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We Summary

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.

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

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

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...

(The entire section is 925 words.)