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

Benjamin Bulloch

Outline: 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

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 human sexual relations. (Richards 546)
But by doing away with jealousy, love also is taken away, and thus the
institution of marriage. The Numbers are free to pursue their lives free of any
thought to the well being of a spouse or children while giving up the inherent
need of companionship and relationships (Gregg 549). Replacing these vital
establishments is the United