Yevgeny Zamyatin

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Themes and Colors
Individuality vs. Collectivism  Theme Icon
Alienation Theme Icon
Fear of the Unknown  Theme Icon
Repression of Desire  Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in We, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Individuality vs. Collectivism

We is set in the distant future in the One State, an urban, highly surveilled regime ruled over by an authoritarian, God-like dictator known as the Benefactor. Life in the One State is governed according to the philosophy that the collective whole’s well-being outweighs the interests of individuals; thus, the One State robs its citizens of all identifying characteristics. The One State regards its citizens (referred to as “ciphers”) not as individual beings with…

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When D-503 meets and becomes infatuated with I-330, she introduces him to a new way of living and a new way of seeing the world. Soon, D-503 finds that he is no longer capable of relating to the other ciphers of the One State who march in synchronized step, engage in passionless, predictable sexual relationships, and go about their days blindly accepting the State’s unconditional control over their lives. Despite his burning desire to…

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Fear of the Unknown

The One State offers extreme, mechanized rationality in place of free will as the solution to navigating the world’s unpredictable forces. Everything in the One State is governed exclusively by an adherence to rigid logic and mathematical claims, and ciphers’ daily lives are organized according to highly regulated scheduling. The One State values absolute subservience to a governing power, math and predictability as the path toward happiness, and it indoctrinates its citizens to perceive the…

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Repression of Desire

Many of the characters in We seem subservient and submissive to the demands of the One State. Beneath their passive exteriors, however, they fight a perpetual, invisible battle between acting as the One State dictates they ought to, and acting to fulfill their own repressed desires. Despite characters’ best efforts, these repressed desires come to the surface and cause them to behave rebelliously. Zamyatin offers that while prohibiting undesirable behaviors and desires through repression might…

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