Energy and Entropy: The Infinite Revolution

A light wave is the result of a magnetic field and an electric field working against each other in a perfect, self-propagating infinite cycle. This ordered cycle is one hundred percent efficient (in comparison to the approximate maximum efficiency of thirty percent for a car engine) in its conversion of energy. Ironically, in contributes considerably to the entropy of the universe,the tendency of everything to progress toward chaos. One scientific theory holds that the interaction between entropy and energy works just like the light wave as the propagating force of the universe, the universal motor. Entropy and energy are in a constant revolution against each other. If this revolution were to stop, come to a final revolution, so would the universe. It is of little doubt then, why Zamyatin used these two forces as metaphors in his novel, We. They represent a scientific, real world model of his infinite revolution theme.

This concept is first posed by I-330 to D-503 to describe her version of OneState. Entropy, as posed by I-330, is OneState, and the creation of order. This is an ironic, but appropriate contradiction to the actual nature of entropy, its progression toward chaos. OneState believes it is the last number, the end of infinity, absolute zero, and to some extent, it is. D-503 says, “…there can’t be a revolution. Because our—this is me talking, not you—our revolution was the final one. And there can’t be any further revolutions of any kind” (168). While not entirely unordered, OneState’s extreme societal control is constantly minimizing the amount of chaos in its world, and therefore slowing down the cycle of existence in OneState. OneState, however, cannot escape the fundamental principles of the universe. On a small scale, the closed system of the Glass City, entropy is decreasing. This is the only scale being viewed by I-330 and the inhabitants of OneState. On a larger scale, the cooling of OneState is adding to a force to oppose OneState, life and energy, and plot-wise, the revolution and the Mephi. Therefore, OneState is indeed functioning to create more chaos within the universe, even as it becomes progressively more ordered.

On the other hand, energy is the life force driving existence. OneState attempts to fight against this, but only succeeds in further driving the system, because it is unaware of the fallacy of its teaching, the impossibility of an end to infinity. When asked by I-330 what the final number is, D-503 says, “…that’s stupid. Since the number of numbers is infinite, how can there be a final one?” and later, compares even looking for the final number to a silly, childish question; however, later he himself proves his and OneState’s ideas foolish by proposing nothingness as the finality of everything. In a world of infinity, nothingness cannot not exist, because there is always something, D-503 simply doesn’t understand that by calling the end of the universe “nothing,” he has simply named the infinity which follows infinity. D-503’s mistake about infinity is the same mistake made by OneState in assuming that they could possibly end revolution, or decrease entropy and eliminate energy. I-330 points this out by saying, “They made only one mistake: Afterward, they got the notion that they were the final number—something like that doesn’t exist in nature” (168). Nothingness is the absence of infinity. Since the only world we as humans know is a world of infinity, there is no such thing as nothingness and no such thing as a final revolution.

But how does this all relate to Zamyatin’s work? By presenting energy and entropy as symbols, Zamyatin has integrated a real world example into his novel to add to the ideas he is presenting. Furthermore, it even provokes the question, “Is there anything more?” Zamyatin’s idea, that there are an infinite number of revolutions is extremely scientifically oriented, yet it also brings into question the concept of a soul and imagination. Do they exist? Are they an inherent factor of the energy in the world, and perhaps more poignantly so, if they do exist, can they be eliminated? This is, perhaps, the most central theme and idea in the novel.

Zamyatin, however, presents no final conclusion. He shows the progression of the battle, OneState’s “operation” to eliminate the imagination, yet the final record, after D-503 has undergone the operation, is extremely ambiguous. Existence has not yet stopped, and the battle against the Mephi is still continuing. Even within the diction of D-503 in record forty, there is still hope. At times he diverges from the bland uncreative writing style caused by the operation and opts for unique description; he even says, “…in the western quarters there is still chaos, roaring, corpses, animals, and unfortunately, quite a lot of numbers who have betrayed reason. But on Fortieth Avenue, which runs crosstown, they’ve managed to build a temporary wall of high-voltage waves. And I hope we’ll win. More—I’m certain we’ll win. Because reason has to win.” (225). Chaos abounds, and more subtly, D-503 projects OneState into the category of “they,” but the winners and reason into the category of “we.” This may seem ambiguous; both sides could be the rational side; however in my opinion, it is not. I think D-503 has realized that the universe is infinite, and with infinity, there is no nothing. Neither sides are truly in opposition with one another, they are merely forces acting appropriately, like a magnetic and an electric field propagating against each other, to continue existence.

Most of the scientific data is from a physics-major friend. Please let me know if there are any inconsistencies with truth that I should know about and change. Cool.