Let me start with a confession. I watched the movie around 6 years back. Although I don’t remember the details, I was aware of the general plot while reading the book. After reading the book (in a hurried 6 hours), I re-watched the movie. I then re-read the book.
The book is, in my opinion, superior to the movie. Although the latter closely follows the former, there are some things that jars me regarding the movie, which probably I’ll note down somewhere else.
One question bothers me:
“Why did V let himself be killed?”
The novel is set in a futuristic, Orwellian England where all decisions are taken by the computer Fate which is controlled by the leader, Mr. Susan. The whole of London is bugged with cameras (eyes) and microphones (ears), and anything out of place detected by them or the police force (nose) is swiftly nipped in the bud (fingers). In such a setting appears this masked menace, who on 5th November, Guy Fawkes day, blows up the parliament. In the process he saves a girl, Evey Hammond, from being molested by some of the “finger men”, and takes her to his hidden refuge. We get to know that this man, known only as V, has amassed huge collections of books, art, and music, which have been banned in the mainstream. As the story goes on, V instills more anarchy into the system, for he believes that to re-build England one needs to destroy the existing system completely. A couple of side stories that we learn: V seems to be a product of a human experiment gone wrong, and we are made to think if the whole shebang is nothing but cold and brutal vengeance. There is also the story of Evey, and how she transforms herself from a rather mousy girl to a stronger woman who starts believing the ideas of V at the conclusion of the book, and takes over the role of V at the latter’s demise.
Let me come back to my question. It is pretty clear to me that V allowed himself to get killed. In fact, I believe the sign which made Finch go down the Victoria station may’ve been deliberate. When they do meet in the end, V takes his time in wounding Finch (and not killing him, mind you), while he himself takes a bullet which we know from the first volume he’s an expert in dodging. In fact, the same point bothers the wounded Finch as well. So, why die? There are only plausible answers, with the real one stuck perhaps in Alan Moore’s memory.
- He was afraid of the evil in him. V is definitely an anti-hero; that is especially clear in the ruthlessness he shows Delia. He is also brutal in his torture of Evey. Is it possible he himself is worried of becoming a tyrant, and self destruction seems to him a feasible option after finding his successor in Evey?
- His death is necessary as his last act, his climax, his denouement. He knows Finch will spread the word of his death, and he also has faith that Evey will take over. He envisions the crowd being disappointed at the news of V’s purported death, and then getting charged up a hundred-fold when Evey shows up as the new V; as the bulletproof idea that cannot be shot.
The general idea of the book may seem to be very 1984-ish, but the book is well worth a read. Heck, even a re-read. Alan Moore does a very nice job of structuring the story, and the illustrations are fantastic, and contain lot of hidden gems. For instance, there’s the Untouchables poster of a suited De Niro in a Fedora hat smoking a cigar in the book. Did you know that? To find it, a clue is that the film was released in 1987.
All in all, a very nice book to own.