Characters Discussed


D-503, the narrator and the protagonist, a mathematician and builder of the spaceship Integral. At first, D-503 is a faithful follower of the Benefactor, the leader of a futuristic society, the One State. D-503 blindly believes that the One State is a just society, that individual freedom is a burdensome remnant of the distant past, and that the numbers, the inhabitants of the One State, live and work best in a collective state of contentment rather than happiness. He is happy to contribute to the export of the One State’s ideas, by way of the Integral, to other planets. His metamorphosis begins when he meets, and falls in love with, a female number, I-330, who harbors dangerous ideas of individuality and personal freedom. He even promises to place the spaceship at her disposal in her efforts to topple the government of the One State. D-503 discovers, to his horror, that he has developed a soul (anathema in the materialistic, totally rational society of the One State); the hair growth on his hands is another indication of the suppressed, primitive side of his nature. He changes his mind at the last moment, after discovering that I-330 does not really love him but only wants to use him and the spaceship. D-503 is an ironic caricature of an intellectual and a scientist who unquestioningly serves a totalitarian ruler, believing that the ruler is right in creating a collective frame of mind and in basing everything on a rational basis, excluding all emotions and spiritual values. D-503’s wavering and an almost complete conversion, or a betrayal of reason, indicate the vulnerability of such convictions and the indestructibility of “the other half” of the human psyche, even after hundreds of years of brainwashing.


I-330, the woman with whom D-503 falls in love, a leader of the revolution. As the letter in her name hints, I-330 stands for individuality, infinity, and irrationality: individuality in protest against the...

(The entire section is 820 words.)

The Characters

We portrays the psychological development of the narrator, D-503, as he struggles to integrate reason and emotion through the assistance of I-330, whose Latin letter I symbolically suggests both individuality and integration. D-503 realizes the necessity for integration when I-330 takes him beyond the Green Wall, and he discovers hairy, primitive creatures representing the emotional part of the human personality which the totally rational citizens of the One State have forgotten: “Who are they? The half we have lost? H2 and O? And in order to get H2O...the two halves must unite.” As a mathematician, D-503 lives exclusively by reason until he discovers strong, irrational forces within himself—symbolically represented by his hairy hands, which relate him to the primitives of the forest. Yevgeny Zamyatin’s repeated mention of D-503’s hairy hands functions as a leitmotif and represents Zamyatin’s method of individualizing his characters by focusing on a single physical trait which suggests the essence of that character’s personality. In his essay “Zakulizy” (“Backstage”), Zamyatin describes his characteristic technique of concentrating on “the essence, the extract, the synthesis, revealed to the eye within one-hundredth of a second.”

A visual leitmotif associated with I-330 is her furrowed brow suggestive of an X, representing the unknown. It is the unknown which both attracts and frightens D-503 in his encounter with I-330. The X on I-330’s brow disturbs him,...

(The entire section is 616 words.)