V for Vendetta is a 1982 graphic novel written by Alan Moore and illustrated by David Llyod. Set in 1997, the story unfolds in a dystopian, post war UK, ruled as a Police State.
The protagonist, code name ‘V’, is a masked vigilante, who challenges the dictatorship of the ‘Leader’ by attacking eminent officials from his party and bombing major buildings and seats of administration thus crippling the ‘rule’ of the ‘Leader’ and unleashing chaos on the streets.
The story starts with public announcements throughout the state by ‘The Voice of Fate’ [that really hooked me on]. As the announcements end we see Evey Hammnod, a 16 year old girl soliciting men for sex in exchange for money. She ends up approaching a secret service agent who captures her and tries to rape her along with his colleagues. That’s when ‘V’ makes his grand entry reciting Shakespeare, in a Guy Fawkes mask, hat and a cloack. He single handedly kills some of the men and rescues Evey. A little while later the Parliament building blows up and thus starts his Vendetta.
As ‘V’ goes about his exterminations, we are introduced to other characters in the Novel. The much feared Adam Susan or the ‘Leader’ who rules the state with an iron fist. While he is portrayed as the merciless leader, we also get a peek into his inner conflict, where he wonders if he is loved or only feared. At one point in the novel we see him talking about his ideology of denying freedom to his people, but why does he think about it? Is he torn between his party’s ideology and his own? Towards the end of the Novel it is revealed that ‘V’ had hacked into ‘Fate’ the supercomputer with which the ‘Leader’ ran his state, and was playing tricks on the ‘Leaders’ mind through it. In the end we do see Adam Susan wavering when he wonders whether he should wave to his people. It makes me wonder if he was capable to reforming and leading his people to freedom, had he not been assassinated.
Then we have Finch, the head of ‘fingers’ or the police department, who finally traces ‘V’ and manages to shoot him. He comes across as the only one on the wrong side of V’s vendetta who gets my respect. In order to fulfill his duty to his country, he cracks the case and traces out ‘V’ but goes away in the end, having realized the reason of ‘V’s actions. Could this probably be the reason that the writer chooses Finch to stop ‘V’? It seems a little surprising that V should not be able to save himself from Finch alone, when he on many occasions has managed to flee scores of armed gunmen.
While V is raging his war against the state, we also have the heads of fingers and eyes along with a gangster planning a coup, which V foils. This again made me question if V was in fact trying to make the Leader realize the power of love and freedom and hence wanted him to be at the helm?
Finally I come to Evey Hammond, a 16 year old girl, who ‘V” chooses to be his successor. ‘V’ tells her, there is no point trying to find out whose face it is behind the mask because ‘V’ is an idea, an idea for a better world, where every human being has the freedom to lead a life he chooses irrespective of his color, affiliations and sexual orientations. In the end Evey disguised as ‘V’ tells the people to choose wisely between freedom and oppression. Rightly so because in the end aren’t we the ones who make the choices? And isn’t it our responsibility to build a ‘world of do as you please’
With ‘V’ the writers have managed to give shape to the rebel that is inside all of us, who sits seething at the way things are but lacks the courage or the conviction to take on the cudgel to bring change. The Guy Fawkes mask is a statement in itself, in the Indian context it could be one our freedom fighters or the Kailash Satyarthis fighting incessantly for a cause they believe in or the Malalas of the world taking on the system with defiance.
What however disturbed me was the means that V uses to further his cause. Although we are told of the torture that V and other inmates were put through at the resettlement camps to justify his actions, but is violence really the answer? ‘V’ is branded a terrorist by the state, however to the readers he is presented as the savior. But is he? That is the question I intend to ask. Lets not forget a terrorist, storming a school or a newspaper office, could also be code name ‘V’ to himself and his cause.
Another major criticism I have of this book is its silence on the Journey of ‘V’ from Larkhill resettlement camp to the House of Shadow. In a state where every action is seen, every word heard, where people are struggling to put food on their tables, how does V manage to go unnoticed as he plans his Vendetta?
But this aside, the book does leave us with a strong message. Do I recommend this book? Yes please, but only if you are able to understand the message it is trying to convey. It could be your inspiration to refuse to bribe the clerk at the government office, it could be your inspiration to stand up for the woman being eve teased by a group of men, it could be your inspiration to report the relative with a 9 year old maid, or it could be your inspiration to rise even when you have been beaten to the ground by your circumstances.
V is for Vendetta, V is also for the ‘V’oice of reason and ‘justice’, V is for Victory!
What do you think of this Novel? What do you think V signifies?