We

by

Yevgeny Zamyatin

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We: Record 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The day after his D-503 writes that, although he thought yesterday would be a clarifying experience, it only provided him with a new set of unknown “X’s” to sort through. He goes on to describe yesterday’s events: per the doctor’s orders, D-503 goes for a long walk. He ends up on a street along the edge of the Green Wall. D-503 looks at the wild growth that lies beyond it and feels fortunate to have the Green Wall as a barrier. On the other side of the glass, he sees a “beast” with “yellow eyes” staring at him unreadably. D-503 wonders if this beast is happier than him and the other ciphers that live inside the Green Wall’s boundaries.
D-503’s decision to walk toward the Green Wall and the Ancient house is full of contradictions: though he tries to tell himself he’s following the doctor’s orders so that he can be cured, he’s also walking to a place he associates with I-330, who brought on his illness in the first place. D-503 wants to be cured, but he also wants to stay sick and in love with I-330. When D-503 wonders whether the yellow-eyed beast is happier than he is, he’s expressing doubt in the One State’s belief that freedom and happiness are mutually exclusive.   
Themes
Individuality vs. Collectivism  Theme Icon
Alienation Theme Icon
Fear of the Unknown  Theme Icon
Repression of Desire  Theme Icon
D-503 keeps walking and sees the Ancient House. He greets the old woman at the entrance with a kiss, though he is ashamed to admit so. Once inside, D-503 calls out for I-330, but she is nowhere to be seen. As he heads upstairs to the apartment they met in before, he hears a door slam and sees S downstairs. D-503 doesn’t want S to see him, so he hurriedly jumps into the closet in the apartment. The floor shakes beneath him, his vision blurs, and he writes that he “died.” In retrospect, D-503 realizes this “death” was an instance of what the Ancients called “temporarily death,” but which does not generally occur to ciphers.
When D-503 kisses the old woman, it illustrates his growing urge to be affectionate for affection’s sake—the kiss doesn’t serve any higher, productive purpose and thus has no place in the One State. The kiss shows that it’s becoming more difficult for D-503 to suppress his irrational desires. When D-503 temporarily “die[s],” he’s actually just blacking out. It’s unclear why ciphers don’t black out like the Ancients did, though it’s possible that this is because blacking out is an inefficient use of the body, and the purpose of bodies is to serve the State as effectively as possible.
Themes
Individuality vs. Collectivism  Theme Icon
Repression of Desire  Theme Icon
When D-503 comes to, he has a cut on his finger. He feels around in the dark and finds a handle, which opens into a long corridor lined with lamps. It reminds him of a cave. He walks toward voices he hears and runs into the skinny doctor. The doctor brings I-330 to him and D-503 is elated. He tells her he couldn’t stand her absence any longer and tells her about his sickness, his soul, and his temporary death. The doctor leaves D-503 and I-330 alone, and D-503 writes that she “plunged a sharp, sweet needle into my heart.” They walk together.
When D-503 tells I-330 he couldn’t bear her absence any longer, he indirectly admits to her—and to himself—that it was his repressed desire to see her that motivated his decision to walk to the Ancient House. When I-330 “plunge[s] a sharp, sweet needle into [D-503’s] heart,” it symbolizes that she is further corrupting him and his loyalty to the One State.
Themes
Individuality vs. Collectivism  Theme Icon
Alienation Theme Icon
Repression of Desire  Theme Icon
D-503 regains consciousness in the Ancient House. I-330 is still with him and implies she wants to see him at 16:00 tomorrow. In retrospect, D-503 is unsure whether the day’s events actually happened or if they were merely a figment of his imagination. At work the next day, the Second Builder tells him the cut on his finger is from accidentally touching the polishing wheel, further contributing to D-503’s uncertainty.
D-503 has to question whether that day’s events actually happened because he is unwilling to believe how swiftly and completely I-330 is corrupting his worldview. His confusion is also the result of his growing alienation from the One State and from his former, subservient self.
Themes
Individuality vs. Collectivism  Theme Icon
Alienation Theme Icon
Repression of Desire  Theme Icon
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