D-503 uses the mathematical variable “X” to convey unpredictability and unknowability throughout his records, and his choice to do so points to two crucial ideas. Firstly, it shows how heavily D-503 relies on math to quantify, relate to, and explain the world around him, especially things that are scary or unknown to him. Secondly, D-503 often relies on X when he cannot or will not find the words to explain what scares him. He seems almost unwilling to accept that there are unknowable or irrational things in the world that are beyond his ability to control. D-503 often associates X with I-330, whose intentions and internal thoughts are often a mystery to him. The first time D-503 encounters I-330, he observes “a kind of strange and irritating X to her, and [he] couldn’t pin it down, couldn’t give it any numerical expression.” I-330’s “X” irritates D-503 because, like irrational numbers in mathematics, it presents a problem that has no solution. Ultimately, I-330’s internal life is fully knowable only to herself and D-503 can only guess at what she is thinking and feeling. In this way, the possibilities of logic and rationality are limited in the face of the larger, unpredictable world.
The Variable X Quotes in We
And I don’t know—perhaps it was somewhere in her eyes or eyebrows—there was a kind of strange and irritating X to her, and I couldn’t pin it down, couldn’t give it a numerical expression
…Strange: I was writing today about the highest of heights in human history and all the while breathing the cleanest mountain air of thought, but, meanwhile, there were clouds and cobwebs and a cross, some kind of four-pawed X, inside me. Maybe it was my own paws, since they were in front of me on the table all this time—my shaggy paws. I don’t like talking about them and I don’t like them: they are evidence of the savage epoch. Could there actually be, within me—