Sunday, October 17, 2010

We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

Analysis of symbolism:

The book We by Yevgeny Zamyatin is a dystopian novel that is encompassed as a work of a whole with an ideal amount of symbolism.  The word dystopian according to the Webster Dictionary means to be “a society or an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives.” This definition clearly fits as a perfect explanation for the dictating society in We, and helps to demonstrate the overbearing control and irony that the people of One State are forced to live with.  The are many symbols that lay within the surface of the novel We such as the glass, which prevents the people of One State to live in privacy, be free, and remain unique.  A window, which is generally associated with glass, is symbolic for freedom, but the way glass is employed in the novel is that it acts as a cage rather than complete liberty. D-503 demonstrates through his feelings when he says, “Everyone’s sitting all closed up in his own glass cage waiting for something” (142 Zamyatin); meaning the glass is a negative existence in people’s lives.  The glass is transparent, hard, and can easily shatter, similar to the people who are oppressed in the novel.  Everyone is the same, not any one person has a sense of self, and they bleed into each other, merging as one.  Each victimized person who lives a fearful and dehumanized life, such as those in One State, without questioning is ready to collapse and shatter at any moment.  Human nature genetically programs people to have their own individualism and identity; a specific soul, which makes one person different from another.  These characteristics are for people to have their own individualism and an identity, a characteristic completely opposite from glass. 
The glass in the book does not separate one from another, nor does it offer privacy due to the fact everyone’s life is on display for all to see.  In the modern home that many people in our society are accustomed, glass provides protection and is usually found in windows. As D-503 states “What we have now- our splendid, transparent, internal glass-could be seen nowhere expect in their pathetic little rickety rectangular windows” (28).  This illustrates how glass dwells within the shelter and protects people from outside eliminates. We can cover and shield ourselves from what is on the other side of the glass with shades or curtains, choosing to let the light in or the darkness out, choosing a dividing line between public and privacy. Its part of the info structure, flowing energy from the foundation to the ceiling, creating interdependency within the unit. The glass is strong within this unit, complete in its fragility for it does not stand-alone. The symbolism of glass in We is classically ironic due to its representation is opposite then its ideal use, which supports the lack of depth to the people in the society as a whole.  Zamyatin emphasizes the symbol of glass in his novel to demonstrate just how severe and extreme the dystopian society of One State is.

Favorite Quote:

One passage in the novel that stood out from the rest is in Record 13 when 1-330 says to D-503 “That means you love it.  You’re afraid of it because it’s stronger than you, you hate it because you’re afraid of it, you love it because you can’t master it.  You can only love something that refuses to be mastered” (71).  In this passage, 1-330 tries to explain the concept of love to D-503.  D-503 knows he must be with 1-330 but cannot find a logical reason why he feels the way he does.  1-330 tells him his inability to identify the emotions that characterize the way he feels about her is foreign. This inability creates confusion and uncertainty, which leads into fear, resulting in hatred towards her. D-503 like the majority of the society in One State is programmed not to think but just do as they are told. This society lives by the Table of Hours. This format decides when the people will walk, work, sleep, and have sex.  Every minute of their day is scheduled and monitored. They are programmed to believe that this way of life is pure happiness.  This society is robotic, the Bureau of Guardians watches them, and any deviating from pure logic is noted and punished; the people live in fear.  D-03 is a master mathematician, and he assesses everything in life as if it were a calculus equation. He is having a conversation with his friend R-13 about knowledge saying that he serves knowledge and always will. R-13 responds “Knowledge! What does that mean? Your knowledge is nothing but cowardice. No, really, that is all it is. You just want to put a little wall around infinity. And you’re afraid to look on the other side of the wall.” (40)  R-13 is telling him that he has a false sense of happiness, he is complacent, and that there is more to the world than what is being shown to them living behind the wall.
 D-503 is new to the feelings of love but due to him being controlled and dominated by One State, and 1-330s strong and dominant nature lures D-503 to become totally enamored, almost obsessed with I-330. As he is speaking with I-330 regarding the alcohol that she is drinking, he asked her where she had gotten it. She responds from a doctor, one of her, and D-503 cuts her off.  He tells her “I won’t stand for it! I don’t want anyone but me to…I’ll kill anyone who…Because I lo…I…” (57). Not only does D-503 profess strong emotions of love, but also he now is displaying emotions of jealousy and possessiveness.  All of this is going on as he sits at I-330’s feet begging her for physical affection. Throughout the novel D-503 often finds himself in a submissive position when he is with I-330. He states “I drop onto the floor besides her chair, put my arms around her legs, throw my head back and look into her eyes, first into one and then  into the other, to see myself in each, myself in wonderful captivity” (177). There is no one like I-330 in D-530's life. He does what she tells him to do; he or One State will not master her.
My favorite quote not only relates to the relationship between D-503 and 1-330 but also his relationship with society and the society as a whole in One State.  The people fear the One State society because it is stronger than they are, and the people hate the society because they are afraid of it.  Due to the reason the people fear and hate the society most of them live day to day without doing anything about it.  When fear consumes a person, they become immobile and are unable to speak, just as the community.  Although the majority of the people are fearful of the society, there are also the few who love the fact they cannot master One State and strive to change that, such as 1-330.  Fear is replaced by determination for these people, their hatred drives them to overthrow the society, and their love and passion to have control is what gives them the push to try to succeed.   Overall, this quote is my favorite because it appears to be contradictory being that it examines love, hatred, and fear all at once. Reality of the words within the novel shows how each of these emotions are closely linked and intertwined, supporting one another. I think this line is great for describing society in general and a clear explanation for the behavior and actions of most people.

My opinion of We:

My overall thoughts on the novel We is that I absolutely loved it!  I particularly enjoyed the development of the character D-503 throughout the book.  His character started one dimensional, plain, boring, and so literal with everything he did.  D-503’s at first appeared to be content despite the fact society dictated his life and this frustrated me greatly.  When the author introduced the character 1-330, I initially did not like her either.  She seemed to be spiteful and something about her seemed to be devious.  I disliked 1-330 and D-503 as characters by themselves, but when the two came together, their flaws and strengths complimented one another.  1-330 was a strong and confident woman who taught D-503 to get a voice, feel emotion, and showed him through love that not everything had to be logic and reasoned.  On the contrary, D-503 showed 1-330 loyalty and taught her some rationale.  I liked how daring 1-330 was and how she attempted to improve the dehumanizing and oppressed lives of the community.  The souls of the people in the society where obsolete and 1-330 and D-503 gave hope back to many.  Finally, I loved the ending despite the fact that the two had failed as far as them freeing the nation of One state as a whole. In the beginning of the book D-503 showed no emotion, his soul was cold, and by the middle of the novel, he had been awakened.  He adapted a soul and was living life for the first time, but this all came to a tragic end when he was “fixed” with an operation.  The novel moved full circle in the way that D-503 started unsentimental, became reborn and alive, and then ended up becoming emotionally destroyed.  It was a bittersweet story that really teased my mind, and just when I thought everyone would preserver and gain back control in their lives, I was proven wrong.  The novel written by Yevgeny Zamyatin seemed so impractical but when thinking about it in full perspective such a tragedy has happened in our world in the past and could continue to happen in many societies to come.

1 comment:

  1. I have the same favorite quote as you. I also believe that in this scene I-330 is trying to explain love to D-503 who has always been constricted by his society from such concepts. It aggravated, yet interested, me that the citizens of OneState had no sense of individuality and could not experience life as it should be.

    I like how you depicted fear in the society as well and said that the people are consumed by it and unable to speak. Therefore, I admire I-330 and other characters like her who tried to change parts of the society.

    I did not like "We" as much as you did mainly because I found it confusing what with all the ellipses and unanswered questions. However, I did like how Zamyatin developed the characters.