Evey has been in her prison cell for so long that she knows “every inch” of it. Every day, a guard tortures her by shoving her face into water, demanding information. Her only solace is the message from Valerie that she found in her cell.
The chapter begins with a key word, “inch.” This word will recur several times in the chapter, signifying a slightly different thing each time.
Evey reads Valerie’s letter. Valerie begins by explaining that she was born in Nottingham in 1957. Growing up, she dreamed of being an actress, and when she was 14, she met her “first girlfriend,” Sara. Her teachers noticed that she was attracted to other girls, and told her that she would outgrow this “phase.” Valerie never did outgrow it. In 1976, she came out to her parents—and her mother said that she “broke her heart.” Shortly thereafter, Valerie moved to London. Valerie notes that she feels horrible about hurting her mother, but adds that she will never give up her own integrity—integrity is “only an inch,” but within it, all human beings are completely free. In the present, we see Evey being tortured before a shadowy figure who demands information from her. Evey refuses to give any information about V.
Valerie’s letter seems life-saving to Evey, showing the power of words and communication. The letter is the only thing that keeps Evey going while she’s in prison (see Symbols for more). Valerie’s situation is heartbreaking: she does nothing wrong, and is punished for something she has no control over. The greatest tragedy in Valerie’s situation is that she’s not unique: millions of homosexuals have struggled with the same adversity (in the real world, not just Norsefire), and some of them were murdered for their “crimes.” It’s important that Moore is writing about Valerie at the height of the AIDS crisis, when gays were demonized, and religious leaders like Jerry Falwell even called for their deaths.
Evey continues reading Valerie’s letter. In London, Valerie became an acclaimed actress, starring in The Salt Flats. There, Valerie befriended her costar, an actress named Ruth. Ruth sent Valerie roses, and shortly afterwards, they became lovers. These were the best years of Valerie’s life, but they came to an abrupt halt in 1988 with “the war”—after the war, there were no more roses for anybody.
We can’t help but see a link between V’s roses and Valerie’s roses. For Valerie, roses are a symbol of happiness and contentment. For V, they symbolize a theatrical kind of vengeance and violence. It’s as if the war nuclear war changed the meaning of objects: a rose is now a symbol of tragedy.
In 1992, after the Norsefire party gained control of England, Ruth was abducted from her home, along with millions of other homosexuals. The police tortured Ruth and forced her to give up Valerie’s name. Valerie continues to love Ruth, and doesn’t fault her for betraying her. After signing a statement saying that Valerie “seduced her,” Ruth killed herself in her cell. Valerie thinks that Ruth couldn’t stand having given up “that last inch.”
The “inch” to which Valerie alludes is, among other things, integrity, honesty, self-respect, and love. Valerie steers Evey toward the conclusion that even a totalitarian government can’t entirely deprive humans of their freedom. As long as humans maintain control of this final “inch,” they retain freedom and humanity.
After Ruth named Valerie to the police, Valerie was arrested and imprisoned. Her films were burned, and her head was shaved. Valerie notes that another gay woman, Rita, died in her prison only two weeks ago—Valerie realizes that she’ll die very soon. But she writes that despite everything, for three years she had roses—thus, there is an inch of her that will never perish. As we read this, we see Evey being tortured, day after day, and refusing to give up information.
Valerie is deprived of her identity, just as Evey is: her head is shaved and her art is destroyed. In this way, Valerie embodies the fate of entire demographic groups under Norsefire. At this point, it seems that Evey has taken Valerie’s example to heart: she refuses to give up her “last inch.”
Valerie’s message concludes with an address directly to the reader. Valerie says that she has no idea who “you” are,” but that she loves “you.” She stresses that the prison knows every inch of her, “except one.” Evey weeps as she reads these words, and kisses Valerie’s letter.
Valerie’s message to Evey encapsulates everything V has tried to teach her. While Fascist governments may terrorize their own people, people are ultimately responsible for their own freedom. Even in the most horrifying of circumstances, there is always an “inch” that remains under one’s control.