Group 2: We Podcast Questions

[Posted by Kate]

Throughout the novel, we see two primary female characters: I-330 and O-90. Zamyatin presents the two with very contrasting descriptions that highlight two very different ideas of femininity. What kind of femininity does each character represent? How does D-503 respond to each, and what does that suggest about Zamyatin’s commentary on femininity? Choose 1-2 passages to support your response.

4 Replies to “Group 2: We Podcast Questions”

  1. I-330 is the equivalent of the femme fatale, twisting men around her fingers and getting them to do her bidding. D-503 hates her initially, claiming “the woman had a disagreeable effect upon me, like an irrational· component of an equation which you cannot eliminate”. But her charms are irresistible, and he ends up falling for her. For even if she truly loves him, that is also an act of rebellion against the State. D-503 hates how he feels about her because it is something unpleasant to feel, at least to him. He doesn’t know much about emotions so experiencing this is a foreign field to him which he does not like as he likes to have precise answers. Like the time that D-503 “noticed a bottle filled with something poisonously green, and two small glasses with thin stems. In the corner of her mouth she had a very thin paper tube; she was ejecting smoke formed by the burning of that ancient smoking substance whose name I do not now remember”. That passage actually shows a lot about her character. There she is engaging in the forbidden practices of smoking and drinking and judging by D-503’s response to her, she does a very good job of it.
    O-90 is all softness and gentility. “She has a round soft dimple on her wrist. Children have such dimples”. In the book, she’s presented as very happy and open, at least at first. She’s quite loyal to the State, but D-503 speaks of her in kind and gentle terms. This is intended in part to contrast her with I-330. Her rebel desires are kept secret, even when she becomes pregnant turning her into an enemy of the State. Procreating, a common human urge, is forbidden by the State. The contrast between O-90 and I-330 is made clear by Zamyatin to demonstrate the two ideas of women he has. He believes they can either be rebellious or adapt to the rules while at the same time want to have a mind of their own. 0-90 is loyal to the State but despite that she still wants more for herself regardless of the forbidden rules. I-330 on the other hand, is very clear about her opposition to their way of living and her actions accord to her thinking. Zamyatin believes that women can be fearless and reach for what they want.

  2. In the novel, there are two primary female characters D-503 sees and responds to each in very different ways. D-503 first describes I-330 in Record 2 as seeing “the sharp angle her brows made when she lifted them towards her temples – like the sharp horns of an X, and for some reason I got confused again. I looked to the right, to the left … and … She was to my right – slender, sharp, tough, and springy as a whip: I-330 (now I saw her number).” D-503 then describes the figure to his left, who “was O, completely different, everything about her round, with the babyish crease on her arm.” This explains that the two primary female characters display femininity is different ways. I-330 represents femininity in a way that shows women can be patriarchal and have characteristics as being sharp and strong rather than representing femininity in a way which was usually seen. This is seen by O-90 because O-90 is childish, soft, and gentle. O-90 represents how women were viewed in the 19th century.

  3. D-503 responds to I-330 and O-90 as being confused, he does not understand how the two women can be completely different and represent two different views on femininity. I believe Zamyatin did this to show women can be both strong and gentle but are capable of just as much. I believe these views were needed during the time this novel was published.

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