Thursday, April 5, 2012

Reading Experience of 'WE'

I've read a fair number of distopian novels, but in reading WE I found myself sympathizing with the quest for creating an ideal world (though arguably impossible) more than I have in the past. This is probably due mostly to the fact that I haven't read a distopian novel since early high school and now have more knowledge surrounding industrial mechanization, communism, and the cold war. Growing up in the United States in a post- Cold War world, I was (as many of us in the US are) raised to value individuality.

Therefore, in the past when I have read distopian novels I always felt negatively toward the stifling suggestion of uniformity that is present in these novels (which I am supposed to feel as a reader). While reading WE, however, I kept thinking about the idealism that was behind the 'One State' and the idealism that was behind early soviet visions. The idea of a world in which everybody is equal, has their basic needs fulfilled and are content sounds great in theory.

Perhaps I am more inclined toward this sympathy considering that Zamyatin was Russian and wrote WE at a time in which the soviet experiment was only just beginning. Does anybody else find themselves similarly affected by WE? I just think that it is interesting that WE has provoked more thought about these issues than, say 1984 which I enjoyed reading more. Maybe it is simply because I am older and have more context than when I read 1984, but maybe there is something special about WE also!


  1. We also moved me uniquely compared to other distopian novels I've read. I especially liked the way D-503's narration became less sure and kind-of "fell apart" as he began to doubt the One State more. My usual problem with the entire premise of a mechanized, uniform society is that it never feels very credible when a narrator is describing it. After all, if you're supposed to have no independent thought and action, how can you wax poetic about the One State?
    But watching D-503's narrative confidence dissolve as he discovered he had a soul made his world more believable to me.

  2. I sympathized with the novel mostly because of the love D showed for the One State. The way he was describing his devotion and dedication to the One State, and the way he was so certain that this was the one and only way to be, was what made me want to agree with the One State's philosophy.

  3. I definitely did not sympathize with the One State. Sure, the idea of a world in which everyone is equal and has their needs fulfilled is appealing but I think this is only so on the surface. Part of the point of We, I think, is to show what kinds of objectionable things have to happen to achieve this utopia. For example, the one state can't exist without enforcing total reproductive control on it citizens. I think that submitting to this kind of control is just the same as giving up any notion of individual dignity and I can't sympathize with that.