Reminder: Post Questions about ‘We’ & Essay #2 drafts

Hi everyone:

I’ve enjoyed discussing your essays with you individually this past week, and you all are making a lot of progress in your writing (both in terms of content and structure). I look forward to seeing the next drafts tomorrow.

Just a reminder that your complete with Cover Letter, fully revised (based on our individual conferences this past week) draft of Essay #2 is due tomorrow. You must e-mail me the correctly labeled file (your name, Essay #2, Second Draft) before class begins and bring four printed copies of your essay to class.

Please do not show up without your printed copies, and do not be late to class. We have a jam-packed class tomorrow, and we’ll need all the time we have to cover both the novel and the essay.

Also, many of you have been letting me know (in private) that you have many questions about We and that there are whole sections of it that you have been struggling with, but so far no one (except Brian … thank you to him!) has posted any questions on the post I made last week.

Please make sure to do so (by leaving a “comment” on that post) by the end of the day today (W 4/30), and we will be sure to cover all of your questions about the text tomorrow in class. I am going to explain a lot of the text, in detail, tomorrow, but in order to use this time most productively, each one of you should post at least one (but ideally a few) question you have/excerpts (with page numbers) you want to discuss.

See you tomorrow, in (cold, rainy) May!

Professor Belli

Class Discussion: Lingering Questions/Confusions/Ideas about ‘We’

Please use this as a place to post any lingering questions/confusions/ideas about We. Since are giving ourselves another week of class to discuss the text (and to draft/revise Essay #2), and since we of course can’t possibly discuss everything about the novel, we will prioritize what are will talk about next week using your replies to this post.

Drop a comment here to put items on our “agenda” (for our next class, Th 5/1) to discuss. List particular scenes, events, passages, excepts (please include page numbers) that confuse you, or questions more generally. If there is something you don’t quite understand about the text (and I know a number of you are having some difficulty, as this is a challenging novel), now is your chance to tell me/us about it, and to have the opportunity to go over it in class.

Crowdsourcing D-503’s Transformation As Writer, Thinker, Individual

As part of our reading of We, we are exploring the un/reliability of the narrator/narrative, the conflation of fact/fiction, the revision of memories, the reconstruction of experience, the ways in which storytellers attempt to portray their own, individual, personal truths (which may not be the same as the “objective” truth or the dominant view of the State). As a dystopian novel explicitly written in the form of a journal, We is a rich text for performing a close reading around these “self-conscious” moments in the narrative.

I am particularly interested in us tracing how, through the act of writing itself, D-503 moves from merely recording the values of the One State that he has already internalized, to developing an individual, rebellious, free-thinking understanding about the world and his place in it. Consider the journal entry titles and headings, D-503’s comments on why he is writing/who he is writing for (and how/why this changes), conflicts, competing sets of values, etc.

In preparation for Thursday’s class (4/10), everyone should post at least two comments (one for the reading, Entries 1-16, from Th 4/3, due by Su 4/6; one for the reading for Th 4/10, Entries 17-26, due W 4/9) as a reply to this post (though I encourage many more) that provides places where D-503 explicitly draws attention (in a meta-fiction way) to the fact that he is carefully/consciously constructing a narrative and controlling his reader’s reception of the text. Your comment (reply) can be just a few sentences: provide the quote/citation and a quick explanation of how/why it functions. Feel free to post multiple comments, and also to respond to others. If you’ve already discussed some of these instances in your previous blogs, you should feel free to draw on that material.

We’ll add to these comments with the final section of the book we’ll read during spring break, until we have a class-generated archive of all of these instances in the text.


The first diary entries of the book “We” by Yeveny Zamyatin we really confusing , until the third entry. When D-503 explains a little more in depth of what is taking place in the novel.  Although some of the entries were hard to understand i did catch on to a few similarities from “Brave New World.” One of the first ones i was able to see was the fact that where D-503 lives is called “One State” while in brave new world it was called “World State”. The world state probably has a very big meaning to these name to these place. When i wen further on to looking up the definition of the actual word “State” , the definition was “the particular condition that someone or something is in at a specific time” (google). It made a lot of sense that these places had incorporated the word within there name, because of the setting and also how each book created there settings.

Another things i also found similar to World State is how in One State they also have assemblies where they sing  and kind of get together. Just how in world state they had those gathering where they would take soma and have orgys. In One State they also worship one thing as a whole. In World State it was Ford, and here its math and music; but mostly math. The word savage is very commonly use through the diary entries of D-503. One State’s setting in located away from earth and everything that they there refer to savage is mostly people in the old times.

What i find strange about this place is how they are all sort of like robots and are numbered instead of named, how we would find normal. Although this seems like a very strict and tight run society, they also seem to have a bit more freedom than World State. This society is definitely more controlled because here they all wake up, eat, go out and got to sleep at the same time.  The way they use time is more of a at 21, or at 22 etc. This is military time, which can be seen as a symbol of strictness just like in the military everyone awakes, eats, and goes to sleep all at the same time without other options.

It seems like in every utopian theme book or story the idea of sex being very common is never lost. We are able to experience this agin in this story with the Sexual Department pg 22. The characters of this novel seem to have more knowledge of life and our current life than the characters of Brave New World, who seemed ignorant to everything except World State.

There are still many ideas from the book that i don’t seem to quite understand like when D-503 talks about the X in the eyes of I-330. But in general its very easy to see what many believe a utopia is like. Technology a lot of rules or at least strictly run, and  equality.

One State + Mathematics = No freedom

First and foremost I find the novel We by Yevgeny Zamyatin very refreshing as it is written in first person unlike the novel Brave New World. The decision to write in first person really helps the reader, like me, to feel and understand exactly what the protagonist was thinking and feeling during a particular time. It is refreshing to read a story that feels like we have the access to read the protagonist’s diary… Now, onto my analysis…


The One State is an example of what I call an organized society, period.

Before any assumptions are made, I am a supporter and believer of everyone pertaining their own freedom, but I feel that this particular world is very structured and seems like everyone is equal. Not free, but yet, equal.

When I read the first couple of pages of the book, the first thing I thought was “Hmm, if the One State is structured mathematically, then it means that there isn’t a mistake with its concept.” What I mean by this statement is, in most of our math courses we are given an equation to solve, once we think we found the right answer, we have to “check” to make sure it is indeed correct, free from any flaws. There is always an equation for another equation. This applies to the One State since they believe that if they live in a mathematical, structured, organized world, then everything will have a meaning (same as checking your answers.)

I found this extremely intriguing, perhaps because I enjoy math, because the thought never crossed my mind to associate mathematics to become the solution to a “perfect” world. But it makes perfect sense. The residents of the One State live by the hours, everything is scheduled in their lives. Personal hours, work hours, all is based on one particular hour. There isn’t much difference between the residents except that everyone has a particular letter and number that will identify them.

I initially thought they believed in the whole mathematical-structured life so that things are equal with everyone in society but I soon learned that the concept of using mathematics in the One State is to prevent individuality and freedom from entering the society. I couldn’t understand the concept at all and how it would prevent such actions, but the further I read, the more I understood. I-330 stated, “‘To be original is to be in some way distinct from others. Hence to be original is to violate equality.'”(Zamyatin 28). As I stated before, everyone who resides in the One State lives in a structured world in which everything is based on a time schedule. Which means, when someone works, so will the others, at..the…same…time… Which indicates that if someone were not to work at the time accordingly, they are considered to be violating the rules since they are the only ones who decided to do something different.

It’s interesting to learn that if someone doesn’t do what they are supposed to do at a particular hour, then they are violating the rules and are considered different from the others. I guess this means that D-503 and I330 will be considered individuals in the next few entries. We shall wait and see…


Numbers Define Everything

Going into the first few pages of the book, I was expecting it to be maybe a utopian society but once again, we are dealing with a dystopian society. I find it interesting that the book is actually a diary and that we’ll be seeing the story from a first person perspective. From the very start of the book, we can already see similarities between “We” and “Brave New World”. Like in Brave New World, We has a all knowing force in the name of the Benefactor. In the One State, it seems there is also a dress code just like in Brave New world, “The numbers walked in even ranks, four abreast, ecstatically stepping in time to the music-hundreds, thousands of numbers in pale blue unifis. And also like how the World State was the running force of the world in Brave New World, the One State is the all powerful society. I think this book gets into a more darker theme, where this society forces others to think like them and if not, they are harshly punished. From the first entry we can see the goals of the One State, to go to different planets to subjugate the unknown beings on the planets. I find it interesting here where it says “If they fail to understand that we bring them mathematically infallible happiness, it will be our duty to compel them to be happy.”(Yevgeny 1) because it shows how much power the One State is asserting and stating to the people.

They’re basically saying that if you do not side with us, we will force you to. They say they will reason with words first but I find that unbelievable. I also think its interesting how they don’t call it just happiness but mathematically infallible happiness. Everything in this society has to do with numbers, especially their names. D-503 to me is a interesting and confusing character to me. At times it seems like he embraces the ideas of the One State but at times it seems like he doesn’t. In the first entry where it says, “And then to myself, why is this beautiful? Why is dance beautiful? Answer: because it is unfree motion, because the whole profound meaning of dance lies precisely in absolute, esthetic subordination, in ideal unfreedom.”(Yevgeny 4) shows that he believes in the idea of controlled actions and on page 34 we can see that he doesn’t like what he’s doing but I’m not sure if he was complaining about the overall assignment or the eyelash or person hes referring to is unpleasant.

I am also assuming that in “We”, love is something that is ignored and unimportant to the society, just like in “Brave New World”. I say this because on page 8 D-503 talks about sexual days here, “She had come to me only he day before, and she knew as well as i did that our next sexual  day was the day after tomorrow.” It seems as if they are assigned days perhaps to have sexual intercourse. D-503 seems like the character to like the idea of being with a girl but not the actual idea of love. On page 4 where O-90 comes to pick him up for their daily walk at the sight where the integral is being built, D-503 expects her to talk about the machine he built but instead talks about how nice spring is. “Marvelous, isn’t it? I asked. Yes, marvelous.” O-90 smiled rosily at me. It’s Spring. Well, wouldn’t you know: spring… She talks about spring, Women..I fell silent.”(Yevgeny 5) I found this part funny because it’s how expectations in real life are shot down. This part also seems like he wants to get with her but is uninterested after seeing how shes not paying attention the machine he built.


Character’s D-503 and I-330

We’re introduced to We through diary entry posts made by the character D-503. After the first few entries it is quite noticeable that We is similar to Brave New World. We see similar values between the two “Long live the One State, long live the numbers, long live the Benefactor!” (Zamyatin 2). Through this quote we are able to see that what is valued in the One State are the numbers. Like in Brave New World we know that when people are seen as mere numbers individuality is something that doesn’t exist.

As we read more into the entries we get a closer look at the character D-503. Which in the beginning seems to abide by the One State values and agree with them. He seems to disagree with the values we the “ancestors” have today. He says “After all, no matter how limited their intelligence, they should have understood that such a way of life was truly mass murder” (Zamyatin 13). He definitely considers the way that we live life also something that kills us. Unlike in Brave New World the numbers within We are aware of their history. Like in Brave New World there is also a mention of Shakespeare. D-503 mentions it being fortunate that the ages in which Shakespeares existed are gone.

D-503 soon meets I-330 which take D-503 to the Ancient House. D-503s reaction to the Ancient house was very similar to that of Leninas when visiting the Savage Reservations. D-503 explains the encounter of an old wrinkly women and he says “It seemed incredible that she would still be able to speak” (Zamyatin 25). Like Lenina surprised that Linda looked the way she did the character D-503 was astonished at that this old woman could speak. On the other hand I-330 seems to be intrigued by the Ancient House. We then are able to see that the character I-330 can be considered an “other” just like Bernard in Brave New World.

After what occurs at the Ancient House D-503 seems inclined to report it to the Office of the Guardians. He fails to do this as wee see him get sick and actually have dreams after visiting the Ancient House. I-330 seems to be influencing D-503 to do things that go against the value of the One State. D-503 says “I was stealing my services from the One State, I was a thief, I saw myself under the Benefactor’s machine” (Zamyatin 73). D-503 feels as if he’s going against the values of the One State and that he is stealing from the One State. Yet he still continues on to do what he does.

After not seeing the character I-330 for a few days D-503 is feeling sick and they check him and say that he has developed a soul. The fix to this I believe is for him to be killed as they ask him “…would you consent to being preserved in alcohol?” (Zamyatin 90). They then say “Number D-503 is the Builder of the Integral, and I am sure it would interfere with…” (Zamyatin 90). Through this sentence we are able to tell that D-503 can’t be killed as he is the chief who is in charge of building the Integral which is considered a huge advance for society.

The utopia “We” is similar to the “Brave New World”

I think that utopia “We”, written by Zamyatin,  is similar to the “Brave New World” utopia. The major similarity is that both situations are similar in that the order of society is now considered to be utopian. However, after some delving into the situation and understanding the nature of the world and it’s rules and values the reader comes to understand that is a perverted utopia. It takes a great deal of patience to understand the understanding of the planet structure due to the anonymity assigned to its inhabitants. This was a different aspect in this book.  Each individual in this society is assigned a first letter and a digital number to identify them. This is the ultimate subjugation of one’s personality. This is how we are introduced and identify characters like: I-330 and D-503. We clearly see this in the diary of D-503. He explains how he and another “numbers” love by a ridged Table of Hours. A glass Green Wall keeps the city separate from any exposure to natures and covert Guardians and the Operation Department, with it’s dreaded  society “protect” from what they deem to be dangerous people. Criminals are publicly executed by the “Well Doer’s machine”.

The humanity of the people are being stripped away in this manner. This allows for the machines to have greater control and the people exist almost in a secondary manner to the overlord known as the “Benefactor”. Interestingly, the “Benefactor” is re-elected by an always unanimous vote by the population! The controlling humans inject a set of rules and regulations that define life and the “duty” of all “numbers”.  “At night numbers must sleep; it is duty, just as it is their duty to work in the daytime” (page 58) The “numbers” are also expected to stop thinking and to calculate. People lose the personal connection needed to live meaningful lives as human beings. The have been reduced to just cogs in the wheel of society. This is why there is such heavy mathematical description and many special theorem probabilities, odd numbers and Integers are cited by the author.

While I was reading this I could only be reminded by the most repressive society existing on earth today…North Korea. The “Benefactor” vs. “Dear Leader”…unanimous elections…unrelenting work days…no due process of law…it all adds up to a hellish place to live.

The World of Numbers

Reading the new book  We by Yevgeny Zamyatin we enter a world where people are named after letters and numbers where every other one is just a tag or a label. Within this world we see the main character named D-503 whom is a mathematician. The place is called One State and takes place within the future. reading it does remind me a lot about the story “The Machine Stops” and at the same time “Brave New World” as it does bring up many of the same concepts of reducing the intensity of relationships. Words are also censored such as when he mentioned the girl O-90 he doesn’t really even have a name for their relationship (page 8). The ideas of parenting are also rejected as the idea of your own child from the moment they are born they are given to the state such as within “The Machine Stops”(page 2). The idea of individuality is once again looked down upon as they have a motto of “Long live the One State, long live the numbers, long live the benefactor” (page 2). Society is also put first before everything.You could tell by reading that there is definitely a lot of uniformity within society just by the names where everyone pretty much looks alike. The way the story is written it relates a lot to the idea how sex is used for only pleasure as commitment and monogamy isn’t as important as you see how they view relationships.

It does get confusing to remember all the names as it is all numbers so it feel like i’m remembering codes. The book is not that interesting at the moment as it talks a lot about him and his thoughts and belief as he believes in the concept of how One State functions. He doesn’t really question it as he likes how it worked until he met I-330 which made him question whether if society was really right. With her he broke his belifs (page 79)

Numbers are everywhere in a society like never seen before!

Upon reading We by Yevgeny Zamyatin I observed that they gave huge value and importance to logic and math. They considered this to be the essence to their society and their actions, to the point that they it is worshiped and respected and anything seen without the intervention of mathematics is seen as filthy “Hence you see how the great power of logic purifies everything it touches” (Zamyatin 22). Even a simple and natural action such as sex is controlled through numbers and math such as the Table of sexual days. On the top of page 22 we see how society controls the people and we also see the presence of the Table, which originated from the Sexual Department and they go through a whole numerical process in which they determine the sexual days. The narrator (D-503) also compares sex/pink slips to a shape, and this shape being a square. The square signified equality (such as the 4 angles being equal and the 4 sides equal in length) and tells us the reader how this can cause confusion “Take the pink coupons for example [..], to me, this is as natural as […] the square” (Zamyatin 20). By Zamyatin stating this, and making it feel as if it was a face to face conversation and stating his entries to me caused it to seem more realistic.

D-503 even mentions how math, specifically algebra has solved the issues faced by the world such as hunger. “Naturally, having conquered Hunger (algebraically)” (Zamyatin 21) shows how they consider their ability to solve major issues such as hunger as not a big deal. This once again proved how mathematics is considered above everything and is seen as progression and valued in the Once State.

There is also a vast amount of examples of standardizations throughout the One State such as everyone marching with their uniforms “thousands of numbers, in pale blue unifs” (Zamyatin 5). Even the concept of time is seen very exact “In half a minute she’ll be here, for our daily walk” (Zamyatin 5) by this Zamyatin shows how every detail is very important, down to the second and how the people follow a routine.

Another aspect which took me by surprise was how the individuals in the story are not given names, but rather numbers/letters such as D-503 whom is the builder of the Integral, or I-330. So far as I see it, it seems that there isn’t much of personal identity. Since instead of names they refer to each other by numbers or letters, which to me it makes me think that they try to make a separation and sense of self and see each other as objects. While reading this book I kept on thinking of “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley, one difference that I noticed was that so far in this book not everyone knows each other “on my right, two numbers I did not know, male and female” (Zamyatin 5), yet in Huxley’s work we observed how many of the characters knew each other due to the promiscuous relationships.