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.

Emotion versus Reason

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). ((Zamyatin, We 119)) 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. ((Zamyatin, We 79)) 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. ((Zamyatin, We 144)) 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. ((Zamyatin, We 203))

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. ((Zamyatin, We 20)) 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.

The Awakening of the Soul in Society


Cover for We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

Cover for We by Yevgeny Zamyatin  

Yevgeny Zamyatin’s science fiction dystopian novel, We, tells the story of the character D-503 in his futuristic world, the One State, where everyone runs on the same clock, where one needs permission to close the blinds in their otherwise glass rooms, where there is one God-like ruler, the Benefactor, who ironically is “elected” every year without competition. D-503’s life as an engineer and mathematician is perfectly controlled and rational, as this regime believes true happiness comes with total control and that individual freedom brings forth chaos, until the disruptive force of love and emotions compel his world upside down.

Zamyatin creates a futuristic world that feels very real but still retains its satirical message of the truths of collectivization. D-503’s characters exemplifies both these aspects given the change that develops within him throughout the book and his realistic portrayal. The reader is first introduced to this straight-laced “cipher” who is perfectly content with his structured lifestyle. But then he meets a woman who is different and he can’t stop thinking of her. He hates her, but he wants to be with her, which leads him to conclude that this is a type of sickness. The more time he spends with her, the more he feels a constant pain; he dreams for the first time and starts to question his motives. He’s taken to a doctor who tells him he’s developed a soul, which D-503 cannot comprehend since he’s not completely familiar with the word. ((Zamyatin, Yevgeny. We. New York: Modern Library, 2006. P. 79))

His transformation into realizing his true feelings and positions is something nearly everyone can understand, so as a reader we see him struggle with his position in society like we all do. But as readers aware of the general failure of communism in practice, we recognize the world he lives in is completely different than our own. It’s difficult to understand how he feels as if the Guardians are “helping” when we see it as a mental conditioning. Zamyatin saw this type of communal living as a potential negative thing as the revolution and civil war was happening – in 1920 – and thus his goal of We could be to make readers question our own society and what we would do to achieve happiness, order, or freedom.

How does D-503’s development differ from that of other characters?
What is Zamyatin’s purpose by writing to the reader as if we are an alien species unaware of the past?



Picture from

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?

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.

Women as anti-Rationality in Zamyatin’s “We”

In Yevgeny Zamyatin’s “We,” the protagonist D-503 introduces himself as a strong supporter of the State’s ideals of rationality and un-freedom. He proudly reiterates State mantras such as “nobody is ‘one’ but ‘one of'” (7) and believes wholeheartedly that the problem of happiness has been solved through absolute, precise reason. He willingly carries out predetermined practices such as filling out a pink slip for every time he wants to have sex with O-90 and “shares” her with his best friend, yet shows no signs of emotions such as jealousy or rage at this arrangement, mainly because he identifies with the norms of his community. This is evident in D-503 claims in his second entry that he “cannot imagine a city that is not clad in a Green Wall; I cannot imagine a life that is not regulated by the figures of our Table” (10). However, once D-503 meets I-330, a woman whose views and behavior stand in opposition to the State’s mandates and ideology, his life is never the same. The role of women in “We” symbolize a force of opposition, driving D-503 further away from ideals of rationality that are enforced by the State.

1-330 is an obvious character that influences D-503’s ‘corruption’ and distancing from State ideology. Her behavior is illegal – she openly flirts with D-503 (and goes as far as to seduce him in the Ancient House), smokes cigarettes and drinks. She challenges D-503 to report her to the Guardians (secret police) for her behavior, and when D-503 does not report her, he immediately becomes a criminal. I-330 eventually introduces him to the group of humans who live beyond the wall and familiarizes him with her fellow revolutionaries. O-9, although not as adamantly opposed to the regime as 1-330 is, also directs D-503 away from rationality. When she brings him a spray of lilies of the valley, D-503 is visibly upset and berates her for not following logic. O-9 is oppressed by the State – because she does not fulfill the State mandated Maternal Requirements and is thus not allowed to have children. Her function in society is to be a sexual commodity and this status brings her pain. When she convinces D-503 to impregnate her, she brings him further away from rationality. Just as 1-330 influences D-503 to be a criminal by not reporting her, O-9 influences D-503 to be a criminal once more by refusing to give up her child.

What is Zamyatin trying to communicate by placing these women characters at odds with State rational ideology? If “We” can be read as a critique of Soviet society in the 1920s, then the women’s roles as anti-rational and emotional forces show that suppressing these elements of human kind would be detrimental to society. This potential threat to a utopian society can be interpreted as a critique of the new Soviet identity that was developing in the 1920s.


The book, WE, by Yevgeny Zamyatin, was about a Mathmatician who fell in love with a Women in a state which had no freedoms and life was bounded by working for the collective.  In the book, people wore the same clothes, marched the same way, given similar names(D-503) and were expected to work at maximum strength.

This book struck me in several ways. The setting struck me in that it reminded me of the early years of the Soviet Union where the state had promoted the goal of working for a common goal: a state rid of exploitation and class division. This state promoted a sense of sameness where no one would deviate away from the collective.  Anyone who would did deviate from these ideals would be seen as an enemy of the state.  In the book, We, D-503 meets a woman named I-330, who doesn’t believe in the rules of the system.  In Record Six, she stated that “to be original means to somehow stand out from others.  Consequently, being original is to violate equality…” ((Yevgeny Zamyatin. We. Translated by Natasha Randall. New York: Modern Library, 2006, 27))  This struck me because in the Soviet Union, everyone worked for the collective.  Everyone worked hard to accomplish goals as one.  No one was able to create or accomplish things no their own.  As I-330 puts it, the very fabric of originality would violate the very ideals of equality both in the book and in the Soviet Union.

In a way, this book paints a picture of how life in the Soviet Union following the Revolutions of 1917 and the Civil War were supposed to be.  The Communist party strove for a society  where individuals like I-330 were harmful to society and the people would work collectively to help push the state forward.