A Freudian Psychological Analysis of "We" by Yevgeny Zamyatin

In Yevgeny Zamyatin’s dystopian novel, We, D-503 experiences a transformation that opposes his former self when he spends time with I-330. Beforehand, D-503 is led by his superego, a rational, convention-valued state. Next, I-330 shapes D-503 to be guided by his id. Finally, D-503 centers to his ego where the Great Operation comes of him.

At the beginning of the novel, D-503 is aware of the rules and guidelines set by the One State and is perfectly content with them. He enjoys having a decisive, definitive life, even remarking that “[He] will attempt to record . . . what [he thinks]—or, more exactly, what we think” (Zamyatin 4). D-503’s obsession with the conglomerate – the united, resolute population of the One State – instead of noting his own work as distinctive or having any other sort of character or individuality highlights D-503’s fondness of the One State and attachment to the system. This is mirrored from him being led by his superego, a societal value-preserving state that D-503 does not want to dismiss. Moreover, when he first meets I-330, he describes that “No one is ever ‘one,’ but always ‘one of’” (Zamyatin 8). D-503’s proprietary understanding of this stems directly from the One State, as this is how it has always been for D-503, in media res, so why change customary societal rules that is supposedly accepted by the population of the One State? It is because D-503’s drive is from his superego, and his perpetual unwillingness to change what is accepted and traditional for these people is due to that. Furthermore, when I-330 showed D-503 the alcohol, he tells her that “anyone who poisons themselves” by drinking or smoking “will be shown no mercy by the One State” (Zamyatin 49). This is a rule I-330 most likely already understands, yet D-503 hopes to reinforce what I-330 is missing – an id. Nonetheless, he is ultimately reminded of the brutality of the Benefactor, and again D-503 sways towards his superego, desiring to conform to the standard, that is until I-330 pours alcohol down his throat.

And at that exact point in time, D-503’s duality is featured, and he begins to form an id. D-503 first hints at this transformation when he describes that he saw two of himself – the former, cipher D-503, and the other “[crawling] out whole, the shell is cracked open . . . shattered” (Zamyatin 50). This demonstrates D-503’s shift from relying on his superego to his id, characterizing a new being that is formed as a result. This result expresses the dichotomy that D-503 faces, his former superego conflicting with the newer, yet prominent, id. The development of the id is also shown when D-503 hits R-13 for carrying I-330 at the Day of the One Vote. D-503 recalls “a feeling of liberation, a lightness in my whole body” (Zamyatin 127) which contrasts to what he would have felt before being transformed into having a greater id. This exhibits that D-503 is driven by his id more in the story after meeting I-330 and ingesting alcohol, than when he didn’t know of I-330 and was driven more by his superego. R-13 is a good friend of D-503, yet appears to be more indifferent to society as he made the choice to attack R-13 in favor of I-330’s freedom. Another event that shows D-503’s id after falling in love with I-330 is indicated when I-330 insists that D-503 choose the Great Operation or her. D-503 responds “I can’t go on without you, I can’t . . .” (Zamyatin 162). D-503’s choosing to continue with I-330 rather than submit to the Great Operation sponsored by the One State who D-503 formerly adored is contingent upon the development of what drives him most at this point – his id. D-503’s pleasure principle with I-330 is stronger than his submission to societal conventions and values (id > superego) because of the transformation that D-503 experienced. Just seconds later after this conversation happened, D-503 looks out the window, sees people in their uniforms, and thinks “I don’t want to be saved . . .” (Zamyatin 163) – “saved” as in submission to the One State and the Great Operation. D-503’s indifference to the One State mirrors the values of his id, ignoring his superego, instead wanting to go against the grain instead of compliance with the One State as he always has done in the past. Additionally, the pinnacle moment that shows D-503’s refusal to comply with the One State was when he was hailed at the MEPHI celebration as the Builder of the Integral, hoisted up over hundreds of people in honor. He “felt . . . [himself], a separate thing, a world . . . the number one” (Zamyatin 138). The diction depersonalizes D-503, separating his being as an entity unlike anything that he has ever seen before. The obsession of unity and solidarity is shattered as D-503’s point of view changes from this experience, not to mention his ever-growing id as he gets involved with MEPHI through his relationship with I-330. The growing pleasure principle and indifference to follow the One State’s laws will lead to a death drive in D-503 because of his id, and he employs his ego to mediate the two.

D-503’s ego shines after his world forces him to balance the powers of the One State, I-330, and MEPHI. D-503 cries out “Oh, if only I had . . . smashed myself . . . to smithereens . . . [or] found myself . . . behind the wall . . . if only I had actually never returned here again” (Zamyatin 172). Here, he is regretting some of the decisions he has made, contemplating what life would be like if he had done this or not that, and this is a result of his ego driving D-503. In an attempt to balance the life of submission to the One State (superego) and I-330 and MEPHI (id), the ego attempts to center the two, yet causes panic and anxiety in D-503, only wishing what for what he does not have. He is mirroring exactly what people driven by an ego do, negotiating with society’s demands, trying to centralize the needs of the One State and also I-330. Moreover, when D-503 walked outside after hearing the news that the Wall got blown up, his first thought was “Who is ‘we’? Who am I?” (Zamyatin 192). That would be a completely different reaction from his superego or his id because it is merely an existential question when D-503 is controlled by his ego. A definitive answer from his superego (“We are the One State,” for example), or his id (“You are the One State”) would result as he knows where he belongs when driven by those two. However, the ego mediator fails to understand where he belongs and causes D-503 to be pulled between the One State and I-330, or his superego and id. Furthermore, D-503 exclaims “Everything had been decided and tomorrow morning I would do it. It was just like deciding to kill yourself . . .” (Zamyatin 197). This is D-503’s solution to his growing ego. The way he arbitrates the opposing drives he experiences is by complete submission to the Great Operation. The result of the huge drive of his id from I-330 was a death drive, and after a viable formation of his ego did D-503 realize that this was the best, and only, outcome. Another transformation to absolute automaton, an instrument to those who are allowed to keep the gift of life.

D-503 is at first led by his superego, wanting (and enjoying) the laws of the One State in place, hating the idea of individuality or separation, and following societal conventions and values. Soon after meeting I-330 does D-503 develop a larger id that transforms D-503 into exploring his pleasure principle through alcohol and I-330, having a greater disregard for the One State and the Benefactor, which ultimately leads to a death drive in D-503, where his ego takes over. D-503’s ego attempts to mediate the desires and drives of his superego and id, and it tears at him, resulting in submission to the Great Operation by the One State.

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