Writing Dystopia: Zamyatin’s Writing Philosophy, Genre, and the Protagonist of We
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This thesis examines how Russian author Yevgeny Zamyatin (1884-1937) came to write one of the first literary dystopias. I argue that he designed dystopia in his novel We as a place that threatens the creation of what he considered “true literature,” in order to show why his conception of true literature is essential to the survival of the human spirit. The first chapter synthesizes Zamyatin’s critical essays and biographical details to reveal his writing philosophy, which I characterize as his belief that “creative revolution” sustains literature’s movement forward into the future. The second chapter explores why Zamyatin’s philosophy may have drawn him to the utopian genre and compelled him to create its antithesis. The chapter argues that Zamyatin’s vision of “true literature” opposed the goals of literary utopias, and that he developed a dystopian novel because he already saw the dystopia present in utopia. Finally, the third chapter examines how the written word operates as a “weapon” in We. Literature serves as a weapon either for enforcing the dystopian One State government’s lies, or for resisting such lies in favor of searching for truth. The protagonist D-503 is ultimately able to spiritually purify himself and reclaim his humanity through writing.
Gallagher, Kelly A., "Writing Dystopia: Zamyatin’s Writing Philosophy, Genre, and the Protagonist of We" (2022). College Honors Program. 37.