The central theme of V for Vendetta is freedom and its relationship with anarchy, or the absence of government. V describes himself as an anarchist (as does Alan Moore, the author) — one who believes that all governmental authority is corrupt because it infringes on human freedom. V’s actions, and thus, the plot of the graphic novel, reflect his commitment to freedom.
It’s clear from the start that the fictional Norsefire government of England in V for Vendetta is guilty of restricting human freedom. We see some of the ways Norsefire does this: forbidding people from reading what they want to read, throwing people in jail simply because of their sexual orientation or skin color, and sending the elderly to gas chambers to die. It’s no coincidence that the radio broadcasting system use by Norsefire is called the “Voice of Fate”—Fate is, after all, the opposite of freedom.
Evey Hammond and V, the two main characters of V for Vendetta, despise the Norsefire government—as Evey puts it succinctly, “We shouldn’t have to live like this.” But if Evey objects to Norsefire’s tyranny, how does she want to live? What would a “free” society, as understood by Evey and V, look like?
While it’s impossible to answer this question in just a few sentences, one relevant distinction that Moore makes is the distinction between “freedom to … ” and “freedom from...” The “freedom to …” model suggests that freedom is, simply put, a matter of doing whatever one wants—living in the land of “do-as-you-please,” as V puts it. The “freedom from…” model suggests that freedom isn’t just a matter of doing what you want—freedom also involves freeing oneself from ignorance, weakness, etc. This requires education, discipline, and hard work.
Over the course of V for Vendetta, it becomes increasingly clear that Moore favors the “freedom from…” model of freedom. It’s not enough to simply release people from their servitude to a government—this becomes apparent when V shuts down government institutions for three days, and enormous, bloody riots break out throughout England. True freedom, V maintains, takes hard work. (To quote an old tautology, freedom is not free.) People need to free themselves from the prisons of their governments, but also the prisons of their own minds. This helps to explain why V is constantly reading, studying, and learning. More disconcertingly, it helps us understand why V kidnaps Evey and tortures her for weeks. V wants to “free” Evey from the weakness of her own desire for happiness—“happiness,” as he later says, “is the most insidious prison of all.”
At the end of V for Vendetta, London is still in a state of chaos. Moore has suggested that true freedom requires education and training—otherwise freedom is nothing but violence and anarchy. This raises all sorts of questions: Does this mean that freedom involves a teacher, a kind of authority figure? What form would a truly free society take? Do people need guidance to achieve true freedom, or can they figure it out for themselves? Wisely, Moore doesn’t try to answer all of these questions—instead he leaves us, as readers, “free” to make up our own minds.
Freedom and Anarchy ThemeTracker
Freedom and Anarchy Quotes in V for Vendetta
I believe in strength. I believe in unity. And if that strength, that unity of purpose demands a unity of thought, word, and deed then so be it. I will not hear talk of freedom. I will not hear talk of individual liberty. They are luxuries. I do not believe in luxuries.
Her name is anarchy! And she has taught me more as a mistress than you ever did! She has taught me that justice is meaningless without freedom. She is honest. She makes no promises and breaks none.
They were ordinary people, and they were prepared to torture a stranger to death, just because they were told to by someone in authority. Some of them said they’d even enjoyed it. I think I enjoyed what I did at the time. People are stupid and evil.
It’s your basic unwillingness to get on within the company. You don’t seem to want to face up to real responsibility, or to be your own boss. Lord knows, you’ve been given plenty of opportunities. We’ve offered you promotion time and time again, and each time you’ve turned us down.
I understand that you are unable to get on with your spouse. I hear that you argue. I am told that you shout. Violence has been mentioned.
Strength through purity. Purity through faith.
But it was my integrity that was important. Is that so selfish? It sells for so little, but it’s all we have left in this place. It is the very last inch of us, but within that inch we are free.
“Sign that statement. You could be out inside three years. Perhaps they’d find you a job with the Finger. A lot of your sort get work with the Finger.”
“Thank you… but I’d rather die behind the chemical sheds.”
“Then there’s nothing left to threaten with, is there? You are free.”
“You say you want to set me free and you put me in a prison.”
“You were already in a prison. You’ve been in a prison all your life.”
“Shut up! I don’t want to hear it! I wasn’t in a prison! I was happy! I was happy until you threw me out.”
“Happiness is a prison, Evey. Happiness is the most insidious prison of all.”
Noise is relative to the silence proceeding it. The more absolute the hush, the more shocking the thunderclap. Our masters have not heard the people’s voice for generations, Evey. And it is much, much louder than they care to remember.
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.
Because you were so big, V, and what if you’re just nobody? Or even if you’re someone, you’ll be smaller, because of all the people that you could have been, but weren’t.