V for Vendetta, 30 Years Later Part III: Volk

So, the closest thing V for Vendetta has to an audience surrogate, and indeed, a morally upright character (at least early on) is Evey. She is not psychologically broken like V, her character flaw is cowardice/naivety rather than being insane, she isn’t a fascist, or an anarchist, she’s just an ordinary person. This is subject to change as the story goes on, and all the horrible events she lives through warp her into a mirror of everyone else, as shown by the end where she literally becomes V. Put a pin in that, we’ll come back to that later. So, Evey is the closest thing the book has to the likely mentality and life experiences of the audience, and therefore serves as the voice of ordinary people, at least early on. Even so, she has also been victimized by the war, disasters, and the Norsefire, just as everyone has in this world. Her mother died of disease, her father was hauled off to a concentration camp, and she was forced to work in a match factory. While this has clearly has a profound effect on her, as will be explored later in the story, at the onset, she is very much dealing with it. Her life is, while at least partially shaped by her upbringing, still comparatively stable, at least as far as people in this story go. Put a pin in that, it will be important later. Anyway, she is as close to a completely normal person early on as we’re going to get. Then she meets V, and everything starts to change. Early on, Evey is complacent with most things that happen around her. Witnessing V blowing up Parliament elicits no strong reaction from her aside from asking V if he’s concerned about the law coming after him. The actual event has little if any effect on her, by the looks of it. She isn’t happy about a symbol of the government’s power being destroyed, sad about the loss of a national monument, angry at this blatant breach of authority, or anything like that. As the audience surrogate, she is complacent. This ties into a major theme of the early part of V for Vendetta, which is that the general public has gotten complacent with all the bad things being done to them, this is primarily established during the TV break-in. This ties back to the English public’s complacency with Thatcherism, at least at the time, so far as Moore viewed it, and as such frames the rest of her changes as changes Moore saw the public as going through when put into the circumstances he made allegories for. So, the first moment her complacency is shattered is when V targets Bishop Lilliman. Evey is sent in dressed as a loli, no, seriously, and the bishop’s attempt to rape her is one of the first major things that forces her to confront this struggle. After his death at the hands of V, she gives her position on it, which is that she does not want to be complicit in murder, because killing is wrong. His reaction suggests that he views her as naive, which is certainly true, but maybe not in all the ways he is thinking. She later decides that her previous outburst was an attempt at dodging blame, and though she apologizes for it, she maintains that she does not want to be involved in killing anyone else. The next major defining moment is when she asks V about her own suspicion that he is her father, and he in response forces her out into the street, alone. Skipping past the TV studio scene where the thesis on complacency is delivered, the most we can talk about there is that Evey’s complacency is suggested as being representative of the public as a whole ultimately being complacent in allowing harmful systems to dominate them, which, y’know, kinda speaks for itself. So, the next time we see Evey after that is when she has moved in with a low-ranking street thug by the name of Gordon Dietrich. The important thing to note is that Evey has decided to put her time with V out of mind, and as a result has reverted back to her old self. This, of course, does not last long, as Gordon is soon murdered and Evey is forced once again into a situation that shatters her entire world, except this time, she decides to do something about it, taking a gun from his cabinet and setting out for revenge. The result of this is her getting kidnapped, ostensibly, by the Finger, and put into a blacksite prison. We then get a very bizarre nightmare sequence suggesting bizarre and complicated feelings towards her father, who she has wrapped up with her two father figures, V and Gordon, resulting in an unintentional Electra complex by association, then moves through her lingering memories of being molested by Lilliman, her feelings towards V and his murders, her resultant terror of him, and eventually a hint towards who really kidnapped her. It should also be noted that everyone who appears in the dream is either somebody she’s met, or someone important to the story. V, Rose, Lilliman’s aide, Dascombe, Surridge, Creedy, the Fingerman from the first chapter, and a few that I will aadmit I don’t recognize. And now, we come to the catalyst for her change of heart, the prison sequence. This happens in two forms, one being things that directly happen to her, and the other being a story told to her from a letter. We’ll talk more about the latter next time, but for now, I will say this: both of these are meant to make her understand the true horrors of being in a concentration camp, one by having her live some aspects of it, and the other by forcing empathy for someone who lived the real thing, by letting Evey project the horror she’s living through onto aspects of the letter, knowing all the while that the full thing would’ve been so much worse. We will be focusing on the direct effects of her physical torment though. She is put through torture over and over for weeks, until eventually she is given a choice. Sign a confession and live, or refuse and be killed. She refuses. It is then revealed that this was all a trick by V, who did everything himself, in order to “set her free” of her complacency and convert her to his way of thinking by showing her what the system was capable of. However, this is also where another implication becomes clear. Evey’s change comes in the form of her having a complete breakdown and apparently seeing things for a more true outlook. However, this only shows that V has effectively broken and twisted her to be more like him, without her consent, and effectively forced her into becoming as damaged as he is. As I’ve said before and will doubtless say again, V is not a good or admirable character, and this is the best moment to prove it. Over the course of the story, only 2 people come to truly understand V, and both from undergoing representations of the same thing that broke him, and it is implied that both are similarly damaged by the experience. Thus, he, and the ideology he represents, are further portrayed as the result of a pendulum swing into the absolute extreme as a result of experiencing the worst of fascism firsthand. In this, the book is not portraying anarchism as the correct option, it is portraying it as the extreme belief caused by the belief that going to the other end will correct the problem, and we’ll fucking get to that. But for now, back to the story of Evey, or Eve, as V now calls her. The next scene with her is when he gives her the choice whether or not to pick a rose he offers, with full knowledge that if she picks it, he will kill Harper for her and avenge her dead lover. She ultimately refuses, but in a way that shows her growth as a person. Instead of refusing because of a dogged belief that killing is always wrong regardless of context, she does so to symbolize that she has abandoned revenge and will instead focus on larger things than petty vengeance. For most of the rest of the book, her character is fairly consistent, and she still isn’t fully on board with V’s way of thinking, even questioning his ideology when he institutes anarchy for a week and Britain dissolves into chaos. However, then her character morphs one more time, as one last event shapes her final transformation: the death of V at the hands of Finch. Having lost her final father figure, she is left alone once more, to ponder the meaning of his final requests, specifically, that she must discover whose face lies behind his mask, but must never know his face. After thinking on it for a while, she realizes: that face he referred to was the idea he represented, that the persona of V could belong to anyone, and that he wished for her to carry on his legacy. So she does, becoming the next V, destroying Downing Street, and taking an apprentice of her own. This is the end of her story, and the future of her, and all of England, is left uncertain.

So, this metamorphosis from audience surrogate to V has several angles it can be viewed from. First, as the idea that anyone can become what V ultimately was if placed in the right circumstances. This is a very similar idea to The Joker’s central thesis in The Killing Joke, that all it takes is one bad day for anyone to become as crazy as him. While The Killing Joke ultimately rejected this thesis, at least so far as the text itself goes, V for Vendetta treats it as true, which is a very interesting take on it. This idea, or one very similar to it, also appeared in Watchmen, where Rorschach tells his therapist that his current state is a natural result of having stared into the abyss of human depravity. The important thing to remember in this theme carrying over is that neither The Joker nor Rorschach were “good” people. They were broken by their pasts, yes, but that pushed them into becoming something extremely dark and twisted, and that is no less the case here. The only difference is that the enemy V is fighting is every bit as bad as his new form is. He is a dark reflection of the “freedom fighter”, the revolutionary who fights for an ideology that will ultimately do similar damage to the one he opposes, albeit not quite to the same abhorrent degree. And this rubs off on Eve, she ultimately succumbs to his ideology and becomes exactly like him. The counterpart to reject the idea that this could happen to anyone is Finch, who ultimately does not change his ways into agreeing with them. Next, is the idea that it is a warped form of growing up. This one is fairly simple. V treats her as a child at the beginning, the heavily relies on parental figures throughout the early parts of the story, and then as she gets twisted into being more like him, he starts giving her more and more agency, and when her reliance on him is finally severed for good, she takes off on her own, relying on herself and taking up a new trainee in a metaphor for adulthood. Finally, and most darkly, is where we talk about her psyche. Remember when I said she was stable around the start of the book? It’s time to take that pin out. So, while Evey clearly hadn’t worked through her issues revolving her parents being taken away at an early age, she had at least gotten a lid on them and was not governed by them. However, then she met V, who would, over the course of the story, dredge up her issues, force her through a really traumatic series of events, and morph her into who she became by the end as a result. This is, to say the least, extremely dark. Taking, by all accounts, an innocent bystander and forcing them to live through an almost indescribable nightmare in order to shift their worldview as a result? That is some seriously disturbed shit, especially with the implication that Eve by the end is largely a result of the traumatic experiences he forces her through. She, by the end, has dealt with her parental issues, those are thoroughly resolved, but V replaced them with something much darker. We didn’t get enough screen time with Eve at the end to really see how this ordeal has affected her, but I think  it would be fairly obvious that this kind of experience and the damage it would cause would eventually take a huge toll on her. Sadly I cannot comment on it much further, as I am not actually too experienced in this field. Still, those are the three lenses through which I viewed the changes from Evey to Eve over the course of the story, and hopefully at least someone will find another one to examine her from.

Author: WhenSomethingCriesAgain

Several years ago, I found myself positively brimming with opinions and insight, with no way to express them, so I began writing, and found that I liked it. I decided to start a page to keep records of my writing, and hopefully convince a few people to agree with my ideas.

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