help the cave-man like creatures that live beyond the enclosing wall of the One State’s territory to break through and take down the current regime.3 Eventually D-503 is overcome with the events and turns himself in to the Bureau of Guardians, thusly turning over all of the rebels as well. The novel ends with a short entry from D-503 post-Opperation and devoid of human emotions. D-503 is only a shell of his former self as he watches without sympathy as I-330 is tortured for information, finally saying that “reason will win” and once again becoming a full supporter of the One State.4
We is a novel full of dichotomies, the most prevalent of which is reason versus emotion. The One State is obsessed with controlling it’s population, causing the people to become more machine than men. As D-503 states. “love and hunger are the masters of the world”; by regulating everything in life so closely even natural human emotions such as love become a designated hour of the day.5 Emotions have the power to effect change, which is one reason why I-330 is able to create a following of revolutionaries. One cause of the creation of the Operation is the rebellion, and the need to eliminate ‘dangerous’ qualities of people for the safety if the One State. The great struggle of the novel is increasing regulation over the daily life of citizens of the One State, with the inhabitants being as oblivious as possible, because once time doesn’t belong to themselves the only option left is to devote their entire lives to the good of the state.
This is really interesting. I agree that an overarching motif throughout the novel is reason versus emotion. The regulations and brain-washing of the One State is overwhelmingly aimed at convincing its inhabitants that reason will always bring more happiness than ruling one’s self based on emotion. However, in my opinion, the novel throughout proves to the reader that emotion is needed for true happiness and enjoyment of life. D-503, after gaining the “incurable soul” is overwhelmed and haunted by his feelings for I-330, which he confuses first with hate. He obsesses with the highs that being with her gives him, but is devastated by the withdrawal from her. However, this proves that without emotion, people are just going through the motions of life, not really living. Without some pain, people cannot truly appreciate the joy. And therefore, without the ability to feel and interpret emotions within situations, humans lose their humanity. After all, what makes us different from the machines worshipped by the OneState is our ability to feel, our souls. Even though, even today, it is still hard to comprehend why or how humans have this ability, we should at least recognize that this ability is what makes us different from every other species or object in the world. So why give up the most special part of being a human?
I really liked your emphasis at the end – the people’s loss of time and their increased daily regulation. It seems like the One State, ironically enough, has created their own Global Factory, and the massive population are the workers. In which case, the One State government is no better than a capitalist factory owner. Both have a keen sense of regulating their workers’ times, dictate the often extreme hours in which working is necessary, justify their actions with reasoning, and both do not listen to the growing complaints of their underlings.