What are some of the literary devices (include examples from the book please) in novel We by Yevgeny Zamyatin (translation by Natasha Randall 2006)?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Much like Ann Rand's dystopian novel Anthem, the society of We is also one that emphasizes collective identity. And, in another parallel, the collective personality threatens to overwhelm the individual in struggles over conformity. 

“The only means of ridding man of crime is ridding him of freedom” (an example of literary parallelism, a recurrent device that entails the syntactical similarity of different parts of a sentence).

This novel is written in the form of a diary that begins with "We"; however, as the pages of this diary are filled, the individual "I" begins to break free as his emerging human emotions come into play. However, this individuality is dangerous to the state's control, so Engineer D-503 is given an operation. But 0-90, pregnant with D-503's child, breaks to freedom and lives among the primitives.

Certainly, the literary style of Zamyatin is full of literary artistry. Here, then, are other examples of literary devices at work in We:

  • Chiasmus (a literary device in which the order of the terms in the first of two parallel clauses is reversed in the second): "But I am ready, like every one, or almost everyone, of us. I am ready."
  • Paradox (A phrase or sentence that seems to be contradictory, but is actually true): "The text is me; and simultaneously not me"; "slow sweet pain"
  • Figure of speech (A phrase or sentence used in a non-literal sense to give added meaning): I feel my cheeks burn.
  • Imagery (the use of words that appeal to the senses) and Alliteration (the repetition of initial consonant sounds) and Allusion (a reference; here the "Ancients" are the peoples of the old world).

But then, the sky! Blue, untainted by a single cloud [visual imagery]...the Ancients [allusion] had such barbarous tastes given that their poets could have been inspired by such stupid, sloppy silly-lingering [alliteration with /s/] clumps of vapor.

  • Simile (a comparison of two unlike things or ideas, using "like" or "as)

...you looked at everything around you with such an inspired air, like mythical god on the seventh day of creation.

The novel We is a satire (writing that holds up to contempt the faults of a group) of the Communist leaders who followed the Bolshevik Revolution.

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