There has been an inconclusive debate whether Zamyatin’s novel “We” and Orwell’s “1884” differ or have much in common with each other. Obviously, both novels contain a description of repressive, totalitarian society, and victims of that repression. Like “1984”, the events of “We” take place in a different time period than the time the novel is actually written. In both “We” and “1984”, the protagonists deal with a rebellion spirit against the rationalized and mechanized world they live in. Furthermore, in Zamyatin’s novel, the citizens of One State utopia lose their individuality by being differentiated and named only with numbers, similar to the citizens of Orwell’s Oceania, who have no individual thoughts (Ingle, 37-41). However, some people argue that in the case of “1984” and “We”, the similarities almost end here. In this paper, the discussion centers on the comparison of the main characters of the novels in terms of journey, rebellious actions, and their language control in order to find a connection between them.
A close look on the data indicates that the analysis of these two books reveals that there are many differences between “1984” and “We”, and that these differences may lead to different interpretations. This is clearly illustrated by the fact that Winston Smith seriously differs in one respect from D-503. The fact is that while D-503 was brought up under the One State and, thus, has no memory of any other conditions of living, Smith has vague recollections of a time when the ruling Party was not in power. Therefore, his desire to seek a better world, a bright world without the authoritarianism of the all-seeing Party is more understandable than the actions of Zamyatin’s D-503. Obviously, D-503’s rebellious actions prove the dystopian thesis that while socialization is working, it is not able to smother completely the human aspiration for freedom. While Smith is not torn between loyalty to the Big Brother and disobedience, D-503 shows the real power of both natural desire for freedom and socialization, through precisely this struggle. Undoubtedly, he loves the One State throughout the entire novel (Wegner, 66-67). His sincere affection for the One State is shown in his reverent references to the mathematically and systematically perfect life of the One State. Thus, he is constantly torn between his budding “disease” of irrationality and disobedience and his usual loyalty to the One State.
Secondly, it should be noted that, through his job, Winston Smith is able to see that the Party is based on exploitation and lies and therefore can see that Big Brother is a big evil. Unfortunately, D-503 has no such exposure and have no possibilities to know the true nature of the One State. One more way in which the main characters show their attitude toward their governments is based on their relations to their jobs. In the case of Smith, he has the specific duty of “rectifying” different news items in the Times in order to make the predictions of Big Brother appear correct. He realizes that he is changing the truth and becomes more aware of the moral weakness of the Party. Although Smith’s job is relatively low-level and requiring little of him intellectually, it forces him to confront the hypocrisy of Big Brother. Evidently, D-503’s inner conflict and his love of the One State are also brought out by his job. He is working as the builder of the Integral, a title to which he proudly and frequently refers. Furthermore, he has also been assigned to write a paper on the advantages of unfreedom. Clearly, that such a job combination requires a high level of creativity as well as a great deal of mathematical skill. His poetic creativity and mathematical inclination are demonstrated throughout “We”. Within D-503, this creative and mathematical ability oppose each other to form the cause of his conflict, which lies in his desire to maintain his social status as a “happy number” and the urge to assert his individuality.
It should be noted that the distinct conflicts in terms of their rebellion actions against the totalitarian regime of the main characters of Zamyatin’s “We” and Orwell’s “1984” are also shown not only through their personal attitudes toward their totalitarian government but also through their inner feelings toward themselves. In the case of Smith, he is extremely proud of the fact that he is significantly different from his peers, and individualist. This is clearly illustrated by the fact that he as a bold revolutionary writes confidently in his diary that freedom is the possibility to say that two plus two make four and if that is granted, all else would follow. On the other hand, D-503 is fearful of the fact that he is different to other members of the society, that he has a soul (Kern, 201). A striking example of this is shown in his description of him as a certainly sick person. He suggests that his inner condition can be an illness. Thus, D-503’s self-doubt evidently shows that the conflict in “We” is within the inner world of D-503, not between him and the totalitarian One State.
The data yielded by this study provides strong evidence that there is one more proof of the differing conflicts of the main characters, which relates to one important similarity between “We” and “1984”. It should be noted that although the conflicts themselves were distinct, their resolutions for the respective characters were the same. The fact is that both D-503 and Smith were eventually forced to conform to their local norms of behavior after their rebellion actions. In “1984”, the changed element was Winston Smith. It is shown by the last four words of the novel, where he states that he loves Big Brother. However, in the case of “We”, the changed element was the inner world of D-503, which was simply changed by the Operation. Thus, his attitude toward the Benefactor after this Operation was unchanged, and there obviously was never any serious conflict between the One State and him. Furthermore, his attitude toward himself became positive. He states that he feels well, entirely and absolutely well (Zamyatin, 117). Accordingly, the struggle of his conscience had finally ceased. Additionally, D-503 was more willing to accept his fate than Winston Smith was; his joy over the received news of the Operation is clearly shown in the text.
It is important to note that the display of the different conflicts of the main characters in terms of their journey, which relates to their self-concepts, is shown within the relationship D-503 and Winston Smith have with the main female character. Obviously, the very nature of Smith’s love affair with his beloved Julia is entirely different from D-503’s individual encounters with 1-330. There is no doubt that in the beginning of the affair, Winston Smith saw his relationships with Julia as a political move, or a blow against all-seeing Big Brother. This is evidently shown by Orwell, who states that their embrace had been a big battle, or the climax of a victory (Orwell, 92-93). Furthermore, he deepens the emotional stress by arguing that the relations between Smith and Julia were even as a blow struck against the ruling totalitarian Party, a real political act. This thought clearly underlines Smith’s self-confidence, sense of purpose in never-ending war against his government. On the other hand, D-503’s war against himself is clearly indicated by his relations with 1-330, which could be exactly described as a love-hate relationship (Kern, 81-83). It is obvious that he is strongly drawn to her because her inner spirit of non-conformity and riot strongly attracts his everyday mathematical researches. Needless to say that his mathematical self is equally strongly repelled by her hostility toward the One State. Therefore, he has a feeling of guilt by betraying his patriotic feeling and the One State because of this affair, thus yet another aspect of D-503’s internal struggle is revealed.
It is important to mention that the comparison of the main characters of the novels in terms of language control also show some significant differences in their perception of the world. In Orwell’s “1984” the language control is a serious process, where the special vocabulary is made in order to prevent people from thinking about illegal things. Language becomes a specific mind-control tool, with the ultimate goal of destruction of will and imagination. This new language is named as Newspeak, and it narrows the range of thought and shortens people’s memories. Therefore, it is ideal for a totalitarian system, in which the ruling party has to rely on a passive public, which lacks free thought and which has a great tolerance for governmental mistakes, both past and present. In “1984” the main hero tries to resist such system of the restriction, while in Zamyatin’s “We” D-503 cannot fight against his own way of thinking (Kern, 143-144). It happens because the mathematical logic seems to be the main method of mind control. It limits the possibility of the hero to use his fantasy, because everything is rational. Obviously, these two methods are quite different.
Taking everything into account, it should be concluded that in terms of journey, rebellion actions and language control, and through an analysis of the attitudes of the main characters of Zamyatin’s “We” and Orwell’s “1984” toward themselves, toward their governments, their job requirements, and their ultimate fates, it is apparent that the respective conflicts are quite distinct. In general, this difference in conflicts in these novels makes Orwell’s basic message much more pessimistic than Zamyatin’s one. Orwell tries to argue in 1984 that, when a person decisively expresses his human right to exist as a freethinking independent individual, he has no chance to survive in a totalitarian society. On the other hand, the example of D-503 puts forth the idea that, even when the slightest hint of human individuality exists, a government that attempts to control entirely its citizens is doomed. Obviously, the messages of “We” and “1984” are especially relevant today, as many researches debate whether or not global society is becoming an Oceana or One State (Gottlieb, 175-178).
Gottlieb, Erika. 2001. Dystopian Fiction East and West: Universe of Terror and Trial. Montreal: MQUP Publishing. Print.
Ingle, Stephen. 2006. The Social and Political Thought of George Orwell: A Reassessment. New York: Routledge Publishing. Print.
Kern, Gary. 1988. Zamyatin’s We: a collection of critical essays. Ann Arbor: Ardis. Print.
Orwell, George. 1977. 1984: Novel. New York: Signet Classic. Print.
Wegner, Phillip. 2002. Imaginary Communities: Utopia, the Nation, and the Spatial Histories of Modernity. Oakland: University of California Press. Print.
Zamyatin, Yevgeniy. 1993. We. London:Penguin Classics. Print.