We Metaphors and Similes

“Then she raised the blinds, lifted her eyes, and I saw the fire burning behind those windows” (31) (Metaphor)

D-503 describes the fire in I-330's eyes at the Ancient House. It strikes him that, unlike the glass buildings and furnishings of OneState, human beings are opaque, allowing them to hide their thoughts. He compares I-330 to an old-fashioned, brick building, in which only the windows offer a glimpse of the activities inside. When she raises her eyelids, or “blinds,” D-503 is astonished at the fire burning inside of her. Like fire, I-330 is passionate and anarchic, and, like fire, she destroys for the sake of destruction. D-503 is fearful of her destructive potential, but drawn to her like a moth to a flame.

“It’d be just the same as your sitting down in the chair next to your own bed, crossing your legs, and looking with some curiosity at yourself, your very own self, twisting and turning on that bed” (60) (Simile)

D-503 describes the act of writing as watching himself writhing on a bed. Throughout We, D-503 dissociates from his desires, emotions and imagination, dismissing it as the provenance of an irrational alter ego. He describes his irrational actions in the third person. Writing in his journal, the ultimate an act of self-reflection, forces D-503 to focus on the alter ego he has created. The "twisting and turning" suggests pain and desperation; experiencing emotions like jealousy, pity and love for the first time have left D-503 in an existential crisis.

“But just imagine now that some fire has softened this impenetrable surface and nothing skims along the top of it any longer—everything penetrates into it, inside, into that mirror world that we peer into with such curiosity, like children—and I assure you, children aren’t so dumb” (87) (Metaphor)

A doctor struggles to explain D-503's condition, namely that of having a soul. He describes normal OneState citizens as mirrors: cold, hard surfaces that reflect whatever falls on them. D-503's soul has transformed him into a melted, porous mirror, one that absorbs and feels the things that fall across it. In essence a soul allows a person to be affected by their environment; he feels emotions and experiences desires. The doctor further intimates that children's natural curiosity about mirrors is justified; it reflects a concern with the self. Like a child, D-503 is beginning to examine himself for the first time.

“All this in reality was an immensely delicate spiderweb, stretched to its limit and trembling, and at any moment it would snap and something beyond all imagining would happen…” (136) (Metaphor)

While admiring the grandeur of the Day of Unanimity ceremony, D-503 is struck by the realization that the machinery of totalitarianism is fragile. OneState, despite its propaganda to the contrary, is ephemeral, much like a delicate web. Indeed the revolutionaries prove its weakness soon after by refusing to vote for the Benefactor. Yet the spider web has other implications. D-503 describes the Benefactor as a "the wise white Spider" (136). This suggests the Benefactor is like a predatory spider, eager to trap unsuspecting insects in his insidious web, not the beneficent God that D-503 so slavishly describes.

“They extracted a kind of splinter from my head, and now my head is easy and empty” (224) (Metaphor)

When D-503 finally undergoes the operation, he is left an automaton, without emotions, desires or imagination. In his new ultra-logical state, D-503 describes the removal of his soul as extracting a splinter. Having a soul came with tremendous costs for D-503: he felt intense pain and dissatisfaction, acting in ways that disordered his carefully controlled world. Thus D-503 reasons that his soul was an irritant to be removed. What the robotic protagonist fails to understand is that he has ceased to be fully human. His thoughts are "easy and empty,” like the calculations of a machine.