Deities of Derivatives

In Zamyatin’s bizarre and ingeniously sobering novel of “We”, ((Zamyatin, Yevgeny. We. New York: Modern Library, 2006.)) rationality triumphs emotion as mathematics reigns as the supreme dogma of the individual’s life and mind. Of course, in this case, the term “individual” refers to the collective mass of workers known as ciphers who exist as mere figures in the long string of omnipotent code that is the dull and gray One State. Freedom is condemned as an uncouth crime while whimsical dreams and fits of inspiration are cruelly filed under the category of epileptic anomaly. The hero, and eventual martyr, of the story is D-503, a thirty-two-year-old cipher who is in charge of building the Integral, a marvelous product of modern science and technology purposefully constructed in order to integrate extraterrestrial societies into the blissful monotony of the One State. D-503 venerates mathematics and the exquisitely logical “Table” that dictates every hour of his daily life apart from his sexual, and even that is governed by the rules of “Paternal & Maternal Norms” and pink tickets. His life changes drastically as he is violently birthed into a world of vibrant color and independent thought propagated by a female cipher, I-330, who quite literally grasps him by his shaggy, primitive-like hands and pulls him out.

New, revolutionary ideologies spread within D-503 like a cancer, resulting in the proliferation of disinformation and disaggregation that are so dreadfully toxic to the prosperity of the One State. The cast-iron hands that of the Benefactor that seem to preside over all are defied, rejecting one of the core principles of the later Russian Revolution; the worship of industry and enthrallment of efficiency, as seen through the famed ideas of Taylor the economist that are so imbued within the novel. Zamyatin sees the dark side of the revolution, and generates an unsettling world that causes one to fear philosophies such as that of the poet Kirillov in his work The Iron Messiah. ((Kirillov, Iron Messiah)) The novel continuously examines the effects of antireligion, in which old, conservative traditions are ironically replaced with new progressive ideals embodied in the exaltation of mathematics and machinery. Through the terror of the guardians and vice-like grip of Communism, the people are forced to march along with eyes lowered and minds shut. Nonetheless, the subjugation by the One State of its people is not infinite; as per the existence of the irrational root of negative 1, there will always exist a number that rational governance is unable to enslave.

The Divinely Rational


In 1917, Nicholas II, Emperor of All Russia, was toppled, leaving in his wake a slew of provisional governments which could be likened to anarchy. In the midst of a bloody three year civil war, Yevgeny Zamyatin wrote his dystopian novel We. The work presented a futuristic society in which people were identified by letter and numbers and worked mindlessly for the betterment of the “One State.” ((Yevgeny Zamyatin. We . Translated by Natasha S. Randall. New York: Random House, 2006.)) The main character, D-503 recounted his descent from a respected mathematician of good standing within the state, to the accomplice of a revolutionary looking to return society to its natural state. Zamyatin sharply satirized the utopian ideals of many of his contemporaries, specifically those pertaining to the glorification of machinery. Zamyatin often likened D-503 to a machine, at one point his hero explicitly stated “I am like a machine being driven to excessive rotations: the bearings are incandescing and, in a minute, melted metal will begin to drip and everything will turn to nothing. Quick: get cold water, logic.” ((Zamyatin, 119))

The concept of man as machine alludes to those in 1920 Russia who feverishly purported that mechanization was a savior; if the proletariat could be made into machines, Russia would infinitely prosper. After D-503’s revolutionary lover I-333 hatched a plot to steal the Integral space ship, the State Gazette, the newspaper of the “One State,” announced a forced procedure to remove all citizens’ imaginations. In this announcement, the benefits were described as “you will be perfect, you will be machine-equal.” ((Zamyatin, 158)) This desire for the automation of humanity, for a “divinely rational” ((Zamyatin, 61)) life culminated in the loss of all mortal values and joys; happiness became the absence of thought and arithmetic replaced all emotion. Zamyatin criticized both the ideas behind and the very revolution that had occurred in front of his eyes. D-503, in attempting to confine the world to the finite, spoke for a Bolshevik blinded by utopian ideals: “our revolution was the last. And there cannot be any more revolutions…everyone knows that…” ((Zamyatin, 153))

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Zamyatin’s We

Yevgeny Zamyatin’s Dystopian Future novel We, is one of the greatest works of science fiction. We, is remarkable for a number of reasons. The first being that it draws so much from Zamyatin’s own experiences such as his naming of the auditorium. Auditorium-112 was his cell number from his time in jail. The book is a commentary about the new socialist movements in Russia brought to the extremes in the One State. D-503 the narrator, and the main protagonist is a faithful follower of the Benefactor, or the leader of the One State. D-503 believes in the socialism that the One State preaches to all of it’s citizens, however as in all Dytopian novels he has a major change of heart when he meets the beautiful I-330.

I-330 is a women who does not fit any of the accepted social norms of the One State. She smokes, drinks, and wears different clothes, but most importantly she does not believe in the complete socialism that the One State enforces. She is the first person that D-503 meets who has true ideas about individuality, and personal freedoms. D-503 soon discovers that she has a true soul, and almost follows her to the end before he figures out that she is only using him to get to the space-ship.

I-330 could be seen as a savior figure, or a Christ like figure. She like Christ, preaches something completely new and different from the acceptable societal norms. We draws many parallels with the Old Testament, and the Genesis story because of the process of creation of the One State. Zamyatin uses these parallels as a way to show his displeasure at the tearing down of the Orthodox Church, and instead being replaced with icons of Socialism, and Communism in the new Soviet Union.

We not only functions as a true political commentary, but also as one of the first Dystopian novels to be written. We has been hearkened back to throughout the 20th century as the book that started the genera of the futuristic novel with a cataclysmic future, often as a result of humanities own mistakes.

Is the One State Practical?

Yevgeny Zamyatin’s “We” is an iconic example of a dystopian society that is threatened by individuality.  The One State and its inhabitants were a supposed perfect population who had found happiness through conformity and rationality.  The citizens of the One State were kept under the watchful eye of the Benefactor as well as his secret police force, the Guardians.  In order to eliminate individuality, people were given numbers instead of names (D-503 and I-330), as well as a large sum of rules and regulations to abide by throughout their lives.  From dawn to dusk, and even into the night, the people of the One State were told when to wake, when to sleep, when to eat and when to take breaks.  Social interactions, even how to conduct one’s sex life, were all regulated by the Benefactor.  D-503 was the submissive One State citizen turned hesitant revolutionary and ultimately returned to mindless member of the One State, and although he was the main character of the novel, my interest lies in the Benefactor and his view of how society should function.

According to the Benefactor, the population before becoming the One State “wanted someone, anyone, to tell them once and for all what happiness [was].”  People wanted a paradise where there was no love, pity, or desire.  A society where everyone is healthy, works efficiently, and believes in the vision of the One State is required to make this a reality.  The ideology of the Benefactor is exceptionally clear and in my opinion would in theory work in a small scale system, however implementing a system like the One State on a large scale is impossible.  Love, pity, and desire are all fundamental pieces of human emotion that may be able to be controlled for a small few, however with a population as large as the One State, a system like that does not function.  When the quantity of people living together is that great, the same effect arises as did in the Russian Revolution of 1917.  The proximity of people to one another encourages the spreading of ideas, which is exactly what occurred in Zamyatin’s “We”.  After reading the novel, I was left with the question: after seeing countries fail to achieve perfect communist systems, on what scale would a system like the One State be a practical solution to human unhappiness and individuality?

The Guard

One of the most controversial characters from Zamyatin’s “We” is, probably, the Guard, called “S”.

While reading the first half of the book, I just did’t understand what his beliefs and purposes were.  He was a Guard, the basis of the State, he was a “spy”, as Guards were called in the beginning of the book, who’s work was mostly about finding individuals who turned to the “wrong” path and either help them to return back to “normal” life or to make them disappear for the good of the whole society.

He was always following the main character, D-503. At least D felt like this. S watched him, looked into his notes, noticed his strange behaviors and making him feel scared on the one hand. But on the other he was somehow connected to this strange and unknown (at least in the beginning) woman, I-330. He also “forgave” D-503 when he mistakenly tried to save the woman which stopped the march, he behaved as if he believed that D-503 wanted to catch that woman, not to help her. But he, of course, knew where that action came from and why D did that.

I was not sure about this character till the very moment when D-503 decided to go and tell everything about him and MEPHI. Even when they were there, in S’ office, it was not clear for me what’s going to happen. He knew everything D was telling him, he even helped him to find the words to tell everything. It was possible both if he was involved in this “criminal” activities and if he was just watching D-503’s life, following him everywhere.

This character was necessary in the book to show that even the most important parts of the mechanism – the Guards of the State – could go wrong. But at the same time, as “We” ends with the small victory of the regime, it’s made to show that certain people, even very influential, can’t break the new, ideal world, created for everybody’s happiness. That even in such case it will resist and protect the ones who realized their mistakes or didn’t make them at all (which, from my point of view, was the important idea of this book, that’s why we see this kind of ending).


O-90: Can the maternal bond be broken?

We, a dystopian novel written by Yevgeny Zamyatin in the 1920s, explores the trials and tribulations of a cipher, named D-503. D-503 tells the story through journal entries (known as ‘records’), which he intends to have sent up on the Integral, a spaceship being built and scheduled to launch in the near future.

Schedules appear to dominate the ciphers: they are assigned times to walk, have sex, appear in auditoriums. It seems that nothing is done without the instruction of a higher power. D-503 is engaged in a sexual relationship with 0-90, a female cipher.

At the beginning of the novel, O-90 appears to follow every rule required of her by the One State. She engages in sexual activity only when permitted and presents herself as a law abiding citizen. As the story unfolds, however, it becomes evident that O-90 struggles to squash her maternal extinct. After becoming pregnant, O-90 must come to terms with the idea that her baby must be given to the State to be raised once it’s born.

It seems strange that the One State would tear mother and child apart, or even that a mother would feel fully conscionable in giving up her newborn. O-90, herself, struggles with this reality, ultimately deciding to flee the One State and live beyond the Green Wall.

O-90, however, is just one woman with one baby. How did the One State convince women to give up their children? Was the indoctrination so deep that these women believed it to be acceptable? Did they perhaps just see it as the only option in a world so completely transparent?


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.


The book We was written by Yevgeny Zamyatin in 1921 in early Soviet Russia. Zamyatin became a Bolshevik in the early 1900’s, working with the Bolsheviks throughout the years leading up to the October Revolution and being exiled multiple times by the Russian government. Zamyatin was an Old Bolshevik and he truly believed that Russian society had to change, so he supported the October Revolution and was present in St. Petersburg when it took place. However, in the years following the October Revolution, the Communist Party began to become more oppressive, primarily regarding censorship. Zamyatin was an author, he’d been writing consistently for about ten years by 1921, and he became very critical of the Soviet Party as they became more oppressive and began to censor more works.

We was written during the post-Revolution period of increasing censorship and it was a blatant criticism of the society that the Soviet Party was looking to create. In We, Zamyatin creates a dystopian society to represent how far from the original revolutionary ideals the Soviet Party has gone. The society that he creates is ruled by a government called the “One State”, a government that micromanages the lives of every citizen. Zamyatin writes We in a way that makes the reader think that the Soviet Party will eventually make Russia like One State and attempt to control everything that they do. He uses language in the book that is very similar to the propaganda used by the Soviet Party during that time period and he uses analogies that the reader would easily associate with the Soviet Party.

Zamyatin was a very brave individual. We was censored by the Soviet government before he could publish it in Russia, but he made sure that the manuscript made the journey to America where it was published in 1924. Eventually, his open criticisms of the Soviet Party would get him exiled from Russia, but before that time he did everything that he could to protest the absolutism that Russia was headed towards.

Progression and Regression in “Things to Come”


What do years of war bring? What do years of peace bring? William Cameron Menzies’s film, Things to Come, based on a novel by H.G. Wells, shows these two extremes in a dystopian future. After extended war, the human race reverts back to barbarism and no longer know how to fly planes. After extended peacetime, humans make too much progress, and the object of life is not progress, it is living. Either way, too much regression or too much progression will cause humans to lose sight of what it means to live.

In Everytown, during the long war, they cannot fly planes because they have no oil or gasoline. If we are not careful about our resources and finding alternatives to fossil fuel, this could become reality in the twenty-first century. In this way, the film is warning us of the dangers of mass destruction and mass war. On the other hand, the film warns that two much progress can take away from life and actually make us less human. So what is the message that one is supposed to take away from the film? Everything in moderation? War is bad, but so is scientific and technological progress?

Ironically, both in the time of war and in the time of peace, authoritarian leaders rose to power. There was the barbaric “Chief”, and there was the forward-looking Oswald Cabal. These leaders also have similar mindsets. The chief wants to conquer the hill people, while Cabal wants to conquer the moon, then the universe.  Is this a comment on the nature of rulers, regardless of outside influences? What is the film attempting to get across to its audience?