Alan Moore's "V for Vendetta" Analysis
Through his graphic novel, V for Vendetta, Alan Moore provokes his readers to analyze both fascism and anarchism in order to determine their ideal society. Through specific attention to detail, Moore shares a narrative, which focuses on his main character, V, prompting the reader to question V’s morality. Combined with the social narrative, intricate attention to graphic detail, and symbolic character and plot choices, V for Vendetta serves as a social commentary on England in the late 20th century.
The novel begins on November 5, 1997 in London, England. The anonymous anarchist V wears a Guy Fawkes mask to hide his identity. He plans to kill the fascist leaders of Norsefire, the dictatorship that rules England at this time. Moore attempts to illustrate the fascist dictatorship as a corporate body; the five institutions are named accordingly. The surveillance organizations are referred to as “The Eye,” because they watch over the citizens. The detective branch is called “The Nose.” This symbolism hints at the fact that detectives sniff-out their suspects like dogs hunting for bones. The state-controlled media is known as “The Mouth,” spreading propaganda through society. Finally, the law enforcement institution is called “The Fingers,” or, when referring to officers, they are called “Fingermen.”
In the beginning of the novel, V saves a girl named Evey from Fingermen who were going to sexually abuse her and eventually murder her. V takes Evey to the roof, where he detonates a bomb, destroying the Palace of Westminster. They return to his home, The Shadow Gallery, and Evey tells V the story of her father’s arrest as a political protestor.
V detonates a bomb in Old Bailey, the Central Criminal Court in England. He then kills three major leaders of the fascist party. He kills Lewis Prothero, the “Voice of Fate” and part of “The Mouth,” by causing him to go insane after V burns his doll collection. V kills Bishop Lilliman, a pedophile, by forcing him to drink poisoned communion wine. Finally, V kills Dr. Surridge through lethal injection.
Through investigating the diary of the late Dr. Surridge, Detective Finch (“The Nose”) discovers that V was an inmate in room 5 at the Larkhill Camp. He was unwillingly injected with Batch 5; of the patients who were injected, V was the only survivor. Finch realizes that V has ripped out pages in the journal to hide his real identity; furthermore, he has murdered all those who worked at the camp and had knowledge of his identity. The journal also revealed that V escaped the camp by attacking the guards with chemicals he used in his garden.
Did you like the film or the graphic novel more?
On February 23, 1998, V broadcasts on the radio, urging citizens to take control of their lives and stop electing and supporting leaders who do not work for your benefit: “You are no longer an asset to their company…you will be granted two years to show me some improvement in your work. If at the end of that time you are still unwilling to make a go of it…you’re fired” (172–173). His anarchist commentary sparks a moral shock in the community and their leadership.
V and Evey’s relationship with each other begins to develop; at one point, she is convinced that V is her father, but she is mistaken. After getting into a fight about V’s morals, Evey gets abandoned in the street alone. She meets Gordon Dietrich, who she falls in love with. Dietrich is murdered by a criminal named Harper. When Evey tries to get revenge and murder Harper, she is accused of another murder and is kidnapped. Evey is put in a dark cell, where her hair is shaved off, and she is tortured and interrogated. She finds a letter from Valerie, the woman who was in room four at Larkhill that died, but Evey thinks is still alive. Evey is inspired to stand to her ground because of Valerie’s passionate letter. Evey is set free when she realizes that her imprisonment was a test set up by V; by placing her in the same situation he and Valerie were in. This experience caused Evey to accept her identity as an anarchist.
On November 5, 1998, V detonates bombs at the Jordan Tower (“The Mouth”) and the Post Office Tower (“The Eye”), which kills Etheridge, the head of the audio surveillance branch (“The Ear”). He realizes that society may never find peace and that anarchy causes chaos.
Detective Finch, “The Nose,” shoots V in the Shadow Gallery, and he dies in Evey’s arms. Evey decides not to unmask V, leaving him as an ambiguous character. Instead, she puts on one of V’s extra costumes and completes his ultimate mission. After dressing like V and announcing to the town that they must make their own decisions on how to live, Evey sends explosives down an underground train to 10 Downing Street. With V’s body inside the train, Evey gives V the “Viking Funeral” he always wanted. Evey continues to do V’s work, gaining her own apprentice. Finch gives up trying to restore order and ends the novel walking alone. This graphic symbolism helps the reader see the effects of anarchy; the rest of the novel has similar imagery, which allows us to analyze the major concepts within the novel.
The graphic style of this narrative is similar to the work of Frank Miller; it could be classified as part of the superhero genre. Most of the narration is communicated through six panels per page (in three rows with varied columns). The colors of this novel are generally dark and bland but vary during crucial scenes (such as the bombing of Old Bailey). The novel’s use of minimal coloring contributes to the darker tone of the novel. Some scenes deviate from this pattern and become more significant.
The beginning of the fourth issue of V for Vendetta is somewhat of a “prelude” to the rest of the chapter. V sits down at his piano and starts to play. These panels are full-page illustrations in black and dark red. When he begins playing, events take place below V’s sheet music. This “Vicious Cabaret” breaks from the graphic narrative and shows V’s influence and control over individuals in order to shape society.
There are also scenes where there are full-page spreads of the cityscape. Similar to Miller’s The Dark Knight, the city is an important setting for the narrative. These full-page cityscapes draw attention to the importance of England and its landmarks. Through these landmarks, the government is able to control the public, and in order to stop that, V must destroy these institutions.
The conflict between fascism and anarchism is examined in this graphic novel. The juxtaposing stories of V, Finch, and Evey are crucial to examining action and morality in societal culture. V attempts to bring freedom to the world through destruction and force—the way he was taught to obey at Larkhill. Finch’s quest to unearth V’s identity allowed the reader to analyze the morality of V’s actions and understand the government as a functional institution. Evey’s story of hope, desperation, and evolution allows the reader to relate most to this character: the scared, confused, and malleable individual. Through these three viewpoints, the reader is able to confront their stance on anarchy, rebellion, and V’s ideologies.
The reader is never shown V’s true identity to accent his ambiguity; Moore wants his reader to decide whether this character is right or wrong—sane or mad. Moore allows the reader to understand what V has experienced at Larkhill, but not much else. Although V is the main character of this story, he is not to be analyzed as an individual (Evey’s father or any other). He is a representation of anarchy, which is why his name is simply a symbol.
The letter “V” and number five are very significant within Moore’s novel; V’s name is a reference to his history in room five as a scientific subject. References to this number and the letter V are prominent throughout the novel. V plays Beethoven’s Fifth at the beginning of issue four; similarly, he quotes from Thomas Pynchon’s novel V. Every chapter title begins with the letter “V.” The significant dates of the bombings occur on the fifth of November and the 23rd of February (the two and three in 23 equating to five). This symbol marks many pages of the novel. Similar to the notion that V (the character) is meant to symbolize anarchy, the letter V surrounded by a circle is simply the symbol for anarchy turned upside-down. This image can be found on page 304 within the ninth issue; V sets dominoes in this shape on the floor.
Evey’s name is just as trivial as V’s. Evey could be read as “IV,” or the Roman numeral for the number four. Interestingly, the woman from room four at Larkhill, Valerie, was an actress who was imprisoned for being a lesbian. Evey finds a letter that Valerie wrote to V while Evey is in captivity; this inspires her to never give up while she experienced similar imprisonment. Although this is through V’s manipulation, Evey finds hope in her connection to Valerie, and this provokes her to join a life of anarchy and independence.
V for Vendetta is written for mature audiences (mainly adults). Because the novel deals with adult subject matter (i.e., rape, murder, fascism, anarchy, prostitution, etc.), it could be deemed unsuitable for children. Children may enjoy the graphic style, but they may not fully comprehend the symbolic, political narrative. There is nudity, violence, and other larger, philosophical ideas, which also may be too advanced for younger readers. Scholarly references like Pynchon, Beethoven, and others make this novel academic.
Through this graphic novel, Alan Moore provokes his readers to question power and authority in our society. He compares fascism and anarchy, using symbolic names for the different institutions, which rule our society. It makes the reader question the type of world they want to live in: The Land of Do-As-You-Please (freedom) or The Land of Take-What-You-Want (Chaos). Through scholarly references, Moore describes a world in which one, ambiguous individual takes control and acts out against the government.
This powerful piece of graphic literature delivers a narrative that inspires people to stand up for their rights while considering the consequences of their actions. V shows the reader that in order to gain freedom and independence, first comes destruction and eventually chaos. We are left to decide at the end of the novel whether he made the right choices. Through determining our own opinions of V, we can discover our own ideologies that influence our status in society.
© 2011 Brittany Kennedy