We Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

X (Symbol)

In mathematical equations, X is used to symbolize an unknown variable. In We, X represents irrationality, which cannot be explained through reason. The letter is heavily associated with I-330: D-503 often describes the sharp lines of her face as forming an X. He also considers other members of the rebellion--S-4711 and R-13--to contain the same X-factor. Throughout the novel, the revolutionaries embrace the irrational side of human nature: they live with their emotions and risk their lives.

Hairy hands (Symbol)

D-503 is embarrassed of his uniquely hairy hands, describing them as a "holdover from the savage era" before the rule of reason (23). The protagonist's hands symbolize his own irrational nature. When D-503 acts in an irrational manner, the narration focuses on his hands. For instance, when he believes he sees I-330 and runs to protect her from the Guardians, D-503 imagines himself as a "hairy-handed savage" (123). Despite his protestations, D-503 is not purely rational, but rather fully human. His hands remind both the protagonist and readers of that fact.

The Wall (Symbol)

A glass wall wraps all the way around OneState, separating the city from the wilderness outside. The wall represents the citizens' alienation from their irrational selves. Just as it physically separates D-503 from the wild, the government spiritually separates him from his own emotions, desires, and imagination. Both divisions are artificial. The separation runs so deep that D-503 is astonished when he encounters the natural world beyond the wall; fascinated by the grass beneath his feet. Likewise, D-503 fails to recognize his irrational desires, projecting them onto another persona.

The Garden of Eden (Allegory)

OneState serves as an allegory of the Biblical Garden of Eden, satirizing its view of paradise in the process. Like the Garden of Eden, OneState is home to innocent and child-like residents who submit completely to the authority of a supreme ruler. In both spaces knowledge is considered verboten or evil, but a woman--Eve, I-330--eats from this forbidden fruit and convinces her male companion--Adam, D-503--to follow her lead. Yet OneState is depicted as a horrifying system, implying that the power dynamics and enforced ignorance of Christian paradise are problematic. Zamyatin suggests the Garden of Eden may not be Utopia at all.

Mathematics (Motif)

We routinely invokes mathematics. D-503, the narrator, worships the ability of mathematics to describe the world with perfect certainty. He strives to "integrate completely the colossal equation of the universe" (4). He cheerfully explains the utilitarian moral calculus of OneState. Yet the subject D-503 relies upon has its own irrational elements. D-503 is panicked when presented with the concept of √-1, and cowers before the idea of infinity. I-330 invokes this irrational strain of mathematics to support her own philosophy: since numbers are infinite, so are revolutions. Mathematics is used to justify and explain both positions.