We By Yevgeny Zamyatin: The Terrible Consequences Of The Abandonment
In this 20st century novel it can be inferred that the story is an allegory on the early Soviet Union. The story is taking place in the future and is a dystopia. Totalitarianism and conformity are characteristics of the Soviet Union society of that time. In this novel, the One State tries to indicate what causes sadness, and pretends to control mathematically citizens’ lives through an efficient system and industrial precision.
The book was written following the personal experiences the author, Yevgeny Zamyatin, had during the Russian Revolution of 1905 and of 1917 and while analyzing, throughout his life, a job’s rationality typical of big industries. The novel acts as an addition to the author’s desire to fight against the suppression of liberty and the main message is that the revolution is a number that can’t be contained and that will continue to increase until infinity, which indirectly relates to what was going on in Russia in that time. Therefore, I want to analyze how the novel shows the terrible consequences that can come from the abandonment, whether it is for the country, science, or happiness, of our moral traditions. These moral traditions can include religion such as Christianity and liberal values that recognize an individual’s dignity and intangibility. Unfortunately, not many people talk about Soviet Russians writers due to the fact that their work was usually prohibited to the public since it contained ideologies that didn’t match with the ones of that time. Many, therefore, either left the country or gave up on their writing careers.
Yevgeny Zamyatin was revolutionary not only in his writings where he would often mix realism and fiction, but also in his life when he fought against the revolution that mostly oppressed people’s liberties. The publication of “We” happened first in the United Kingdom in 1924, and in the Soviet Union later in the 80s. In fact, Zamyatin’s prohibition to publicize his work were referred by him as a “writer’s death sentence”. He, therefore, approached Stalin by stating that “no creative activity is possible in an atmosphere of systematic persecution that increases in intensity from year to year… Regardless of the content of a given work, the very fact of my signature has become a sufficient reason for declaring the work criminal. Of course, any falsification is permissible in fighting the devil. I beg to be permitted to go abroad with my wife with the right to return as soon as it becomes possible in our country to serve great ideas in literature without cringing before little men”.
The writer was soon later imprisoned and arrested, but by the help of Maxim Gory, writer of the known novel “Twenty-six Men and a Girl”, Joesph Stalin allowed Zamyatin to leave the Soviet Union. The novel is not other than a “diary” of the protagosnigt, D-503. He is a young engineer who is busy designing a spaceship, through which the One State would then be able to spread the laws and ideologies everywhere in the society. In fact, the city in which this novel takes place is separated from the wild and animal world by a green wall. In this reality the citizens are constantly being observed while respecting specific labor hours and resting hours. It is not surprising that in this type of controlled society there is no room for emotions or feelings since the One State is focused on eliminating an individual’s unique personality, while believing that free will would only cause people to be unhappy for the rest of their lives. For this sole reason, there is no “I” but only “We”. The Benefactor is the one who has the most power out of all, through whose it is not hard to resemble his figure as Stalin’s, and his main idea is a mixture of scientific positivism and collectivism. Because of him, the citizens are forced to reach mathematical happiness by following scientific norms based on calculations regarding suffering and pleasure. The Benefactor is not the only character that could resemble actual living characters that characterized the Soviet Union of the time, for example S-4711 is one of the guardians, who could represent and remember Cheka’s members. This was one of the numerous secret services that worked in the Soviet Union and follower of the most famous, the KGB. Back to the novel, the government has the total power in terms of production, since the people are allowed to have sexual relationships only during established times by doctors of the regime. The walls of the buildings are transparent, meaning that there is no intimacy or private life. Furthermore, an individual’s liberty is seen as a synonym of rebellion, and those who demonstrate this kind of behavior is right away stopped by the police. Dreams are also considered a disease, and fantasy/imagination are both “removed” from individual’s through surgery.
This novel acts as a diary that shows D-503’s own transformation into an actual human being. The narrator discovers emotions and feelings never felt before. Through this spiritual journey, Zamyatin describes the birth of a soul, an “I” that goes against “We”. This is mainly caused when D-503, a mathematician and loyal supporter of the One State, falls in love with I-330, a rebel young woman that is secretly planning into overthrowing the One State. I-330 is a member of Mephi. Mephi is a revolutionary organization that lives in the jungle outside the green wall. D-503 decides to join I-330 and uses the “Integral”, the spaceship he has been working on, against the One State. However, the Guardians arrest the conspirators of the assault and the Benefactor intervenes to prevent future damages to the state. Therefore, the entire population is forced to undergo the Great Operation, and so did D-503. The Great Operation will eventually destroy a crucial part of the brain where imagination and creativity occurred. D-503, throughout his diary, he highlights his hairy hands. Through this imagery it can be inferred that the narrator is physically different than the rest of society. By slowly, little by little, getting to know I-330 better, he finds his own natural, interior, instinctive being. Because of this he finds strength, vigor, and starts to speak up for himself more. Jealousy, frustration, fear, and love are all new feelings to him. His new soul allows him then to understand, view, analyze, and think differently than the rest, which was not permitted by the State. It is I-330’s irrational nature that stimulates D-503’s development into an actual human being. I-330 may represent culture’s early morals that had been controlled and captured by the Soviet regime.
In order for the reader to fully understand the novel, the historical time period must be analyzed previously. We are in the middle of the growing Communism, the 1917 Revolution has already happened and years since the communism war, imposed by Lenin to allow the party to take a place into the government, have passed by. Recently had also passed the Civil War of 1918 between the Whites, supporters of the monarchy, and the Reds, the party’s members. 1919 is the year in which various literary conflicts come about.
Zamyatin wrote his novel in 1920 and as discussed earlier, being disliked by the Bolsheviks, it caused many problems.The way Zamjatin incorporated mathematical metaphors show that he wasn’t only a writer who loved liberal arts, but also a man with a degree in engineering that he later pursuit in the United Kingdom.
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