Repressive Governments in Zamiatin\'s We and Orwell\'s 1984

The Repressive Governments of Zamiatin\'s We and Orwell\'s 1984

Benjamin Bulloch

Thesis: Both Zamiatin\'s We and Orwell\'s 1984 have governments that repress actions and thoughts through the use of physical and psychological force.

I. Intro.
II. We\'s Government\'s Use of Psychological Force
A. Number system
B. Sexual Registration
III. 1984\'s Governments Use of Psychological Force
A. Newspeak
B. Doublethink
IV. Both Government\'s Use of Physical Force
A. Torture of Winston
B. Operation On Fancy
V. Conclusion

The Repressive Governments of Zamiatin\'s We and Orwell\'s 1984
Throughout time, people have wondered what happens when government gains complete control not only over people\'s actions, but over the thoughts that precede them. Is it even possible to gain such omnipotence over human nature that human beings will renounce all individuality? If such a society could exist, would human nature truly be conquered, or just subdued sufficiently that the will of the few could be contorted into the will of the general population? The British author Eric Blair, better known by his pen name George Orwell, and the Russian born Eugene Zamiatin both attempt to address these questions in their respective books 1984 and We.
These novels depict, ". . . mechanized societies whose citizens are deprived of freedom through physical and psychological conditioning." (Bloom 17) The amazing thing about these civilizations is that the majority of the citizenry, at least publicly, applauds the government\'s totalitarian actions. Both Zamiatin\'s We and Orwell\'s 1984 have governments that repress thought and action through the use of physical and physiological force.
One of the most visible ways the government of the United State is able to control the thought and actions of its citizens is by the use and abuse of a system by which each member of society receives a number at birth instead of given a name (Goldstein 54). The numbers are assigned according to sex and occupation. For example, D-503, the main character in We, is male, and is thus assigned a consonant for his prefix while his female partner, O-90, is assigned a vowel. As D-503 is an engineer, he receives a 5 as his first number. All state poets such as O-90 have numbers under 100. (Zamiatin 46). This use of numbers instead of names creates a sense of unity and oneness of purpose in the contented, complacent Numbers of the United State. "The most striking thing about the Numbers\' "names", is how easily they incorporate their assignment into their lives, and their contempt for the "old way" of naming." (Gregg 549)
The Numbers\' numbers are sewn onto their tunics called "unifs", front and back in large enough print that anyone, ". . .up to one hundred meters away can read your Number from any direction." (Zamiatin 123) While there are some advantages to having your name known by everybody, such an innovation would completely rob one of any privacy they have. This deprivation of privacy, and how happy the people are about it, demonstrates exactly how the Well Doer is able to subtlety take away other rights.
The most startling effect of the United State\'s control of all actions is their regulation governing the sexual act. "The United State, having mathematically conquered hunger, directed its attack against the second ruler of the world, against love." (Richards 547) The immortal Well Doer decreed over one thousand years prior to the current time of the novel that, "A Number may obtain a permit to use any other Number as a sexual product." (Zamiatin 22) This proclamation allowed any Number to file an application to enjoy the services of another without their knowledge or consent. The Number would receive a passbook by which he could visit the other Number and for fifteen minutes lower the curtains of his apartment.
The curtains normally stay wide open so that everyone can see inside at all times. Numbers are expected to watch each other for the most minute amount of impropriety, through the clear glass walls, floor, and ceiling of the apartments. Even this temporary lowering of the curtains doesn\'t completely conceal the activities of those inside. A closed circuit video recorder transmits every activity in every apartment to the Bureau of Guardians where it is watched constantly.
The purpose of this tyranny is to eliminate the human emotions of envy or jealousy that naturally arise from