V for Vendetta

V for Vendetta

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Vendettas, Revenge, and the Personal Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Freedom and Anarchy Theme Icon
Bigotry Theme Icon
The Power of Symbols Theme Icon
Vendettas, Revenge, and the Personal Theme Icon
Fatherhood, Mentorship, and the State Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in V for Vendetta, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Vendettas, Revenge, and the Personal Theme Icon

Webster’s Dictionary defines “vendetta” either as “a feud between two families, leading to long-lasting animosity and retaliatory acts of revenge” or as “a series of acts attempting to injure another.” In V for Vendetta, Alan Moore moves back and forth between these two definitions of the word: one personal and vengeful, the other more vague and abstract in its motives. In essence, Moore leads us to ask, “Is V motivated by revenge, or by a more abstract, philosophical objection to the Norsefire government?”

At times, V for Vendetta appears to be the story of V’s personal revenge. Eric Finch and his assistant, Dominic Stone, hypothesize that V’s attacks are motivated by a desire for vengeance. It’s possible, Finch discovers, that V was a patient in Larkhill Camp, where he was starved, tortured, and given dangerous drugs. V could then be trying to “spit back” his pain and suffering on the people who hurt him: Lewis Prothero, his former prison guard, Anthony Lilliman, his hypocritical chaplain, and other. But at the same time, Finch realizes, V could also just be pretending to seek revenge: perhaps he wasn’t a patient at Larkhill at all, and is only using this backstory as a smokescreen for a more ambitious, far-reaching assault on the Norsefire government.

By the end of V for Vendetta, we still don’t know what motivates V. It’s possible that he was a patient at Larkhill Camp, and wants to avenge his mistreatment—this is the version of events we’re told in Delia Surridge’s diary. It’s also entirely possible that V is an English citizen who has conspired to destroy Norsefire for more moral or philosophical reasons. (Eric Finch brings up the possibility that Delia’s diary was edited or forged by V himself.)

Even if Moore doesn’t explain exactly what motivates V, he offers some important clues near the end of his graphic novel about how to interpret revenge and vendetta. After Eric Finch kills V, Evey Hammond wonders whether or not she should remove V’s mask and look at his face. In the end, Evey decides to leave V’s individual identity a secret, and instead to celebrate V’s symbolic identity. With this in mind, she takes another copy of V’s mask and wears it as her own, along with V’s usual cloak and hat. In the final chapter of V for Vendetta, we see Evey, dressed as V, welcoming a naïve young man to the Shadow Gallery—in essence, playing the same role for this man that V once played for her.

The suggestion in these final chapters is that while V may have been motivated by a personal desire for revenge (but we don’t know who he is, and thus can’t know for certain), his personal motives ultimately don’t matter. Evey chooses to leave V’s mask in place because she recognizes that V’s abstract, universal reasons for attacking Norsefire—his belief in human freedom, anarchy, and dialectical materialism—are more important to her and to V’s followers. After Evey dons V’s mask, we realize that V himself may have been a former student of the Shadow Gallery, not a prisoner at Larkhill. To be V, the graphic novel suggests, is to put aside one’s personal motives altogether and embody the ideals of anarchy.

In the end, Moore’s meditations on revenge and vendetta are crucial to V for Vendetta because they define the difference between the graphic novel’s protagonists—Evey Hammond and V—and its antagonists—the government officials of Norsefire, led by the Leader, Adam Susan. While the officials of Norsefire use their power and authority to achieve their own interests and satisfy their selfish desires (lust, ambition, sadism, etc.), Evey and V use their power and training to deny their own interests, and indeed, their own personalities. To carry out a vendetta against the government is to set aside oneself and embrace the universal ideal of freedom.

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Vendettas, Revenge, and the Personal Quotes in V for Vendetta

Below you will find the important quotes in V for Vendetta related to the theme of Vendettas, Revenge, and the Personal.
Book 1, Chapter 1 Quotes

Remember, remember the fifth of November, the Gunpowder treason and plot. I know of no reason why the Gunpowder treason should ever be forgot.

Related Characters: V (speaker)
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:

Here V, the masked vigilante who's vowed to topple the Fascist government headed by Adam Susan, recites a poem about the "Gunpowder Treason," the infamous plot by Guy Fawkes to blow up the Houses of Parliament in the 1600s. (See Background Info.) As far as V is concerned, Guy Fawkes is a hero: a fellow vigilante who used his knowledge of explosives to attempt a sweeping revenge plot on a government he believed to be unjust.

The passage tells us a lot about V's twisted, whimsical approach to violence. V is talking about destroying enormous buildings and potentially killing innocent people--a crime belied by the innocent, sing-song nature of his poem. More importantly, V looks to Guy Fawkes for inspiration in his own vigilante acts, as even his mask is fashioned to look like Fawkes. V recognizes the importance of symbols and role models--just as he treats Fawkes as a hero, he hopes to inspire a new generation of anarchists to rise up against Susan and the Fascist party. By completing Fawkes's plot (i.e., blowing up Parliament 500 years later), V sends a powerful symbolic message: revolutionaries always win in the end, even if it takes them 500 years.


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Book 1, Chapter 11 Quotes

You see, there are two possible motives here. Not one. The first motive is revenge. He escapes from Larkhill and vows to get even with his tormentors. The Parliament bombing and the other stuff is just a smokescreen. The whole exercise was an elaborate, chilling vendetta. That’s the explanation that I find the most reassuring, funnily enough. Because that means he’s finished now. That means it’s over. The second motive is more sinister. Like I said, everyone who could have identified him is now dead. What if he’s just been clearing ground? What if he’s been planning something else?

Related Characters: Mr. Eric Finch (speaker), V , The Leader / Adam Susan
Page Number: 85
Explanation and Analysis:

Eric Finch, the head of detective work in the Norsefire government, tries to understand why V, known to be a masked vigilante, is murdering former Norsefire party members who worked at Larkhill Prison (where V himself was probably kept and tortured) years ago. Finch isn't sure if V is killing these people because he's angry with them and wants revenge, or because he's preparing for something else and trying to eliminate people who have valuable information about him—or both.

It's important to note the frightened tone of Finch's quote. He's afraid of and even awed by V's actions, and this is exactly what V wants: he wants to strike fear and uncertainty into the hearts of his enemies. And yet Finch's questions are valid--we're not any more sure of why V is doing what he's doing than we are. There's a fine line between V's personal vendetta and his broader commitment to ideals like freedom and justice. By wearing a Guy Fawkes mask and concealing his own identity, V can effectively enact two vendettas at the same time: he can satisfy his own personal desire for revenge while also fighting for his beliefs.

Book 3, Chapter 4 Quotes

Because if I’m going to crack this case, and I am, I’m going to have to get right inside his head, to think the way he thinks, and that scares me.

Related Characters: Mr. Eric Finch (speaker), V
Page Number: 210
Explanation and Analysis:

Eric Finch, the detective tasked with tracking down V, decides that the only way to catch V is to think like V. (This is one of the classic plot tropes of crime and serial killer stories--the detective discovers that he and his quarry eerily similar.) In order to simulate V's state of mind, Finch ingests a large quantity of LSD, a hallucinogenic drug that, he believes, promotes creativity and original thinking.

By taking LSD and thinking like V, Finch isn't just trying to solve his case. Finch is also trying to free himself from the constraints of his own society. Finch is secretly a good man who opposes the tyranny of Norsefire's regime. But just like everyone else, he's too frightened and cynical to attempt to oppose Norsefire, and he goes through life accepting injustice in his society. The fact that Finch subconsciously wants to be like V is a clear sign that he's fed up with being a pawn to Adam Susan and other Norsefire officials--he wants to escape the government's authority by first freeing his mind from fear.

Book 3, Chapter 7 Quotes

“Did you think to kill me? There’s no flesh or blood within this cloak to kill. There’s only an idea. Ideas are bulletproof.”

Related Characters: V (speaker), Mr. Eric Finch
Related Symbols: Guy Fawkes Mask, “V” symbol
Page Number: 236
Explanation and Analysis:

In this important scene, Eric Finch tracks down V and shoots him. V (secretly bleeding to death) tells Finch that nobody can kill him, because he's an idea, not a man.

V's statement isn't literally true, of course, but it's very powerful (and one of the most famous quotes from the work). V is a human being, but he's also much more. By wearing a cloak and a Guy Fawkes mask, V aims to erase his own personality and become a symbol. As a symbol, something without the flaws and complexities of a real human, V can inspire millions of other people with just his ideas, courage, and image.

Sure enough, a few chapters later, "V" is dead, but Evey has taken V's cloak and mask, effectively becoming the "new V." Ultimately, V isn't a person--it's a role, which can be played by many different people.