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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 229

We is a first-person narrative that takes place in the 29th century. Its protagonist is D-503, an engineer and mathematician, who lives in an authoritarian city called the One State. He builds a ship that allows travelers to visit other worlds and rule over free people. He drafts a diary that explains to the locals why they need to be subjugated. In the diary, D-503 invokes "we" as a collective term to describe his city's mission of dominating so-called lower civilizations.

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The ruling force known as the Benefactor founded the city after winning a war that lasted two hundred years. Within the society, leaders control nearly every aspect of a person's life except their sexual activity and creative time. Authorities use rationality and order to preserve societal stability.

As D-503 is recording in his diary, he begins to think for himself and feel emotions. He also falls in love with I-330—a female revolutionary who stirs passion and complex emotions within him. This complicates D-503's relationship with his lover, O-90.

I-330 convinces D-503 to participate in a revolt against the state, but they ultimately fail. The state executes I-330, and it also lobotomizes D-503 to ensure his complacency. D-503 is no longer a threat to the regime. A pregnant O-90 flees the city to live among the free people, where she will raise her and D-503's child.

Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 696

We is a first-person narrative written as a diary by D-503, a mathematician and builder of the Integral, a spaceship destined to travel to other planets to subjugate the inhabitants who may still be living in the primitive condition of freedom. The diary is to be carried on the space mission and is addressed to the unknown beings of these planets in order to explain and justify their subjugation. The structure of the novel is based on forty diary entries which describe a futuristic society of the twenty-ninth century in which all citizens live in a single city-state called the One State, under the authoritarian rule of the Benefactor and the watchful eye of a secret police force known as the Guardians. The society developed as a result of the Two Hundred Years’ War, in which the city triumphed over the country, and has separated itself from the primitive world of the ancients by the protective Green Wall.

The inhabitants of the One State live in a rationally planned society in which all activities are programmed according to the Table of Hours. The only human activity which has not been completely organized is the sexual act. Citizens are allowed free unscheduled time each day, referred to as the Personal Hours, in which they are allowed to draw the curtains of their glass rooms and engage in sexual or creative artistic activity. Love and marriage have been eliminated. Any citizen may register to have sexual relations with any other citizen by obtaining a pink coupon. Conformity of thought, dress, and behavior is rigidly enforced. All citizens wear blue-gray uniforms and are identified by a number. Any number who deviates from the norms of the One State is arrested and publicly executed by the Machine of the Benefactor. Each year, the Benefactor is unanimously reelected in a mass public meeting referred to as The Day of Unanimity.

Initially a loyal supporter of the One State, D-503 gives the title “We” to his diary to emphasize that he is recording not his individual thought, but the collective wisdom of the One State. As D-503 records events, however, he begins to describe his own personal thoughts and feelings. The diary reflects D-503’s gradual change in consciousness as he begins to question the rational principles imposed by the One State on its citizens and rediscovers his lost individuality represented by the emotional part of his personality, which the One State has repressed. The catalyst for D-503’s change in attitude is his encounter with I-330, a temptress and secret revolutionary with whom he falls in love. D-503’s passionate attraction for I-330 awakens primitive feelings of jealousy and irrational urges, causing him mental anguish as his rationally controlled existence begins to disintegrate. His developing relationship with I-330 leads to a crisis in his relationship with his sexual partner, O-90, whom he shares with his friend, the poet R-13.

As D-503 rediscovers his emotional, irrational self, he is recruited by I-330 in a plot to seize the Integral and revolt against the One State. The plot is discovered; the revolutionaries, led by I-330, attempt a coup, but they are arrested. The One State views the revolt as an illness which can be cured by subjecting all numbers to the Great Operation, a type of lobotomy which surgically removes the center of imagination from the brain in order to restore all citizens to a condition of childlike obedience. D-503 is summoned by the Benefactor, forced to undergo the lobotomy, and watches passively as I-330 is tortured and condemned to be exterminated by the Benefactor’s Machine. D-503, once uncertain and rebellious, is now submissive and loyal. He concludes his diary, reaffirming his belief in the principle of a rationally controlled society and the ultimate victory of the One State over the revolutionaries, for “Reason must prevail.” Yet the ultimate outcome of the revolution is left in doubt. Hope for the future is represented by O-90, who, having become pregnant with D-503’s child, has escaped beyond the Green Wall to give birth and to rear the child among primitive creatures, the last representatives of humankind still living in a state of freedom.

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