27 May 2011

Thought Balloon: V For Vendetta - The True Identity Of 'V'?

Rob N: When V For Vendetta was first serialised in the pages of Warrior magazine, there was a lot of speculation as to who V really was, even to the point of some readers suggesting he was a future incarnation of Marvelman (simply because Alan Moore was also writing Marvelman in the very same magazine). The story has a dramatic change of tone for those who followed it in its original format. The Warrior serialisation stops at the point when Evey discovers she has been imprisoned and tortured, not by the fascists, but by V. Up until then a major theme of the story was the question, 'Who is V?', with Alan Moore dropping clues along the way. It seemed to be a case of if you followed the clues you could by the end of the series deduce the answer. But several years went by before DC bought the comic and greenlit Alan Moore and David Lloyd to complete it. The intervening years had made a difference, and when the final chapters appeared there was a distinctly different tone to the writing. Most obviously, Moore was no longer interested in the question of 'Who is V?', and indeed that question was never answered. But it did appear that in the first few years Alan Moore was pointing towards a resolution and later, after a gap in publishing, changed his mind. By the time the series was concluded I had come up with a theory as to who was V. And I had concluded it wasn't the man in room 5. And the theory is actually well supported by the evidence in the comic itself. If you're curious, then please read on...

The facts as we know them:

Let's begin with the evidence of Dr Surridge's journal at Larkhill.

Entry May 23rd 1993 “Prothero has picked the subjects... four dozen of them.”

At this point we know there are approximately 48 test subjects at Larkhill, of which Codename V is one of them.

Entry June 9th 1993 “Out of the original four dozen, over seventy five percent are dead now. Out of the ten that are left, I doubt that three will survive the night. One of the blacks, Donald Crane, is in particularly bad condition.”

So we now know the original batch are down to ten subjects. The entry goes on to add: “Strangely there are no clear patterns emerging as to which group succumbs quickest. If anything the women are slightly more resistant than the men. Especially the black women. Rita Boyd, the lesbian, died at tea time.”

Entry June 18th 1993: “Only five left now. Two men and three women, which tends to contradict my entry of the 9th June.”

Now this is the first point of interest. Dr Surridge stated in her journal of the 9th that the women are more resistant than the men, and yet on the 18th she states that the fact there are more women alive than men contradicts her earlier statement. We can draw two conclusions here: either she has made a mistake (and bearing in mind she's an analytical scientist at the top of her field, so such a basic mistake is very unlikely) OR V has doctored her journal and made a mistake in doing so. Why would he do that? Well, Finch is on record as stating it's strange that V left the journal for them to find. Either he wanted the fascists to know the truth, or... “it could all be another smoke screen. A false trail. Another cover story.” In other words, V might want them to think he's the man in room 5.

Entry 12th July 1993: “Patel: The Asian in cubicle three died today.”

We now know the body count of live subjects is down to one man (the man in room 5) and three women. For the first time (other than code V in room 5) a room is mentioned.

Entry 7th August 1993: "The woman in room one died this morning.”

We now know there are three subjects left alive. One man (room 5) and two women. We have the second mention of a room number, other than room 5.

Entry 24th December: The incident at Larkhill occurs. The man in room 5 detonates an explosion and mixes mustard gas and napalm to break out of the experimental wing of Larkhill.

We can assume that at the point of the break out there were still three people alive, because Dr Surridge had been at pains to detail the deaths up until then.

Now let's move on to the account left by 'Valerie' hand written on toilet paper. V is on record as saying Valerie was the woman in room 4 and the note was passed to him. So, according to V, she was in the room next to him. Not only do we know this by the number sequence, but because V claims her journal was passed to him through a hole in the connecting wall.

Let's see what Valerie's journal says, and we'll connect this to the account of Dr Surridge. We know she was a lesbian and because of that she was rounded up after her girlfriend, Ruth, gave her up under torture. She was placed into Larkhill. At some point she got hold of 5 sheets of toilet paper and wrote her personal account. This was, according to V, slipped through into 'his room'.

Valerie's account is undated, but we do have one important entry to go on:

“The other gay woman here, Rita, died two weeks ago. I imagine I'll die quite soon.”

This ties in with Dr Surridge's statement of the 9th June: “Rita Boyd, the lesbian, died at tea time.”

So we now know when that part of Valerie's statement was written. Allowing for the distortion of time in a cell, the note was written circa (9 + 14) 23rd June 1993, at which point the Larkhill camp had five people left alive (two men and three women, of which the man in room 5 was one of the men and Valerie was one of the women).

Based on the deaths recorded after that we can conclude that at the point of the man in room 5 breaking out, the camp contained:

Room 4: Valerie
Room 5: The escapee
Room ? (but not 1 or 3) An un-named woman.

Now we get to the break out. The man in room 5 mixes some explosives on Christmas Eve and detonates an explosion that destroys the exterior wall of the prison cells. We clearly see him striding out amongst the napalm, obviously injured. But a blast of that magnitude is likely to also have done structural damage to the walls either side: rooms 4 and 6 at the very least.

It's safe to assume that the occupants of rooms 4 and 6 could also escape, assuming those cells were occupied. We know from the evidence so far that room 4 at least was. By Valerie.

Up until now the assumption is, because the man in room 5 caused the explosion, V must be the man in room 5. But as shown, there were two other prisoners alive at the time – one of whom was in the adjacent cell, room 4.

Now turn to your copies of V For Vendetta, to the chapter where Evey is being put through the ordeal of being a prisoner at Larkhill. She is being made to live through V's experience, and to this end V has recreated the cells at Larkhill. Obviously we assume Evey occupies cell 5.

The panels show that when you're looking into Evey's cell through the bars of the door, the wall where she crouches down to find Valerie's note is to your right hand side. She retrieves the note and then slumps against the bare wall with her back to the wall, opposite where her bed is, with the door to her left, thereby meaning as you're staring in to the cell, that wall is to your right.

Now let's go back to chapter four where V kills Prothero, the camp commander. Before doing so he takes him on a tour of the prison cells, rooms one to five, that he has recreated. They walk past the room doors, one to five, going from the left to right. Which means, when you're facing in to room 5, room 4 is to your left and room 6 is to your right.

So room 4, where Valerie was resident, was to the left of room 5. But in Evey's set up, the note from Valerie is pushed through the hole connecting to room 6 on the right.

In other words, the note from Valerie couldn't have been where Evey found it, if it was indeed pushed through from room 4 to 5. It would have had to come from room 6 to 5.

Which means V is lying. He's a complete control freak with a minute attention to detail in all things, so is unlikely to have made a mistake on something that is true. He could make a mistake when he's fabricating something false though.

If the note was indeed pushed into a cell by Valerie, based on the set up that Evey goes through, it would have had to have come from a cell room number one higher than the cell receiving it. Since we know that Valerie was in cell 4 that makes the recipient cell 3. We know from the time line there would be a reason to push the note through to room 3 because it was occupied then by a living subject: the Asian man, Patel, who died on the 12th July.

Now we also know that V is obsessed with leaving roses for his victims – the victims being the people in charge of Larkhill. Roses have no particular meaning to the man in room 5, but they have a very significant meaning to the woman in room 4. Valerie is on record as saying:

“I met Ruth while working on that. We loved each other. We lived together and on Valentine's Day she sent me roses, and oh God we had so much. Those were the best three years of my life. In 1988 there was the war. And after that there were no more roses.”

Valerie has a very real reason for roses to be significant to her. Her lover who gave her roses was killed by the fascists who tortured her to get Valerie's name, who then incarcerated her in Larkhill. It is very conceivable that Valerie could decide to honour her lost love when she sought revenge by leaving a rose at each murder scene.

Add to this the numerous scenes depicting V's obsession with the film The Salt Flats (that Valerie starred in). We see him watching the film in his Shadow Gallery and he locates and takes a poster of it when he finds it. The film has obviously some deep meaning for him.

Because if he was Valerie, it was the film where s(he) met Ruth – the love of her life who also starred in it. It would have no particular emotive connection to the man in room 5, especially as I've shown, the man in room 5 couldn't have received Valerie's note from room 4

Therefore the evidence suggests that the man in room 5 engineered a break out at Larkhill. The blast also shattered the cells either side, one of which contained Valerie. Pages are torn out of Dr Surridge's diary (as confirmed by Finch) – these pages may mention that the man in room 5 was not the only escapee, therefore leaving the police to concentrate their efforts in finding the man from room 5. V knows all about Valerie, and can recreate Valerie's note, because he is actually Valerie and wrote it.

It is possible that Valerie also escaped and became V, (the ultimate fate of the man in room 5 would therefore remain unknown). She takes the code name 'V' in honour of the man who was responsible for her freedom, and then goes on to honour her lost love, Ruth, by leaving roses (extinct since the war, but it was before the war that they were given to Valerie by Ruth) at the scene of her murders.

As a lesbian, she would be attracted to Evey, but be afraid to reveal her feelings, because Evey is obviously heterosexual, and it's safe to assume Valerie would have been injured in the fire/explosion and therefore now ugly.

Or... Alan Moore and David Lloyd could have made mistakes when they wrote the comic. There's only one real way to find out and that's to ask Mr Moore himself...


Ian said...

Wow! That's fascinating stuff Matt. I've read V several times and none of that ever occurred to me. "Alan Moore .. could have made mistakes when they wrote the comic" - with any other writer I'd say that was the most likely answer, but we're talking about Alan Moore. How often does he make mistakes in his work and how often does he pack his work with little details and acres of hidden backstory?!

Matt C said...

Credit where credit's due, this article is all Rob's, I just posted it up!

Ian said...

Sorry Rob, I was looking at the end not the beginning!

Anonymous said...

Well dat sounds true but from my own view I think v is the person that was cutting evey's hair since we never saw his face

Anonymous said...

First up, the doctor is Surridge, with an "S", not Burridge.

Page 1 - V from behind, not in costume, alone > obviously male body type.

Page 31 - V in a common shirt, has an obviously male body type.

Also, he is objectively described by other characters as the man from room 5, characters who met said man.
We might assume they recognize voice, gait or similar things.

Not buying the Valerie-theory at all.

Rob N said...

Hi, thanks for your comments.

You're correct of course that the Doctor's name should be Surridge, not Burridge. Perhaps Matt C can correct that for me? :)

Re: body shapes, women don't always conform to the hourglass physical shape. The pictures you mention could easily be either sex, especially if the person concerned was a body building (we can assume V was in great physical shape) lesbian who didn't particularly identify with a traditional 'girlie' look. You also have to factor in that when David Lloyd drew those pages he may not have been privy to exactly who Alan Moore wanted V to be, especially not in the first issue. Often in comics there's an element of 'making it up as you go along' and many great writers on serials have come up with interesting ideas part way through a series that they may not have had from the outset. Alan Moore is probably more likely to plan things in minute detail in advance, but even he probably introduces new ideas as his serial progresses, especially in the early days. David Lloyd may have drawn V that way simply because in his mind he would automatically have assumed V was a man.

As regards people assuming V is the man in room 5, that is of course what V wants them to think and indeed engineers. My theory assumes there is an element of misdirection in what he is doing, a theory that is echoed by Finch when he gives a report to the Leader, pointing out that V wanted them to find the journal, but not all of it. As V is shown to be theatrical in terms of costumes, identities and acting (e.g. his skillful portrayal of a number of faceless government thugs when Evey is tortured by him) we know he has the skill to mimic the characteristics required to pass as a man from Larkhill, particularly after so much time has gone by since anyone would have seen that person.

- Rob N

Rob N said...

One thing I forgot to include in my original article is the contrast in the comments by Surridge about V's face. In her diary she refers to the Man in Room 5 saying 'His face is very ugly. I've been thinking about it all evening.' Then when V confronts her, having injected her with a lethal dose of poison, just before she dies she asks to see his face. She describes it as beautiful. At no point does she make any explicit reference that V is the Man from Room 5 – we just assume that's who he is. If we take her descriptions literally (as opposed to Surridge changing her opinion because she's come to terms with the way she views the world) then it suggests the face she sees under V's mask is not the ugly face of the man from room 5. It is curious that Alan Moore deliberately placed those two references for us to spot in the same issue, as if it's meant to be a clue to be picked up on.

- Rob N

Aaron Upward said...

Wow man, wow.
Iève always said that it doesnèt matter who V is, because he is (and Ièm paraphrasing here) "more powerful as an idea than as a man" - and i still believe that - nonetheless I have always been curious who was beneath the mask, and this is the first viable theory that I've found, the only one I can't easily poke holes in, the only one I want to be true even if it isn't.

So um... thank you for some amazing late night reading. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Maybe v is the man in room five and the roses and everything are to pay tribute to the other prisoners who he was in prison with....?

Anonymous said...

I think it's an interesting take. Keep in mind, the prisoners were receiving hormone treatments (pituarin and pinearin) that had resulted in various physical mutations. Considering your analysis here, perhaps the man in room five did escape and then Valerie, having undergone physical changes as a result of the hormone treatment (maybe taking on a more masculine body type) exploited the identity of the man in room five as a part of her elaborate vaudevillian plans.

Cord Field said...

After recently reading the comic, I made up another theory. Was hoping this article explains V's true identity the same way as me, very thrilled by "he was not the man from room V"... And then such disappointment! You should look at the pictures more, V's face is shown a few times along the story. The soldier that tortures Eve... The familiar soldier's face who at the end of the story taunts the last authority standing in front of Eve acting as V. V's false death and amazing cover up afterwards... The same soldier, but younger who is almost on every picture from Delia's diary! It changes the story's meaning a lot.

Anonymous said...

v is ruth,

1) the doctor on her bed tells her, before she died, that she was given 1 of her roses,

2) valerie, tells us that ruth plantd the roses for her

3) no prisioner would learn, while in the prison how to plant the roses, so it had to be someone who already knew how to do it..

about the body shape, u have to take to account that they did so many experience to them

Jeddy Ares said...

Its very confusing of how V's true identity is.

Jeddy Ares said...

So confusing