D-503’s Animal Instincts

No! After everything that had happened, after I had unequivocally shown my feelings toward her!

Besides, she did not even know whether I had gone to the Office of the Guardians. After all, she had no way of knowing that I had been sick — well, that I generally could not…And despite all this…

A dynamo whirled, hummed in my head. Buddha, yellow silk, lillies of the valley, a rosy crescent… Oh yes, and this too: O was to visit me today. Ought I to show her the notice concerning I-330? I didn’t know. She would not believe (indeed, how could she?) that I’ve had nothing to do with it, that I was entirely…I was sure there was going to be a difficult, senseless, absolutely illogical conversation […]

I hurriedly stuffed the notice into my pocket — and suddenly saw this dreadful, apelike hand of mine. I recalled how I-330 had taken my hand that time, during the walk […]

And then it was a quarter to twenty-one.

[…]and all the shades dropped suddenly, in all the houses, and behind the shades…

A strange sensation: I felt as though my ribs were iron rods, constricting, definitely constricting my heart — there was not room enough for it.” (Record 9, page 40).

D-503’s attitude toward sex prior to meeting I-330 is the same attitude he holds toward any other biological function. As all things are in Zamayatin’s dystopian future, sex, what One State calls “lowering the shades,” is a highly regulated process in which one must seek permission and follow the proper protocol. D-503, ever loyal to One State, even rejects O in Record One when she makes her spontaneous desire known to him: “How funny she is. What could I say to her? She had been with me only the day before, and she knew — as I did — that our next sex day was the day after tomorrow.” To D-503, sexuality is just another primitive impulse the ancestors could not control.┬áD-503 never takes notice of other Numbers lowering their blinds, but suddenly, as he heads to see I-330, he addresses the routine and even seems to be excited by it. As D-503 increasingly begins to address the sexuality of the other Numbers, he finds himself confronted by his own feelings of desire, which he quickly succumbs to in his encounter with I-330.

The sultry, iconoclastic I-330, is, for all intents and purposes, is what we “ancients” call a tease. The (deliberate) result of her seduction is a very “ill” D-503, who is deeply perturbed by the possibility that his forebears had perhaps not conquered the elemental force of love and reduced it to mathematical order by the Lex Sexualis. Under One State’s strictly systematized order, love and sex are not mere biological requirements, but tools of rebellion that can never be stamped out completely.

Blowing D-503’s Mind With Math

“Her brows make a sharp mocking triangle: “My dear, you are a mathematician. You’re even more, you’re a philosopher of mathematics. So do this for me: Tell me the final number.” / “The what? I…I don’t understand. What final number?” / “You know–the last one, the top, the absolute biggest.” / “But, I-330, that’s stupid. Since the number of numbers is infinite, how can there be a final one?” / “And how can there be a final revolution? There is no final one. The number of revolutions is infinite. The last one– that’s for children. Infinity frightens children, and it’s essential that children get a good night’s sleep….” (p. 168, Record 30)

I think this is one of the most clever passages in Zamyatin’s entire novel. After 29 Records filled with inner turmoil over developing a “soul” that doesn’t gel within the rules of OneState, D-503’s entire world is flipped by using the same language he’s hid behind. This conversation comes after D-503 has been exposed to ideas beyond OneState’s accepted worldview, but is still frustratingly on the fence about betraying his ‘perfect’ government. I-330’s tone here is like a parent telling her child Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy isn’t real. This is why her citing infinity is so effective. By this point in the book, we’ve established that OneState is a society where humans are Numbers, romantic sonnets are written about the union of 2+2, and people like D-503 see mathematical logic as more dependable than God or free thinking. Since no previous emotional appeal has fully converted D-503 out of the static universe he lives in, it takes the novel’s own obsession with numbers to give him an epiphany. I-330 comparing her revolution to infinity is a callback to D-503’s frustration with irrational numbers as a child. He’s forced to use his imagination to interpret an unanswerable question, thus his world is flipped upside down the minute he has to think as “Me” instead of “We” in terms he can grasp. After that, only removing his imagination could ever put D-503 –the ‘child’ told that OneState’s founding was the final revolution– back to sleep.