What are the different conceptions of the body in We?

In We, the body is conceptualized in various ways that relate to the philosophy of the One State and to the thinking of the protagonist, D-503. The entire population is seen as an organism, but in his attempts to break free of the state, D-503 equates himself to a microscopic organic entity, a microbe which, if present in sufficient numbers, can harm or destroy the larger collective body of the state.

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The most fundamental sense of the "body" in the dystopia of Zamyatin's We is that of the One State itself, or more precisely, its citizens, or "numbers," who collectively embody it. The leaders have created a society in which everyone must perform the same synchronized actions, getting up at the same time in the morning, going to work in step with the rest of the population, and observing strict rules for the timing of meals and even sexual activity. The society presents itself as a massive, unified body, most obviously on Unanimity Day and at public executions. When D-503 begins to experience wayward thoughts, he understands that he's violating and potentially harming the One State:

I am imprudent, I am sick, I have a soul, I am a microbe. But isn't blooming a sickness? Doesn't it hurt when a bud splits open? And don't you think spermatozoa are the most terrible of microbes? (p. 131, trans. Mirra Ginzburg)

On two levels, one metaphorical and one literal, the microscopic body is at the heart of the novel's theme. D-503 sees himself as a microbe with respect to the gigantic body of the state. But procreation, which begins with the literal "microbe" alluded to, is what will keep alive D-503's rebellion after he is personally destroyed. D-503 is caught between two women, O and I-330. Although I-330 is the one who has influenced him into rebelling against the society, O will be the one who bears his child. D-503, like the others upon whom the "Operation" is performed, is turned into a kind of android without will and imagination, but he will survive in the form of his offspring.

On another plane, though a related one, the focus on the physical body of the individual is significant throughout We. D-503 is embarrassed by the shagginess of his hands. It represents a primitive stage of human development that the One State has presumably surpassed, likening him to the beings who live outside the Wall. The "hairiness" of these people's bodies, the ones who have somehow escaped the One State and continued to live in the wild after the conclusion of the Two Hundred Years' War, is symbolic of their freedom.

In We, many of the tropes familiar to readers of other, more widely read dystopian novels appear. Like those on the "Savage Reservation" in Brave New World and like the proles in 1984, the inhabitants of the realm beyond the Wall are the remnant of the old, pre-dystopian world. Huxley and Orwell (though Huxley claimed not to have read We before writing Brave New World) also conceptualize the anti-utopian state as made up of individuals forced to conform and to act as a unified body. When the protagonists rebel in each of these books, they become a kind of infection which the state then destroys. In We, the body as a whole is to be cured when all its cells are subjected to the Operation, a kind of lobotomy that physically eliminates the part of the brain enabling non-conformity. The individual's body is thus physically changed, but, as D-503's reference to procreation indicates, it's by means of literally microscopic bodies that, perhaps, human will is to survive beyond the Wall.

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