Are there any dominant religious beliefs of the culture in the novel We by Yevgeny Zamyatin? If so, how do they appear in the text? Along these lines, discuss any dominant philosophical ideals...

Are there any dominant religious beliefs of the culture in the novel We by Yevgeny Zamyatin? If so, how do they appear in the text? Along these lines, discuss any dominant philosophical ideals reflected in the text.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Zamyatin describes a very complex understanding of dominant religious beliefs in We.  On one hand, there is not a formal and dominant set of orthodoxy that would constitute as religious beliefs.  The Benefactor and the One State are not substantiated based on religious spiritual exploration.  The element of rational planning reflects the lack of a dominant religion.  Ideas such as commissioning work in the daytime "so that work is performed more efficiently during day hours," the regulation of human activities in accordance to the Table of Hours, and the collective political expression are elements where a dominant religion is not fully expressed.  One can make the argument that rationality is its own religion in the state, but the idea of "dominant religious beliefs" lends itself to envisioning a traditional spiritual structure. The exploration of identity which takes place in the One State setting is not one where a traditionally dominant religious set of beliefs takes place:

I am aware of myself. And, of course, the only things that are aware of themselves and conscious of their individuality are irritated eyes, cut fingers, sore teeth. A healthy eye, finger, tooth might as well not even be there. Isn't it clear that individual consciousness is just sickness?

In this construction, there is no spiritual element in which individuals submit their own subjectivity.  Rather, there is the authoritarian structure of the One State.  The identification of what constitutes happiness is not a traditionally religious notion.

I think that one of the most dominant philosophical ideals that is reflected in the text is the struggle between individual and collective entity. The emphasis on conformity is an extension of the rational approach that the state takes towards its citizens.  This is enhanced with the emphasis on external control of citizens, complete with the Great Operation, designed to create submissiveness within the students.  The dynamic that helps to form the arc of characterization in the novel is an exploration of individuality and conformity.  While D503 becomes subsumed by the larger and collective notion of social good, O-90's delivery of her and his child outside of the Green Wall represents how individuality can present itself even in the most oppressive or controlling of conditions.  This philosophical understanding explores the ideal of individual freedom in the midst of social conformist notions of the good. 

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