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The Theme of Individual Independence and Identity in Novels of George Orwell and Yevgeny Zamyatin

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As individuals, actions are what shape personal identity. It takes many years of experience to develop and enhance this trait that contributes to the overall growth of a human being. To have an identity means that one is able to understand both how they differ from others and how they are similar. This definition conforms with the many kinds of identities, such as ethnic, intellectual, spiritual and individual. All in all, self-identification, self-awareness and self-definition all fall under the main topic of identity and its importance. Although this may be true, both novels, 1984 by George Orwell and We by Yevgeny Zamyatin convey the theme of individual independence and identity as an interference to humans capabilities, by depicting the importance of names, lack of free will to be unique and a life that it constantly prescribed. Names are pivotal to one’s identification as it is the principal characteristic that is displayed to the general population. When upon greeting others one would use their name to recognize the person they are talking towards. With this in mind, it is essential to make sure that this distinguishing proof is proudly shown to others and is treated with respect to ensure it remains an important aspect to their identity. The importance of names is shown within the novel 1984, when Winston clarifies how names do not play a significant role in building their identity.

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In contrast, it is opposed by the party to use them, “ ‘oh comrade’… ‘Mrs.’ was a word somewhat discountenanced by the party – you were supposed to call everyone ‘comrade’” (Orwell 22). In this quote, Orwell demonstrates the impact names have on each other, as mentioned in the quote, names did not have any impact on the individuals or on their identification. As a result of the party despising names and the significance, the followers comply with this and it becomes the standard to call each other ‘comrade’. Orwell uses explicit diction when utilizing the word comrade to characterize others in society. The use of this generalized word influences the readers to interpret the characters identity by not knowing their own particular names, other words like, “friends was not exactly the right word. You did not have friends nowadays, you had comrades” (Orwell 51). With the intention of calling everyone comrade, Winston and other citizens lost much of their individual identity which contributed to the overall issue of their disappearing existence. The importance of names is additionally shown in We. In their society there are no alphabetical names. Each individual is alluded to, by a letter then a progression of numbers, which have been given to them by the administration. Although this strategy is based on the mathematical society depicted in We, the names hold no significance to the individual and consequently prompts the absence of individuality and identity. As a result of having this abnormal technique of appropriating names, the residents of One State end up unconscious of their lack of creativity and thus portray a fake persona. This is particularly demonstrated when the principal character is introduced, “This is D-503, the builder of the Integral”. This quote further proves how the citizens respond to their fake identity as Zamyatin always seems to have made the characters overjoyed when specifying their names and their occupation. When viewing these two novels critically numerous parallels were found within One State and Big Brother, in regards to the significance of names, the two novels both comprise of large, influential administrations that impact their selection of names. In 1984, all the citizens under Big Brother acquire a name, however the party demands its citizens to call each other ‘Comrade’ as it is the broadest word that creates no emotion upon saying it to others.

Thus, to not perpetrate a thought crime that would lead to individuals being vaporized and therefore completely forgotten. Similarly, in We, One State provides its inhabitants with their proper ‘names’ that consists of numbers. In One States ability to show how it’s the most powerful society, it was capable to manipulate its citizens into feeling that having numbers to represent themselves as extraordinary and consequently ingrain the thought of them being superior to the rest of the universe. Another similarity found between the two novels is the usage of control, in order to force the citizens thoughts and ideas to conform to leaders ideals, in this case, Big Brother and The Benefactor. This control leads to a lack of free will to be unique, which ultimately contributes to the formation of an identity. In 1984, Big Brother uses thought police to monitor each citizen’s thoughts and actions. This surveillance permits citizens with the inability to think and feel anything. Being curious or even having the slightest uniqueness from others put one at risk to being executed as a disobedient follower, this can be modeled by the following quote: “Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimeters inside your skull” (Orwell 28). Here, Orwell implies that the only way Winston is able to think uniquely is in the little space inside his mind. These are the tactics used to make sure that any ideas or thoughts that contradict with the party beliefs do not interfere with the party’s plan, of taking over completely.

This quote is just one that foreshadows the mind control that the party has over its citizens that takes place in the Ministry Of Love, to extinguish the any external thoughts out of one that thinks otherwise than what the party wants them to think. In addition it also foreshadows Winston’s subjugation and loyalty to Big Brother. In regards to the other novel, a lack of free will to be unique is likewise present in We. In this dystopian society there is no such thing as being unique. Having thoughts that differ from everybody else is considered a crime and in this case, the only way D-503 is able to express his ideas is through writing in his hidden diary. This demonstration of communicating ideas is additionally found in 1984 when Winston is communication his contemplations of Big Brother. The citizens live by the statement: “To be original means to distinguish yourself from others. It followers that to be original is to violate the principle of equality” (Zamyatin 52). This quote demonstrates how being unique isn’t imperative to them, it contributes to the vanishment of what’s left of their personal uniqueness. To add, this statement depicts how the government tells their citizens that this society is perfection, that is why change is looked down upon. Another illustration found in the novel is the utilization of “Pink Coupons” this is a ticket that enables individuals to visit others outside The Table Of Hours, this symbol symbolizes their restricted opportunities to see the world outside of One State.

Although each citizen of One State is his or herself, every individual exclusively exist to create an invariant “We”. This is One States ambition to have everyone uniformly present under this single word. It categorizes everyone to conform to one single personality which is One States fundamental objective, and hence prompts to the vanishment of individual identity. A clear parallel found, when viewing these two pieces of dystopian work is how both explore a society in which the dominating powers abhor any form of uniqueness, that makes them any different from the others. A final similarity between the two novels is how the two administrations bestow a life that is constantly prescribed to their citizens. This form of control is found especially in 1984 as it is demonstrated to each person found in Oceania’s borders. One is either born under the influence of Big Brother, which is the majority or one is born under the influence of the Proles, a minority. This method of giving lives that are already prescribed to inhabitants, restrict their ability in experiencing new opportunities to explore their personal identity and the world around them. One example of how the government prescribes this way of life is how they must wear the same clothes, eat the same food, yell at a telescreen, and believe everything the party says is right even if it is wrong. An example that exhibits this is during Winston’s interrogation with O’Brien, “How can I help it? How can I help but see what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four”. “Sometimes, Winston, Sometimes they are five” (Orwell 316). This manipulation tactic Big Brother has created for them, has only restricted their identity growth and development. Thus, having everyone born to learn this prescription is what leads them to lack independence and confidence. Even though Winston is correct in this case, Big Brother instills their answers and it then becomes right in the eyes of its participants. This result them in shortening their ability to think outside of the box and therefore adds to their prescribed lifestyle. One State has created a regime called the “Table of Hours” which is an organizational tool that is used to monitor everyday tasks, such as when to sleep, eat and socialize. D-503 notes this down in his diary, with many other regimes that One State created, “…It transforms each one of us into a figure of steel, a six-wheeled…. Every morning, with six-wheeled precision, at the same hour and the same moment, we-millions of us-get up as one. At the same hour, in million-headed unison, we start work; and…we end it.” (Zamyatin 12) Here, Zamyatin is metaphorically saying how the occupants under The Benefactor are contrasted with to motorized six-wheel machines that run by a schedule. In other words, this quote is communicating how humans must be perfect to operate and following this arrangement will enable them to do so. In contrast, if this form of living did not exist then according to D-503 living freely results in a “ …unorganized, savage condition…I cannot understand.” (Zamyatin 13) This statement depicts how the government tells their citizens that this society is perfection, that is why change is looked down upon. Provided that the One State inhabitants follow this strict regime, there is no time for one to do different tasks that enhance their own personal identity. In addition it gives them no free will to be unique and express themselves other than the millions of others that participate in this society. Having an identity is crucial to develop one’s growth and to acquire independence is equally important.

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When viewing Orwell’s 1984 and Zamyatin’s We critically, several parallels are found between One State and Big Brother’s ability to create adherents with no personal identity and independence. The two authors convey this theme by illustrating the importance of names, through assigning names from birth, and ordering to call one “comrade”. A lack of free will to be unique is additionally shown by the control of the dominators to restrict their access to freedom. Finally, the two novels display characters that have prescriptive lives, provided by their influences. In conclusion, both authors convey these akin ideas in a clear and comprehensible approach.

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