Utopian Sameness

Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We and Leslie F. Stone’s The Conquest of Gola are both set within—arguable—utopias and end with the quelling of rebellions that threaten to disrupt the status quo. In We, there is so much sameness that permeates what appears to be a relatively large population that not only are the members of this population numbered, but even our narrator does not take the time to focus upon the characteristics that make his cohorts different from him until later on in the book- and, by that point, the differences he sees are driving him near-insane and leading him towards rebellion against OneState. The Conquest of Gola presents a matriarchal race that immediately dismisses the entrance of another people due to the fact that they are “barbarians” with “poorly organized bod[ies]”; the narrator then says, upon meeting this new race, that these Dextalans must be “envious of [the Golans’] beautiful golden coats, [their] movable eyes, [their] power to scent, hear, and touch with any part of the body…” (1282). This reminded me of the first time that D-503 sees the people who live beyond the wall; he reacts with the same mix of pity and wonder, pondering how these people manage to thrive outside of the confines of OneState while simultaneously recognizing that there is some appeal to being this particular kind of “barbarian”. Further, the narrator in The Conquest of Gola also acknowledges that the Golans were “without a doubt…freaks to those freakish Dextalans”, again making quite clear that there are immovable differences between the two peoples while also making light of the almost automatic recognition of that racial disconnect. What I found particularly interesting was that although The Conquest of Gola is certainly more of a story about a female-dominated race successfully reigning superior, the editor included the following descriptor, found in the middle of the narrative columns:

“Americans are fond of ridiculing the customs, habits, and temperaments of people of other nations. Similarly other nations pick our peculiarities as a source of amusement. We all think that what we do, think or say is natural and inevitable, and that the actions of others are ‘queer’” (1280).

From this, as well as with both Zamyatin’s and Stone’s portrayals of their respective settings, a question arises: are utopias only possible when they are populated with homogeneity? And, consequently, are they only threatened when an “other” emerges to challenge their sameness?

Questioning Utopias

If one were to define feminism as equality of the sexes, it appears that Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain and Leslie F. Stone may have a different idea. “The Conquest of Gola” and “Sultana’s Dream” both use the idea of a feminist utopia and yet they downplay the male role in their communities. Both “Sultana’s Dream” and “The Conquest of Gola” present men as useless. This is especially evident with Stone who describes the Detaxalans as “Nothing of particular interest, a very low grade of intelligence, to be sure. There was no need of looking below the surface” (1283). This can either be taken as a possible critique as to how men view women and how it needs to change, or that when either sex dominates over another the community suffers for it. Stone’s approach is a bit more overt, as she goes on and on about how the Detaxalans are an inferior race (that happen to be male). Whereas, Hossain invites the reader to question what if the roles were reversed? Would life be better?