“Remember, remember the fifth of November…”
That’s one of the most memorable quotes from the pages of the masterpiece Alan Moore penned. Guy Fawkes and The Gunpowder Plot became the source of inspiration for the graphic novel V for Vendetta.
Alan Moore sure knows how to deliver a compelling, riveting story that engages the reader till the very last page. V for Vendetta is a profoundly social and political work of art that reminds us all that allowing someone else to call the shots for us, instead of us, is not only a fallacy in judgement but, also, an error with terrifying consequences for humanity. This is something that resonates deeply, especially now with the cultural, economic, political and social crisis all over Europe, even though three decades have flown by since the novel’s initial publication.
The true protagonist is not a character but an idea, namely anarchy. V, the man behind the mask, is not a creature of flesh and blood but the very personification of anarchy in its extreme form. And that’s why V never falters neither in his decisions nor in his actions. He knows exactly what he has to do and he does it without any hesitation.
However, at the same time we are really left to wonder how sane V is and whether the way he applies his ideology really works. And this is exactly where Moore makes a critique on anarchy applied in such a destructive and violent manner.
V remarks, ”Anarchy wears two faces, both creator and destroyer. Thus destroyers topple empires; make a canvas of clean rubble where creators then can build another world. Rubble, once achieved, makes further ruins’ means irrelevant.”
If V represents the destroyer, then Evey represents the creator. And Evey (it is implied) will espouse anarchy in its true and pure form that abominates force, coercion and violence. As she puts it, ”killers have no place in our better world.”
The narration is rich with all sides exposed to the reader. That is sufficient to offer an insight into all parties involved, adding another layer of complexity to the work. It’s no accident that V isn’t idolized, even though he takes the limelight. Moore’s clever enough to avoid the simplistic portrayal of a black and white morality on the canvas. It’s no accident that, by choosing to present V wearing the Guy Fawkes’s mask–a man who tried to kill the Protestant King James I only to restore another absolutist monarch, albeit Catholic, to the throne–Moore provides a biting critique against the same ideology he seemingly praises.
The central question that challenges the expectations of the readers is this: if we choose to fight tyranny and oppression by turning ourselves equally tyrannical and bloodthirsty, then can we truly build a better future? The end does not justify the means. Violence breeds violence. We can label ourselves however we want to. But the bitter truth is that if we adopt the tactics and strategies of the other side against which we’re fighting, then we’re as vile and wretched as our so-called foes.
Nowadays that things in the political and social arena are disturbingly turbulent and sordid, the central message of V for Vendetta proves more prophetic than ever.
The ending is far from a close one but that is just as well. We’re left with a sliver of hope that Evey will truly show the way to the people without following in V’s steps. Nothing is over; the lid has been taken off and the effervescence is about to take place, but it is hinted that the creation of a better world is not that impossible after all.
All in all, I would definitely recomment V for Vendetta to anyone who enjoys complex political works of literature with an edge of theatricality and wit.
For those who have read the novel, feel free to share your impressions!