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Essay: We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

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  • Subject area(s): Literature essays
  • Reading time: 6 minutes
  • Price: Free download
  • Published: 15 November 2019*
  • File format: Text
  • Words: 1,709 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 7 (approx)

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Section One: What’s My Process?

When approaching a new text, I usually try to take the whole day off and try to dive as deep into the text as I can. I will usually go into my room, the library, or Starbucks to read a new text or novel. Typically, if it’s a text that I enjoy or feel like I would enjoy, I tend to feel very excited to start on a new text and see what it’s all about. I really like to read when it’s raining or really gross outside and usually it’s also at night because to me reading is very relaxing and I like to read right before bed. I guess this reading environment impacts me heavily because it shows that I am a night owl and love being in the comfort of my bed or my favorite coffee shop, it also shows that I highly enjoy reading and don’t like to read in places that I don’t appreciate.

I find dystopian literature and thrillers to be quite engaging because there is always something developing on every page of those texts and it peaks my interest because I like figuring stuff out. The kind of texts I least enjoy including, autobiographies and history texts. This is because many of these texts are very boring and not interesting at all in my opinion. My past experiences with reading has definitely impacted me as a reader today simply due to the fact that I have actually enjoyed the texts that we have been reading in this class. But, also because I have been able to really read the text and understand it well. I have many strategies for keeping track of my thinking as I read, I usually have a sticky note that I also use as a bookmark and I will write big ideas that I notice from the text on the sticky note. Once the sticky note is full, I usually start to highlight things and write little notes inside of the book and to really nail what I have just read I basically write down a brief summary of what I recently read so I don’t forget about the important details of the text.

Section Two: Close Reading

1. Imagery of Light and Dark

Zamyatin uses lots of imagery throughout We that describe lightness and darkness. D-503 goes to the Ancient House to meet with 1-330, at the entrance of the Ancient House D-503 says, “And for a second: I, the sun, the old woman, the wormwood, and the yellow eyes-we all blended into one…” (92). This quote seems to suggest that D-503 is content, he is excited to see I-330 and uses the sunlight in the explanation of his feelings to convey the good things about the Ancient House. Once D-503 is in the Ancient House he cannot find 1-330, the imagery changes when he realizes that she is not there. “I slowly, softly floated off in some downward direction. Everything went black. I died” (93) this quote is stated after D-503 successfully runs away from S, he hides in a dark wardrobe and realizes that it is an elevator that leads to a secret room. The imagery in this is dark and gives the impression that everything has gone wrong and something bad will happen soon. It is also interesting that once D-503 realizes that I-330 is not in the building the way he describes things immediately turns darker.

2. Topic of Happiness

In this passage, D-503 is near the Green Wall. He sees “some beast” looking at him through the glass wall, D-503 describes it as being yellow-eyed and had a blunt muzzle. So, while they are staring at each other a thought pops up into D-503’s head and he says, “What if yellow-eyes, in his stupid dirty pile of leaves, in his uncalculated life, is happier than us?” (Zamyatin 91). This is an important thought because it points to the fact that D-503 has changed, D-503 now cares about happiness. At the beginning of the novel we meet the absolute perfect OneState citizen: a man who worked on the INTEGRAL, a man who did not think of seemingly “unnecessary” thoughts about happiness or love, and a man who did not rebel. By this point in the novel, it is evident that there is a change due to the fact that D-503 is being shown as more of a normal person who has strange thoughts and does uncalculated things. This specific quote is very important because it shows that D-503 cares about uncalculated happiness.

3. Submission

While D-503 is searching for I-330, in the passage it shows how desperate D-503 is about finding her. His heart rate is elevated and goes into a room, once he realizes that no one is present he calls out to I-330. He says, “And then even softer, with my eyes closed, not daring to breathe, as if I were on my knees in front of her.” (Zamyatin 92) the fact that he described his calling out to I-330 as if he was kneeling down in front of her shows that D-503 has submitted to her. It also shows that he has put all of his trust in her, the fact that D-503 is now trusting makes it easier for I-330 to manipulate him into doing what she wants for the revolution. It also goes back to the idea mentioned previously that D-503 has changed, D-503 never was submissive he was also a very logical person. Zamyatin successfully shows the audience that the character of D-503 has drastically changed.

Section Three: The Everlasting Search for Happiness

Happiness is a big topic that Zamyatin touches on in this novel. At the beginning of the novel we do see a “happy” D-503, he has his girl O-90 and he has a nice job. He enjoys his life and tremendously appreciates OneState. Throughout the novel D-503 continues to have trouble with defining happiness and tries to figure out if he is truly happy or not, he describes happiness as something calculated which is something that is not a normal thought for people in our society today. D-503 explains at the beginning of the novel how OneState has managed to remove everything that could lead to unhappiness (hunger, love, etc) and states that “The denominator of the happiness has been reduced to zero and the fraction becomes magnificent infinity.” (Zamyatin 23). This quote is significant because it shows how this society functions, D-503 is saying that in order to have an infinite amount of happiness the population needs to follow a specific formula that OneState has created for them. An example of when D-503 starts to question his happiness is mentioned above when he asks himself if an “uncalculated” creature could be happier than himself, this question makes him upset because he does not think that creatures should be happier than humans. This is because creatures are considered to make uncalculated actions and D-503 believes that happiness is attained mathematically.

By thinking that happiness can only be attained through a mathematical equation suggests that this population is anything but human, But, is it possible to say that D-503 even knows what the feeling of happiness is? People in OneState are not individuals, they are numbers and they don’t have an identity. So, how would it be possible to experience true happiness if one does not know what the true meaning of happiness is? If there is no individuality, how can there be happiness? Or any feeling for that matter. This is something that could be what Zamyatin wanted to warn others about being in a society very similar to a communist society. Because communist societies tend to take away individuality it is hard to be creative, and therefore it becomes hard to attain true happiness. Happiness and individuality are related to one another in this novel, Zamyatin mentions in the novel that “Those two, in paradise, were given a choice: happiness without freedom, or freedom without happiness. There was no third alternative.” (61). Stating according to this society, confinement is the true state of happiness. This is not a way to live and Zamyatin used this big idea in the novel to aid in warning future societies of the “corrupt” communist ideologies.

Section Four: Building Connections

There are many connections that arise with all of the texts that have been introduced to us this semester. In regard to happiness, the Black Mirror episode “Nosedive” explores this topic in more detail than in We. But, still there are many similarities in these two dystopian works of art. In both cases, there is a constant search for true happiness. For example, in “Nosedive”, the main character, Lacie wants to increase her 4.2 ranking in order to move in to a nicer apartment complex. She believes that if she gets a higher ranking she will be happy, the same goes for D-503 in We but in a different scenario. In We, D-503 originally was content with his life until he met I-330 his love for her changed him and after that he starts to constantly question his happiness and does stupid things in order to please I-330 (such as joining the rebellion and trying to overthrow the INTEGRAL). Both of these texts are using the constant search for happiness as a tool to inform the reader that the society that these characters are in are a dystopia.

There has been a connection specifically between the Black Mirror episode and real life in relatively recent news. In 2014, China has made a rating system that will be available in 2020. This is quite disturbing because “Nosedive” basically predicted the future. This rating system is mandatory and can affect what kind of car you can buy, what kind of hotel rooms you can get, what kind of job you can acquire, and even what schools you and your children can attend. All of these implications are made just by how other people rate you. China claims that this social credit system will “enhance trust and social stability” (“Social Credit System”) but, in reality China is turning into a dystopian society that revolves around technology and social status which is the most disturbing thing to think about.

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