Friday, January 25, 2008

Physical alterations/robot parts

This book has been somewhat hard to keep up with because I don't understand most of the ways these people think. I don't recall reading anywhere specific where R outright says whether or not they have robotic components to them. There are a couple of entries that have interesting descriptions on a couple of specific characters.

First, on page 43, when R is telling D that he had to versify a court sentence. R says, "I looked at his tightly locked little valise, thinking. What is he turning over there, in that little box of his?" Second example is on page 61, once again during a conversation between R and D: "He frowned and rubbed the back of his head--that little box of his with its strange baggage that I did not understand." Is he being literal in these descriptions? Or is he simply referring to R's mind as a box? I couldn't really answer these questions for myself.

Another description like this one in the book that makes me lean towards the conclusion that he's being literal is on page 46 during the court sentence. R is describing the Benefactor, "So with these heavy hands, still calmly reposing on the knees. And it was clear-they were stone, and the knees were barely able to support their weight." This makes me think that these people definitely have body parts that aren't their own.

The last example I've come across so far is when R is in the underground tunnels under the Ancient House on page 86, "Or suddenly I feel that I must glance back, but it's impossible, no matter how I try, my neck is rigid, locked." Is it locked and rigid because he's so afraid of being in the dark tunnels and doesn't know what's going on? Or is he physically incapable of turning his head because his neck is really locked?

It makes me think that if some of these people have physical abnormalities that have been imposed upon them by the One State, how long before it is a requirement for everyone? Or, even more drastically, how long before they replace all humans with robots who can actually be programmed to do as the One State pleases?

Overall, I was confused about whether or not these descriptions are being literal and these people have been physically altered by the State, or if they were simply descriptions (which I doubt because R is so technical and straight to the point--for the most part).


Ian B said...

I had not thought about this. I see where you are coming from, but I feel that he has been so explicit when it comes to explaining everything else that is abnormal, or in anyway deviates from his actual twentieth century world. Also, considering that receptionists still use ink pens is pretty telling as to his (the author) limited frame of reference as far as futuristic technology is concerned. If this novel were written say 1-2 decades after it was, I might be inclined to take his metaphor more literally.

inspiringflower said...
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inspiringflower said...
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Crista said...

Emma - very interesting observation. When I read the text I never thought that they had extra robotic body parts, but now that you mention it, maybe they do. As I continue reading I will keep and eye open for this.

Your observation reminds me of The Borg, the "character" on Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was a society of people who were all physically connected by computers. They were half human and half machine. They had a unified consciousness. They were all the same and had no individuality. Just like the One State, their whole aim as the Borg was to assimilate new beings into their consciousness and way of life.

Kyle Caffey said...

I also noticed the references to robot-like characteristics that the citizens have. I sort of took this as metaphorical description. I think Zamyatin is really trying to portray the citizens of the One State as robotic, not having a "soul". It seems like he is trying to emphasize how little these citizens act human. Like robots are controlled completely by the code that is programmed into them, the citizens are controlled by things like the Table of Hours and Taylorism.

Zamyatin uses this type of subtle metaphor repeatedly. Like when he is talking about the X on I-330's face or the shades being drawn in her eyes.