Zamyatin’s “We” and the Garden of Eden

May 23, 2019 by Essay Writer

In Yevgeny Zamyatin’s dystopian novel We, the reader sees what was supposed to be a utopian society. From the characters’ painfully regimented daily lives to the clandestine desire to break free from the monotony of OneState, we see that not all is perfect; freedom does not create happiness, and happiness does not create a utopian society. Zamyatin uses many literary allusions in his novel, especially involving the Bible. Throughout We, there is a profound connection between OneState and the Bible, especially Genesis 1-4. We is Zamyatin’s response to his personal experiences during the Russian revolutions of 1905 and 1917, as well as his life throughout World War I. The novel is in the form of a diary, telling the story of D-503, a number who lives in utopian-seeming society of OneState. Through his diary, D-503 chronicles his strict daily regiment and his misadventures with the resistance group Mephi. Throughout the novel, Zamyatin makes many allusions and connections to the Bible, most commonly with Genesis 1-4, the story of Adam and Eve. The author develops a structure of the totalitarian state that can be paralleled to the Garden of Eden and the price people pay in their hunt for utopia. In We, we have the Benefactor as the Godly figure, the Green Wall as the Garden of Eden, OneState as Paradise, I-330 as Eve, D-503 as Adam, and S-4711 as the serpent. There is also a reference to Mephistopheles (Satan) in the form of the resistance group Mephi. OneState does appear to be an atheist society. All of the members of OneState put all of their faith in the Benefactor as the omnipotent figure; he knows all, he sees all, and he has the power to end a number’s life. The Benefactor of OneState is equal to the God of Christianity. God created man; the Benefactor created OneState. God knows all, sees all, hears all; because of the glass structure of OneState, the Benefactor is able to know all, see all, and hear all. The glass world of OneState also represents the nakedness and absence of individuality of the members of the society, which can be seen in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. The people of OneState are constantly being watched by the Benefactor and by each other. In the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis 1-4, they are constantly under the scrutiny of their creator, God. OneState is seen as Paradise, like the Garden in the story of Adam and Eve. OneState is free from all forms of unhappiness; perceivably, the only way to avoid potential controversy is to be completely oblivious to other ways of thinking. All of the numbers that are living in OneState have been brainwashed, in a sense, to believe that how they are living is truly the ultimate utopia. Most of them (with the exception of the resistance group) do not know what true happiness is; they believe what the Benefactor and the other members of the society say make them happy. This is directly connected to Genesis 3: When Adam and Eve eat the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they gained the knowledge that they were actually naked. The Bible states:Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked […] But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ He said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked’[…] He said ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’ (Genesis 3.7-12)Adam and Eve did not know that they were naked until they ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and then they were self-conscious and therefore exiled from the Garden of Eden by God. Now, this doesn’t mean that the only possible way to live in a utopian society is to be completely ignorant to your surroundings, but most often people in utopias are revealed as being ignorant in some way. The numbers in We are seen as “Not men but some kind of tractors in human form” (Zamyatin, 182). They just go about their regimented daily routine and do not stop to think about what they are actually doing, why they are doing what they are doing, or how it truly makes them feel (happy or unhappy). In his diary, D-503 writes:The people longed for someone to tell them, once and for all, the meaning of happiness, and then to bind them to it with a chain. What is it we’re doing right now, if not that? The ancient dream of paradise…Remember: in paradise they’ve lost all knowledge of desires, pity, love—they are the blessed, with their imaginations surgically removed (the only reason why they are blessed)—angels, the Slaves of God. (Zamyatin, 207)The numbers in OneState do not know definitively whether they are happy or not, but because the Benefactor says they are happy, they perceive that they are. In OneState, ignorance is truly blissful.The numbers that live in OneState all go along with the daily way of life, except for a select few. The members of the resistance group Mephi do not believe that the society they are living in is a utopia and they are not content with just sitting around and going along with it. The chief instigator that we see is a female number named I-330. I-330 is the equivalent of Eve if we are looking at We in a biblical sense. Eve is a very cunning and smart woman, and she has Adam under her “spell”; she convinces him to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam confesses to God that it was, indeed, Eve who gave him the food: “And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” (Genesis 3.12) In We, we see that D-503 (who represents Adam) is easily persuaded by the things that I-330 says and does, even though he detests her for a good portion of the story. I-330 doesn’t even have to state directly what she wants D-503 to do; she makes implications and his actions follow. I-330 has the same hold on D-503 that Eve had on Adam.When the Mephi break through the Green Wall of OneState, the liberators show the numbers of OneState what they had missing. After the numbers were ultimately given freedom to do what they had always been wishing to do, they did not want those freedoms taken away from them; it made them happy. This is also like the story of Adam and Eve: after Adam and Eve ate the apple from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they gained knowledge and they finally knew, not only that they were naked, but also what pain was. The only way for Adam and Eve to re-enter paradise was through physical death; when they released their mortal selves and let go of the torments of human life they were brought into heaven. This is similar to the characters in We because they achieve this “second Eden” by giving themselves up for the “Great Operation”, in which they have their imaginations removed from their brain, essentially killing their individualities and personalities (which is, after all, what makes you you). There are many literary allusions throughout Zamyatin’s novel, but the most prominent references we see are linked to the Bible. It is easy to see the connections between the dystopian society and characters in We and the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis 1-4. This connection shows the importance of knowing what makes you happy and not letting others dictate what you do in life.Works Cited:Zamyatin, Yevgeny Ivanovich. We (Twentieth-Century Classics). New York: Penguin Classics, 1993. Print.”Genesis 3 American Standard Version.” American Standard Version Bible. Web. 23 Sept. 2009. .

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