in Alan Moore's Graphic Novel, V For Vendetta.
April 27, 1994
Last Revised: August 13, 2004
Copyright 1994-present, Madelyn Boudreaux.
Distribute links but do not modify. Send corrections, changes, and suggestions to email@example.com.
This annotation was prepared for a graduate class in Literary Research, under the direction of Dr. James Means, at the Northwestern State University of Louisiana, in the spring of 1994, and revised in the summer of 1999.
V For Vendetta, written by Alan Moore and illustrated by David Lloyd, is a work generally described as a "graphic novel." The term is used to distinguish serious works within the genre from the stereotypes of "super-hero" comic books.
In his 1983 essay "Behind the Painted Smile," V For Vendetta's author Alan Moore discusses the issue of ideas and genesis. His opening comments refer to the typical scene from any given science fiction convention, where hoards of (usually) young fans pack hotel convention rooms to hear their icons (the writers, actors, directors, and thinkers behind science fact and fiction) speak a few words: one eager kid, voice wavering (thinking, I've been waiting my *whole life* for this moment) asks "Where do you get your ideas from?". The reaction:
We sneer. We lampoon and ridicule the sniveling little oaf before his peers.... We imply that even to have voiced such a question places him irretrievably in the same category as the common pencil-sharpener.... The reason why we do this is pretty straightforward. Firstly, in the dismal and confused sludge of opinion and half- truth that make up all artistic theory and criticism, it is the only question worth asking. Secondly, we don't know the answer and we're scared that somebody will find out. (p. 268).
Rather than ever find myself in such an embarrassing position, I have undertaken to ferret out the origins of Moore's ideas. The task has been unbelievably arduous, not because any of the sources were too difficult to find, but because Moore covered so much ground. I found myself walking from one end of the library to the other, consulting science dictionaries, rose-naming serials, history books, films, and musical compact discs. I even explored some of my questions on the Internet, sending inquiries about such topics Son of Sam and Aliester Crowley, and receiving answers from around the world!
Moore has apparently learned that his questioners want to know about his ideas; at the present Moore is working on a graphic series called "From Hell" which features as its main character Jack the Ripper. I was unable to locate any issues of this work, but I am told that it is entirely annotated by Moore (Coates, personal communication). This is certainly unusual for a "comic book" but Moore is clearly addressing the issues of origin more clearly, perhaps for himself as well as for the reader.
In developing the originalV For Vendetta series, Moore and Lloyd "wanted to do something that would be uniquely British rather than emulate the vast amount of American material on the market," (Moore 270). Both were political pessimists, and decided that the in world they wanted to portray "the future would be pretty grim, bleak and totalitarian, thus giving us a convenient antagonist to play our hero off against," (Moore 270). They played with ideas, borrowing from books like _Farenheit_451_, until Moore, in frustration, compiled a list of the elements he wanted to draw together for the piece. He writes:
The list was something as follows: Orwell. Huxley. Thomas Disch. Judge Dredd. Harlan Ellison's "Repent Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman." "Catman" and "Prowler in the City at the Edge of the World" by the same author. Vincent Price's Dr. Phibes and Theatre of Blood. David Bowie. The Shadow. Nightraven. Batman. Farenheit 451. The writings of the New Worlds school of science fiction. Max Ernst's painting "Europe After the Rains." Thomas Pynchon. The atmosphere of British Second World War films. The Prisoner. Robin Hood. Dick Turpin... (270)
Also of great import in the development of V For Vendetta was, obviously, the political climate of England and the West during the early 1980s. Moore cites that the Conservative party would "obviously lose the 1983 elections." With the Labour Party in charge, he reasoned, certain changes would follow: they would remove all American missiles from British soil to prevent Britain "from becoming a major target in the event of a nuclear war." From these assumptions, Moore claims, it was a small step "from that point up until the Fascist takeover in the post-holocaust Britain of the 1990's." Of course, the Conservatives, not the Labour party, won the 1983 elections. In his 1988 introduction to the American DC comics edition of the book, Moore addressed his earlier comments in light of actual political history:
There is a certain amount of political inexperience upon my part evident in [the] earlier episodes. Back in 1981 the term 'nuclear winter' had not passed into common currency, and although my guess about climatic upheaval came pretty close to the eventual truth of the situation, the fact remains that the story to hand suggests that a nuclear war, even a limited one, might be survivable. To the best of my current knowledge, this is not the case. Naivete can also be detected in my supposition that it would take something as melodramatic as a near-miss nuclear conflict to nudge England towards fascism.... The simple fact that much of the historical background of the story proceeds from a predicted Conservative defeat in the 1982 General Election should tell you how reliable we were in our roles as Cassandras.
Citing Margaret Thatcher's confidence in unbroken Conservative leadership "well into the next century," police vans with rotating video cameras mounted on top, and the circulating ideas in England of concentration camps for AIDS victims and the eradication of homosexuality "even as an abstract concept," Moore in 1988 obviously felt that, despite the fact that the Labor party didn't win the election. his other predictions were coming true.
In annotating this work, I have adopted a system that will allow the reader to follow each entry easily. The first number indicates the page on which the original entry may be found. The second number indicates the row, numbered from top to bottom; most pages have three rows of art, while some have fewer. Finally, the last number indicates the column, numbered from left to right. The prologue to Book Two is "sideways" but the same system applies if the reader turns the book as he or she would normally do to read the words.
In formatting the file for the web, I have replaced the text-only convention of underline-spaces to indicate books, movies, and any case of underlining in a quote, and asterisks to represent bold and italics in quotes, and now use HTML-provided underlines, italics, and boldface text. In a few places, I have edited the original content slightly to provide links in context of the text.
Additionally, some web-based content and any addendum sent in by readers
is noted in grey-backgrounded text.
This content was not originally included and varies from the text-only
versions of this document available elsewhere online.
In August of 2004, following placing a link on an Alan Moore community, I edited the formatting, added a CSS style sheet to handle addenda, and added some new links.
In July 1999, I finally settled down to HTML the annotation for the web, a project I'd begun three times before.
7, -, - Europe After the Reign (title)
The title of the first book refers to the painting "Europe After the Rains" by Max Ernst, and holds within it implications of climatic upheavals of the nuclear near-miss. "After the reign" certainly refers to the dissolution of the royalty with a certain ominous ring, just as the painting's title implies a great heaviness over the entire continent. The title page image, of a single gloved hand (which surely indicates cold weather) placing something heavy and black on the surface below, adds to the ominous nature.
The painting, entitled "L'Europe apres la pluie," was created in 1940-42. It is described as "a funereal scene full of waste and putrefaction, peopled only by bestial creatures that wander around in solitude," (pg. 44-45) Ernst had been creating similar works which implied "the ruined, the fossilised and the lifeless; surfaces seem to be decayed, eaten away by acid and pierced by innumerable holes like the surface of a sponge," (pg. 44) for some time before WWII (pg. 94) but it was after his "premonition of war was translated into reality" that he fled to America. There, haunted by the memories of Europe torn apart, he created the composition also called "Europa nach dem Regen," which translates as Europe after the Rain or Europe after the Flood (pg. 44).
Ernst was born in 1891 in Bruhl, south of Cologne, on the banks of the Rhine (pg 29). His paintings often describe "a world in which the history of mankind has been wholly erased by a cataclysmic event in the iniverse...or by the conscious act of revolution which has destroyed everything." (p.8). In 1925, his best friend Pual Eluard wrote about Ernst's mental attitude, "which sought to destroy all culture that was inherited or not the result of personal experience, as if it were a sort of sclerosis in Western society: 'There cannot be total revolution but only permanent revolution. Like love, it is the fundamental joy of life.'" (footnote pg. 8). Ernst participated in a Dada exhibitions where observers destroyed his art and viewed pieces nailed to walls and thrown on the ground. In order to reach the gallery of the event, viewers passed through the lavatory of a beer house where a young girl dressed as a communicant recited lewd verse. The exhibit was closed on the charges of fraud (advertising it as art, which the perpetrators dismissed, commenting that it was advertised as Dada, which has nothing to do with art, and that it wasn't their fault if the public thought it did) and obscenity (based on Durer's engraving of Adam and Eve, which had been incorporated into one of Ernst's sculptures). It was subsequently reopened. According to the Hamlyn, the event was intended to embarrass and provoke the public (note, page 8). This element of drama and provocation is a thread that runs through V for Vendetta as well.
9, 1, 1 The fifth of the eleventh...
This is the first reference to Guy Fawkes day, the anniversary of the day when Guy Fawkes was caught in the basement of Parliament with a large amount of explosives. Fawkes was a Catholic extremist and a military hero who distinguished himself as a courageous and coolly determined soldier through his exploits fighting with the Spanish army in the Netherlands (Encyclopaedia Britannica 705). He was recruited by disgruntled Catholics who plotted to blow up Parliament and kill King James I. James had worked to institute a fine for people who refused to attend Anglican services (Encyclopaedia Britannica 571), adding to the oppression Catholics already suffered in England. One of the conspirators rented a house which shared part of it's cellar with Parliament, and the group filled the basement with gunpowder. Fawkes was chosen to start the fire, and was supposed to escape in the fifteen minutes before the explosion; if he could not escape, "he was quite ready to die in so holy a cause," (Williams 479). One of the conspirators had a friend in Parliament; he warned the friend not to attend the opening on the day chosen for the plot, and the paranoid King James immediately ferreted out the plot. Fawkes was caught in the basement with the match, and was tortured. He was executed directly across from Parliament on January 31, 1606.
9, 3, 2 Utopia (book on shelf)
Utopia was Sir Thomas More's famous work of 1516 (Sargent 844), in which he outlined the "humane features of a decent, planned society," (Greer 307) a society of common property, liberality, equality, and tolerance (Greer 456).
9, 3, 2 Uncle Tom's Cabin (book on shelf)
Written by Harriet Beecher Stowe and published in 1852, this novel about the depressing life-styles of black slaves in the American South contributed greatly to popular anti-slavery sentiment (Foster 756-66).
9, 3, 2 Capital (book on shelf)
Capital was Karl Marx's magnum opus of 1867. It was his major treatise on politics, economy, humanity, society, and government; Tucker describes it as "the fullest expression of [Marx's] entire world-view," (x).
9, 3, 2 Mein Kampf (book on shelf)
Nazi Leader Adolf Hitler's biographical proclamation of his beliefs, Mein Kampf, or "My Struggle," was written during his imprisonment following his first attempted coup against the Bavarian government in 1923 (Greer 512). Moore no doubt intended the irony of placing this work next to Marx's, as the ultra-right wing Nazi's were strong opponents of communism.
9, 3, 2 Murders in the Rue Morgue (movie poster)
This was a 1932 horror film made for Universal. It was a substantial rewrite of the Edgar Allen Poe story, and starred Bela Lugosi, a famous horror star. It is about a series of terrible murders that turn out to be the work of a trained ape (Halliwell 678). This reference may contain some foreshadowing as to V's methods of disguising his attacks on the system, and his serial killer traits.
9, 3, 2 Road to Morocco (movie poster)
The 1942 Paramount film Road to Morocco was one of a series of light romantic comedies starring Bing Crosby and Bob Hope as two rich playboys who travel around the world having zany adventures (Halliwell 825).
9, 3, 2 Son of Frankenstein (movie poster)
The 1939 Universal horror film, Son of Frankenstein, was the last of the classic trio. It starred Boris Karloff, a famous horror-film actor, and involved the return of the Baron's son and his subsequent dabbling (Halliwell 906).
9, 3, 2 White Heat (movie poster)
White Heat, made in 1949 for Warner, starred James Cagney. It plot involved a "violent, mother-fixated gangster" who finally falls after a government agent infiltrates his gang (Halliwell 1073). This may be another important foreshadow, as V, too, brings down the violent and dysfunctional party leader by infiltrating his ranks.
Addendum - a 1934 drama by the same name appears to be unrelated, pending further investigation.
10, 3, 3 ...make Britain great again.
This is typically "nationalistic" sentiment. European nationalism, which traces its root to the Hundred Year's War (Greer 269-275), is the concept that each nation has a single common culture and history which, inevitably, is considered by that nation to be better than any other's. It was this sentiment, taken to its extremes, that drove Hitler's Nationalist Socialist (Nazi) Workers' Party to try to rid Germany of "non-Germans." (Wolfgang 246-249).
11, 3, 3 The Multiplying villainies of nature do swarm upon him...
This is a line spoken by the Sargeant in Act I, scene II, from Shakespeare's MacBeth (766).
14, 1, 1-2 "Remember, remember...the fifth of November, the Gunpowder treason and plot. I know of no reason why the Gunpowder treason ever should be forgot."
This is one version of a English children's rhyme. In searching for a corroborating poem, I searched through The Subject Index to Poetry for Children and Young People, 1957-1975, which listed five collections of poems which included verses about Guy Fawkes (Smith and Andrews 267). One of these, Lavender's Blue, included the following version from at least 1956:
The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations attributes this version to an anonymous broadsheet song from 1826 (Cubberlege 368), and the first two lines as being "traditional since 17th century," (Cubberlege 9).
14, 1, 2 Parliament blows up...
In this scene, V has succeeded in doing what Fawkes failed; his and Evey's position opposite Parliament is probably significant, as it was opposite Parliament that Fawkes was hanged (Encyclopaedia Britannica 705).
14, 2, 2 The fireworks form the shape of a "V"
This refers to the common practice of exploding fireworks on Guy Fawkes day as part of the celebration (Encyclopaedia Britannica, p.705). It is likely also a reference to "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman" by Harlan Ellison (see discussion, below).
15, 3, 1 England Prevails
This sentiment sounds a lot like the thrust in a verse from James Thomson's 1740 play, Alfred: a Masque (Act III, last scene):
18, -, - Paintings (images)
I have been unable to determine the artists or titles of the paintings on this page.
18, 2, 3 Frankenstein (book on shelf)
This is a famous science fiction/social commentary of 1818 by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Its "timeless theme" is that "of man creating what is beyond his power to control," (Ewbanks 5).
18, 2, 3 Gulliver's Travels (book on shelf)
This was a utopia novel written in 1726 by Jonathon Swift, an English social satirist who lived most of his life in Ireland (Adler ix-x).
18, 2, 3 Decline and Fall of ...? (book on shelf)
This work is probably meant to be Edward Gibbs' The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, more commonly known simply as The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. The six volume set was written between 1776 and 1788, and is considered on of the best histories ever written (Rexroth 596).
18, 2, 3 Essays of Elia Lamb (book on shelf)
Elia, or Charles, Lamb first published his famous essays in the pages of London Magazine from 1820 to 1825, then collected into two volumes, published in 1923 and 1833. His essays are considered to be personal, sensitive, and rich (Altick 686-87).
18, 2, 3 Don Quixote (book on shelf)
This was a satiric novel about chivalry, written around 1600 (Adler ?) by Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes. Its hero was a caricatured romantic knight who is hopelessly idealistic (Greer 307).
18, 2, 3 Hard Times (book on shelf)
Charles Dickens wrote this "single-minded attack on... industrialism" in 1854. It juxtaposes the serious and studious industrialists with a creative, fun circus that comes to the town in which the novel is set (Ewbanks 786). It probably would have appealed to V's sense of drama and its victory over the drab.
18, 2, 3 French Revolution (book on shelf)
This volume could be any history of the French Revolution, which was fought between 1787 and 1792.
18, 2, 3 Faust (book on shelf)
Goethe's famous poem, Faust, was published beginning in 1808. It retold a Renaissance legend about a doctor who bargains with the devil for youth and power. The second part, published posthumously, was a philosophical treatise in which Faust's soul is saved because he loves and serves both God and humanity, despite his errors. This Faust is considered to embody the "modern" human (Greer 426).
18, 2, 3 Arabian Nights Entertainment (book on shelf)
This book is a collection of folk stories originally from India, but which traveled through Persia and into Arabia. Although set in 8th-9th century Baghdad, they retain many more characteristics of 15th century Egypt, where they were formally transcribed (Wickens 164).
18, 2, 3 The Odyssey (book on shelf)
One of two epic Greek historical poems set around 800 B.C. and composed by Homer. Although Homer's identity is uncertain, and he may even be an archetypical character himself, his Odyssey is an adventurous story about the return of Greek was heroes across rough seas (Greer 66).
18, 2, 3 V (book on shelf)
Thomas Pynchon's 1963 novel, V, is considered an important early "post-modern" work. It combined "bits of history, science, philosophy, and pop psychology," with paranoid characters and scientific metaphors. Pynchon's work is described as modulating "between the realms of 'high culture' and the pop underground of drugs and media culture," (Kadrey and McCaffery 19). This may be said of the Shadow Gallery, and of V for Vendetta as a work, as well.
18, 2, 3 Doctor No (book on shelf)
Ian Fleming, a former British intelligence agent, wrote this espionage novel in 1958. Fleming's novels were supposedly based on his real-life experiences as a spy (Reilly 320).
18, 2, 3 To Russia With Love (book on shelf)
Another of Fleming's novels, this one was written in 1957 (Reilly 320).
18, 2, 3 Illiad (book on shelf)
Another poem by Homer, the Illiad dealt with the violent, bloody Trojan War.
18, 2, 3 Shakespeare (2 volumes) (book on shelf)
Shakespeare was an Elizabethan playwright whose dramas and sonnets are considered classic humanist Renaissance works (Greer 307).
18, 2, 3 Ivanhoe (book on shelf)
One of Sir Walter Scott's dramatic and romantic historical novel, Ivanhoe was written in 1820 (Greer 425).
18, 2, 3 The Golden Bough (book on shelf)
James G. Frazer's exhaustive 13 vol. work on primitive superstitions was first published in 1890. V's book shelf contains a single volume from the work.
18, 2, 3 Divine Comedy (book on shelf)
This was a masterpiece of Italian literature by Dante Alighieri. Begun around 1306 and finished by Dante's death in 1321, it deals with the author's trip through the afterlife.
18, 3, 3 Martha and the Vandellas
A Rhythm-and-Blues musical group, produced and distributed by the Motown record label between 1963 and 1972. They got their start as back-up singers for Marvin Gaye, another Motown star, and then launched a successful career as aggressive and flamboyant performers. The song, "Dancing in the Streets," was released in 1964. (Sadie 178).
18, 3, 3 Motown
Motown was an independent, African-American-owned record label based in Detroit, Michigan (Motortown). The word also describes the distinguishing pop-soul style of music that brought success to the label. This "Motown sound" drew on the blues, rhythm-and-blues, gospel, and rock, but unlike other African-American musical styles, it also relied on some of the practices of accepted Anglo-American popular music, and it muted some of the "more vigorous characteristics of Afro- American music and performance practices," (Sadie 283).
19, 1, 2 Tamla, Trojan
I was unable to determine the reference to "Tamla" and "Trojan." Because "Motown" refers to both the aforementioned record company, and to the style of music it helped to popular, I do not know what relation "Tamla" had to the other groups mentioned. As the other individuals mentioned are real, I believe "Tamla" and "Trojan" existed, but I could find no record of them.
Addendum - Tamla and Trojan were subsidiaries of Motown. (Fiona Martin, personal email, July 17, 1999)
Addendum - reader Philip Eagle noted: "Tamla" is an alternative brand name sometimes used by the Motown organisation. It was actually the original name of the record label set up by Berry Gordy in 1958. "Motown" was added in 1960. "Trojan" is a well-known Jamaican label associated with reggae music, especially in the 1970s. (Eagle, personal email, April 9, 2003)
19, 1, 2 Billie Holiday
A famous jazz singer, Billy Holiday was extremely popular with the politically left-wing white intellectuals in New York. She recorded with some of the jazz's greats, including Benny Goodman and Count Basie. She descended into a world of drugs, alcohol, and abuse, and died in 1959, at the age of 44 (Sadie 409-410).
19, 1, 2 Black Uhuru
This group was one of the most famous reggae bands from Jamaica. They were formed in 1974 in Kingston (Sadie 46-47). Reggae is a distinctive Jamaican dance music, influenced both by Afro-Carribean music and by American Rhythm-and-Blues (Sadie 464).
19, 1, 2 ...his Master's Voice...
RCA's motto pictured a dog staring into the bell of a gramophone, an early phonograph record player.
19, 3, 3 Aden
Aden was both another name for the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen) and the country's capitol city. The country, which is now merged with North Yemen, occupied the Southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, south of Saudi Arabia. The British colonized it, and maintained partial rule there until the country became a Marxist republic in 1967 (Encyclopaedia Britannica 835). Although Prothero's age is not given, he appears to be around 50; it is likely that he was a soldier serving immediately before Yemen's revolution. Thus, he would have been a young man during the 1967 revolution, and around 40 during his years as a commander at the Larkhill Resettlement camp mentioned later in the book.
23, 3, 1 V in circle
This symbol bears resemblance to Anarchy sign of A in circle, as well as Zorro's dramatic initial (Scholz 60).
24, 1, 2 Violet Carson rose
The Violet Carson is a hybrid rose introduced in 1963 (Coon 201) or 1964 (Modern Roses 7 432) by S. McGredy. It is a yellow-blend Floribunda rose, created by crossing the 'Mme Leon Cuny' with the 'Spartan.' It is described as salmon colored, with cream (Coon 201) or silver (Modern Roses 7 432) under the petals, and is a hardy and free-blooming bush. It does not seem to be a very common variety, listed in publications by serious rose societies but not in books aimed at the casual reader, so it is uncertain as to how Finch would recognize it immediately.
Addendum - reader Alastair Alexander shed some additional
light on the Violet Carson rose and its namesake:
'Violet Carson' was an actress in 'Coronation
Street', a long-running UK soap opera set in Manchester. She played
Ena Sharples, a down-to-earth, blunt, working-class woman who was one
of the mainstays of the series for years. (Alexander, personal email,
May 11, 1999)
Reader Graham Thomas added: The Violet Carson rose - more significant than the type of rose... is the person the rose was named after. Violet Carson was an actress who played the character Ena Sharples on the long running British soap opera 'Coronation Street'. I think she would have been in the show for about 20 years until she died. She was a household name in Britain - her working class character (a grumpy but well meaning busybody) made her a dearly loved icon. (Thomas, personal email, Jan 04, 1999)
25, 1, 3 The Cat (movie poster)
The poster for a film called The Cat hanging on the wall appears to depict a man holding a gun. The only film I could find with this title, however, was a 1973 French drama about the uncommunicative relationship between a bitter trapeze star and her husband (Halliwell 168).
Addendum - reader Christian (no other name given) noted: There was also a 1966 television action adventure series called T.H.E. CAT starring Robert Loggia. Details are sketchy about what the premise might have been but it appears to be about a secret agent. (Christian, personal email, July 2, 1999)
Addendum - V for Vendetta artist David Lloyd noted: T.H.E. Cat is the poster - from a great, moody TV show of the Sixties... (Lloyd, personal email, January 31, 2002)
25, 1, 3 Klondike Annie (movie poster)
A 1936 Paramount film, Klondike Annie starred Mae West as a "torch singer on the run" who, disguised as a missionary, revitalizes a mission in the Klondike (Halliwell 542). Some of the films depicted in the posters appear to have appealed to V for purely entertainment purposes. This one, however, may give the reader a clue about V's character. He is likewise on the run, disguised, and will try to revitalize the whole nation.
25, 1, 3 Monkey Business (movie poster)
This 1931 Marx brother's film made for Paramount featured the antics of four stowaways on a ship who crash an on-board society party, where they "catch a few crooks," (Halliwell 666). This is another clue, as V is a stowaway in the social system, crashes the system, and catches plenty of antagonists.
25, 1, 3 Waikiki Wedding (movie poster)
Waikiki Wedding was made in 1937 for Paramount. Its plot involves a press agent who is in Hawaii to promote a Pineapple Queen contest (Halliwell 1050).
26, 3, 2 Save A Whale (t-shirt)
Because of threatened extinction of whales, many people in the 1970's began to wear t-shirts and pins proclaiming that one should "save a whale." This sentiment has come to be associated with "liberal" politics and environmentalism.
27, 1, 1 ...when Labour got into power...
The British Labour Party is a reformist socialist party with strong institutional and financial ties to trade unions. In January 1981, due to vast internal changes, the Labor Party leader elected was Michael Foot, a militant socialist who's policies included "unilateral nuclear disarmament, nationalization of key industries, union power, and heavy taxation," (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 82), just as Moore described in "Behind the Painted Smile" (271)
27, 1, 1 ...President Kennedy...
The implication is that the President of the United States is either Ted Kennedy, a democratic senator and nephew to the former president John F. Kennedy, or John Kennedy, Jr, the former president's son.
28, 2, 1 Norsefire
This is probably the name of the state party, as flags and uniforms all display large N's. "Norse" derives from the Norsemen or Vikings of the Scandinavia countries who invaded Europe in the 5th and 6th (Greer 183). They were fierce, strong, and "aryan" -- the blonde, blue-eyed "ideal" population fetishized by Hitler's Nazi Party (Greer 513-514). The choice of this image helps to identify the government's politics.
31, 2, 3 The Tupenny Rush
Tuppenny is slang for a two-penny piece, or a tuppence (Partridge, Unconventional, 916). Most slang definitions of "rush" involve swindles or robbery, especially the extortion of money by quick talking, which does not allow the victim to think. Thus, the "tupenny rush" is likely a reference to such a swindle.
31, 2, 3 The Penny Dreadful
Coined in the Pall Mall Gazette in 1892, the phrase was used to describe any sensational tale; after 1910, it referred especially to cheap and sensational novels (Partridge, Historical, 679).
31, 2, 3 All the world's a stage
This is a quote from Shakespeare's play As You Like It, Act II, scene vii. (Bartlett 211).
33, 3, 1 darkies
The term "darkies" refers to any people of color. Its origin is American, circa 1775; it was anglicized by 1840 (Partridge, Unconventional, 208)
33, 3, 1 Nancy boy
"Nancy" was 19th and 20th century slang for effeminate men or "catamites," young boys kept for "unnatural purposes" (Partridge, Historical, 610), and refers here to homosexuals.
33, 3, 1 Beatniks
"Beatniks" were bohemian artists and poets who, during the 1940's and 1950's, romanticized the "negro" culture. As a rule, they listened to jazz music, wrote avant garde poetry, and held politically leftist (Marxist) opinions. The term was coined 1958, by San Francisco journalist Herb Caen (Alfonso 7), and was probably partially derived from the jazz term "beat," which refers to rhythm, with the Yiddish pejorative suffix "-nik" added on (Partridge, Unconventional, 1000). However, "beat generation" member Jack Keroac coined the root term, beat, in 1949; he insisted it came from the word "beatific," (Alfonso 7).
41, 3, 3 "O Beauty, 'til now I never knew thee..."
I have been unable to locate this quote in any standard book of quotations.
Addendum - reader Steve Block noted: Probably a misquote, the til should be till and then it is from King Henry VIII act 1, scene 4, by Shakespeare. It is said by King Henry VIII when he takes the hand of Anne Bullen (Boleyn) for the first time. (Block, personal email, January 02, 2003)
42, 2, 3 ...take five.
The popular expression for taking a break comes from a show business phrase, although Union Laws now require ten minute breaks (Sergal 219).
44, 1, 1 Painting (image)
I have been unable to determine the title or artist of this work.
Addendum - reader Steve Block noted: The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastia, by the brothers Piero and Antonio del Pollaiuolo. Saint Sebastian is the patron saint of soldiers and enemies of religion, among others. Interesting, considering that V is planning the murder of Bishop Lilliman. (Found by Paul Kelly) (Block, personal email, January 02, 2003)
47, 2, 2 Mea Culpa
This is latin for "I confess," or "the guilt is mine," (Jones 69).
48, 2, - Bring me my bow of burning gold, Bring me my arrows of desire, Bring me My spear, O clouds unfold, Bring me my chariot of fire... I will not cease from mental flight Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand 'Till we have built Jerusalem In England's green and pleasant land.
This is part of William Blake's poem, "And Did Those Feet," from the preface to his collection Milton. Blake's preface to this work was a call for Christians to condemn the classical writings of Homer, Ovid, Plato, and Cicero, and to instead revere the Bible. He declared "We do not want either Greek or Roman Models," in England; rather, he said, his fellow Christians should strive to create "those Worlds of Eternity in which we shall live for ever," (MacLagan and Russell xix). V is, in his way, trying to create his idea of Jerusalem, a free world, in England.
54, 2, 2 "Please allow me to introduce myself. I'm a man of wealth and taste"
These are the opening lines from "Sympathy for the Devil" by the rock group, the Rolling Stones, released in 1968.
55, 3, 3 "I am the Devil, and I come to do the devil's work,"
Finch describes this quote as coming from a famous murder case, nearly twenty years before 1997. A search through almanacs from the years 1974-1979 reveals that the only famous murder case in that time was that of Son of Sam/David Berkowitz. Berkowitz was convicted of killing six people and injuring another seven in random attacks on the streets of New York between July 29, 1976 and July 31, 1977. There were no apparent motives behind the killings; Berkowitz explained them by claiming, "It was a command. I had a sign and I followed it," (Delury, 1978, 942). Considering this quote, and Berkowitz's apparent insanity which caused him to disrupt his trial with violent outbursts, it is probable that this quote came from that case.
Addendum - reader Philip Eagle noted:
Allegedly the words with which a member of the
Charles Manson gang introduced himself when arriving at Sharon Tate's
home to murder the occupyers, according to later confessions.
56, 2, 1-2 The Lord is my shepherd: therefore I can lack nothing; He shall feed me in green pasture and lead me forth beside the waters of comfort. He shall convert my soul and bring me forth in the paths of righteousness, for His name's sake...
This seems to be a strange version of the 23rd Psalm from the biblical book of Psalms. It is nothing like the common King James standard version:
I looked through several bibles and discovered that each had a different version. One fairly common version, from the standard Holy Bible (Catholic version) reads:
Another version had been rewritten into rhyming verse by Sir Phillip Sidney and his sister, the Countess of Pembroke. Still another example, from the Bay Balm Book, dated to 1640 and had been rendered very difficult to read. The Septuagint Bible, which is a translation from Greek of "the oldest version of the old testament," offered still another reading. There seems to be a different translation of the Bible for every sect and branch of Christianity not to mention numerous "plain" or "modern" English versions, and I was unable to determine the origin of this version.
68, 3, 1 The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blayton
Although many of the books in V for Vendetta are real, this one appears to be one of Moore's inventions. Neither The Oxford Companion to Children's Literature, nor the Science Fiction Encyclopedia included its title, and there appears to be no similarly named author.
Addendum - I now know I was completely wrong - this is a real novel by Enid Blyton, a very famous British children's author. I'll try to give credit do everyone who told me about this, but there's no need to tell me again.
Addendum - reader Philip Eagle noted: "The Magic Faraway Tree" is the title of one of a series of young children's adventure books by Enid Blyton, which deal with a tree whose top leads to various allegorical fantasy worlds. Among them is "The Land of Do-As-You-Please," subsequently referenced in "V". (Eagle, personal email, April 9, 2003)
73, 1, 3 I heard of an experiment once...
The experiment, which was not quite as dramatic as is described here, was conducted at Yale University in 1963 by Stanley Milgram. The volunteers did not actually believe they were killing the victims, and 65% (26 of 40 volunteers) continued to administer what they believed to be dangerous, severe shocks to their victim (Milgram 376).
80, 2, 3 ...the Pituarin/Pinearin mixture...
I could find no information on either substance.
Addendum - reader Philip Eagle noted: Pituitrin - hormone produced by the pituitary gland. Pinearin - hormone produced by the pineal gland. (Eagle, personal email, April 9, 2003)
81, 3, 1 ...he's sorted out the whitefly and it looks like being a good yield.
White flies, or Aleyrodidae, are a pest that cause problems with many food plants (Chittenden 72). Thus, V dealt with the whitefly problem.
81, 3, 3 ammonia-based fertilizer
Some fertilizers contain ammonia, which, in the presence of the correct bacteria, can be broken down into nitrates and used by plants (Chittenden 99).
82, 1, 2 grease solvent
I believe this is referring to a kind of pesticide which is contained in petroleum-based solvents (Sive C204).
83, 2, 2 mustard gas
This gas was created for chemical warfare purposes during WWI. It causes severe blistering and eye irritation. It's chemical structure is (ClCH2CH2)2S (b,b-dichloro-ethyl sulfide) (Encyclopedia Americana 679).
83, 2, 3 napalm
Napalm is a gasoline-based explosive derived during WWII (Encyclopedia Americana 724). I am not certain whether one could make either Napalm or mustard gas from gardening ingredients.
92, 2, 1 torch song
A torch song is a popular song style; torch songs are always about unrequited love (Simpson, OED, 264).
92, 3, 2 queers
The slang "queer," which generally meant odd or strange, took on the meaning of "homosexual," circa 1920 (Partridge, Unconventional, 1354). In this instance, it is referring to homosexuality.
93, 1, 1 yids
This term, which derives from the word "Yiddish," the language of Israeli Jews, is a pejorative reference to all Jewish people, regardless of whether they speak Yiddish (Partridge, Unconventional, 971).
104, 3, 2 The Salt Flats
This is not a real film. Halliwell gives no entry for it, and it appears to only serve a minor internal plot point, as Valerie Page's popular film.
107, 2, 3 Storm Saxon
This television show appears (thankfully) to be another invention. The Complete Encyclopedia of Television Programs,1947-1979, includes no such program. The choice of the name "Saxon" is important; the Saxons were descendents of the Norse conquerors who settled in France and England in the 5th century (Greer 178-179). Note that Storm's female companion is a white-clad blond named Heidi -- the paragon of Aryan purity!
108, 2, 2 ...on N.T.V one...
Apparently, N.T.V. stands for Norsefire Television, and is the fictional replacement for the B.B.C.-T.V., the British Broadcasting Corporation's television programing (Greene 566).
108, 2, 3, ...here on One...
The B.B.C. currently airs on Channel One and Channel Two (Greene 566).
112, 1, 3 ...Pay your bloody licence money for?
The B.B.C. is non-Commercial, and is supported by selling license fees paid by television and radio owners.
114, 1, 2 Space image
This is Neil Armstrong walking on the moon's surface. Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon, took his historic step in 1968.
115, 3, 2 "...you always hurt the one you love...the one you shouldn't hurt at all.
I have been unable to find this common quote in any standard references on quotations or cliches.
Addendum - reader David M. Ryan noted: I believe that that quote refers to a song entitled You Always Hurt the One You Love by Allan Roberts and Doris Fischer. It was popularized by the Mills Brothers, a vocal quartet popular in the 1940's. (Ryan, personal email, August 15, 2001)
Addendum - reader and Italian Vertigo translator Leonardo Rizzi added: From what I understand, they are the first two verses of a well-know song from the '40s, sung by the Mills Brothers, a popular Black Barbershop Quartet, quite famous at the time. I am pretty sure that the song must have been performed by someone else as well, but am not sure "where or when". Of course, the expression "you always hurt the one you love" has become increasingly popular in pop culture, but I am not sure if that happened before or after the song success. (Rizzi, personal email, November 06, 2001)
116, 3, 1 Hitler
One of the images in the background collage is of Adolf Hitler, leader of the German Nazi party, the ultra-right wing government that held Germany from 1933 to 1945 and executed some 6 million Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and other political prisoners (Sauer 248).
116, 3, 1 Stalin
Josef Stalin's picture is included because, like Hitler and Mussolini, he is associated with violent tyranny. He controlled the Soviet Union from 1929 to 1953; during the years between 1934 and 1939, he imprisoned and killed his political enemies, which was nearly every military member, politician, and thinker in the country (Simmonds 571-74)
116, 3, 1 Mussolini
Benito Mussolini, another leader pictured in the collage, was an Italian leader who's despotism was nearly equal to Hitler's. Although he began as a pacifistic socialist, during WWI, he formed his right-wing Fascist Party. He was the Italian dictator from 1922 to 1943, and controlled Northern Italy from 1943 to 1945, before he was executed (Smith 677-78).
117, 2, 1 troops marching in the background (image)
These are Nazi troops from Hitler's army.
124, 2, 3 Sarky
This slang for sarcastic dates to the late 19th century. (Partridge, Unconventional, 727).
125, 2, 1 ...who's flag is deepest red...
Red flags have historically symbolized anarchists or communists, or both.
125, 3, 1 ...I like the thrill... of the triumphant will...
This line from the cabaret song refers to the famous Nazi propaganda-documentary film , The Triumph of the Will, produced for Hitler by Leni Riefenstahl in 1934. The film depicts the Nuremburg Nazi Party Rally of 1934 as a "quasireligious, mystical experience," just as the singer is describing (Cook 366).
126, 1, 2 "...blonde and blue-eyed boy..."
This is yet another reference to the Aryan ideal race.
126, 1, 2 The Kitty-Kat Keller
The name of the night club is possible a reference to the similar burlesque club, the Kit Kat Klub, from the film Cabaret, which is set at the dawn of Hitler's rise to power in pre-World War II Germany. Both stand out as having the initials KKK, which carries an inevitable association with the infamous white-supremist organization, the Ku Klux Klan.
126, 3, 1 and when they 'heil' I smile...
Still another reference to the Nazis; the "heil" was the verbal salute given to Hitler along with an upraised right arm.
143, 3, 2 Punch and Judy Man
Punch and Judy shows are puppet shows which originated in Italy sometime before the 17th century. They are extremely violent; Punch generally beats all the other characters to death. Like V, Punch always destroys his enemies (Encyclopedia Americana 6).
166, -, - Paintings (images)
I have been unable to determine the artists or titles of the paintings on this page.
173, 2, 1 Arthur Koestler, The Roots of Coincidence
Koestler was an early 20th century journalist, humanist and intellectual. This work, which dealt with the paranormal (Encyclopedia Americana 530-31).
182, 3, 1 1812 Overture
This piece of music, written in1880 by Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky, was commissioned for the consecration of the Moscow Cathedral of Christ. The cathedral was built in thanksgiving for Napoleon's defeat in 1812. The work incorporated an old Russian hymn, and included both the French national anthem, the "Marseillaise," to represent Napoleon's invasion, and "God Save the Czar" to symbolize Russia's victory. Moore probably chose this work both for its "revolutionary" sound, and for its unusual motif: the original orchestration included battlefield guns which the conductor set off with electrical switches (Adventures in Light Classical Music 34), an action which V imitates with his bombs.
188, 2, 3 Bollocks
This is ribald slang for testicles; it derives from "ballocks," and was standard english until 1840, when it became vulgar (Partridge, Unconventional, 29).
195, 3, 1 Ordnung
This is German for a state of order and arrangement (Betteridge 452).
195, 3, 2 Verwirrung
This is the German noun for a state of confusion, entanglement, and confusion (Betteridge 686).
196, 1, 1 Turning and turning in the widening gyre the falcon cannot hear the falconer. Things fall apart... the centre cannot hold. -- Yeats
These words are from William Butler Yeats' poem "The Second Coming," which tells of an Christ/anti-Christ figure being borne of humanity's chaotic history (Donoghue 95-96). It illustrates V's vision of a chaotic world, but V believes that out of the chaos will come order. This is also foreshadowing, for V is the book's Christ figure and Evey is it's second coming.
201, -, - Still all in love and war is fair, they say, this being both and turn-about's fair play. Though I must bear a cuckold's horns, they're not a crown that I shall bear alone. You see, my rival, though inclined to roam, possessed at home a wife that he adored. He'll rue his promiscuity, the rogue who stole my only love, when he's informed how many years it is since first I bedded his.
V often speaks, as he does here, in iambic pentameter, which is a rhythmic scheme. Each line consists of five metrical "feet," each of which contains two syllables, one short (unstressed) and one long (stressed), (Encyclopedia Americana 688). By speaking in Jacobean stage's characteristic blank verse, V's pay homage. Scholz points out further that a common Jacobean dramatic for was the revenge play, which V imitates in deadly fashion throughout the book (Scholz 60).
208, -, - Dominoes fall (image)
The dominoes, which V has been setting up from the beginning of the book, fall. In Harlan Ellison's short story "'Repent, Harlequin!' said the Ticktockman" the Harlequin's first act of terrorism is described as follows: "He had tapped the first domino in the line, and one after another, like chik chik chik, the others had fallen."
"'Repent, Harlequin!' said the Ticktockman" posits a ridiculous distopia where time is both the means and the end for fascism; in it, tardiness is eradicated by the constant exacting of biblical vengeance: if an individual is ten minutes late, ten minutes are taken off the end of his or her life. In this world, the Harlequin, *masked in a clown costume*, manages to disturb time by dumping $150,000 dollars worth of jellybeans on a crowd of commuters waiting on a moving sidewalk. The jellybeans, which are a mystery since they haven't been manufactured in over a hundred years (like V's fireworks and the chiming of Big Ben on page 257 of V for Vendetta), literally gum up the works of the sidewalk and throw the entire system of the world off by seven minutes. This act makes the Harlequin a terrorist against the state, and the Master Timekeeper (the Ticktockman of the title) must discover the identity of such a trouble-maker before the system is utterly destroyed.
Many of the V's tricks are reminiscent of the Harlequin: both use fireworks to communicate with the masses, and both appear atop buildings to taunt the masses with singing. The Ticktockman is aware, as Finch is of V, that the Harlequin's identity is less important than the understanding of *what* he is. Both the Harlequin and V represent ideas fundamentally opposed to those upon which their worlds rely, and both, though destroyed, plant seeds that have the power to demolish the worlds that broke them. Both are celebrities of a sort, and both are enemies of the state because they want to be reformers of it (reference to Henry David Thoreau, "Civil Disobedience.")
210, 2, 1 Lysergic Acid Diethylamide
Also known as LSD or LSD-25, this drug is considered to be a psychotomimetic, in that it induces an imitation of a state of psychosis. It was first isolated in Basle, Switzerland in 1938 by Albert Hoffman, who created it by synthesized it from ergot, a rye grain fungus (Stevens 3-4).
211, 1, 1 Four tablets
Hoffman was also the first person to experiment with LSD-25. In his first experiment, he used 250 millionths of a gram, or 250 milligrams (Stevens 4). He experienced a violent "trip" and subsequent doses were lowered to about two-thirds of that amount (Stevens 10). Thus, Finch's four tablets, each packing 200 milligrams, was between four and eight times too much!
214, 3, 1 ...in nomini patri, et filii, et spiritus sancti...
Latin, from the Christian mass: "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
216, 2, - ...La voie, la verite, la vie.
These are French for the road (or way), the truth, and the life.
216, 3, 3 Stonehenge
One of the largest and most complete of the standing-stone monuments in Britain. It's origin's and purpose are unknown, but it is believed to have been a kind of astrological observation site and/or a place for religious ceremonies ( )
217, 1, 3- "Everytime we say goodbye...I die a little. Everytime we say goodbye, I wonder why a little. Do the gods above me, who must be in the know think so little of me they'd allow you to go?"
The quote is from a Cole Porter song entitled "Ev'ry time we say goodbye," from Porter's revue Seven Lively Arts, from 1944. Porter (1891-1964) was an American songwriter who wrote symphonic jazz works and musicals. He is best remembered for his adaption of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, as the musical Kiss me, Kate (Lax and Smith 611; Havelice 200).
217, 2, 2 "Do as thou wilt... that shall be the whole of the law."
This is Aleister Crowley's "Law of Thelema," from his 1904 publication The Book of the Law. Crowley was a controversial and misunderstood magician and occultist of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He claimed that this book was dictated to him by his guardian spirit, a "devil-god" incarnation of the Egyptian god Set, whom Crowley called Aiwas. Although some interpret the law as allowing pure anarchy, it may actually mean that "one must do what one must and nothing else," (Guiley 76).
218, 1, 1 Alice in Wonderland
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carrol, was a children's story in which a young girl named Alice enters a world she can never quite understand. This was both a children's adventure story and a satirical work (Encyclopedia Americana 577).
221, 1, 1 Ray Bradbury story about corn
I was unable to determine the title of this story.
223, 2, 1 I'm waiting for the man.
This is a quote from the Velvet Underground song "Heroin," which is about a addict waiting for his "connection" who is bringing him more of his drug.
Addendum - reader Daisy Graham noted: [I]t's not from "Heroin" it's from the song by the same title. (Graham, personal email, March 14, 2003)
Addendum - reader Andrew Boissonneau noted: Actually the title of the Velvet Underground song in which this line appears is "Waiting for the Man" sometimes listed as "I'm waiting for the Man." Heroine is a different (and much odder) track off the same album. (Boissonneau, personal email, March 15, 2003)
223, 3, 3 Farewell, My Lovely poster
This was a 1945 film made for RKO. It was one of the first *film noir* movies, a style characterized by the violence and depravity of its seedy characters, its confusing plots, and its dark and high-contrast photography. This film was adapted from a Raymond Chandler novel, and dealt with a private eye's search for an ex-convict's missing girl-friend (Halliwell 314).
228, 2, 2 Eva Peron... Evita Don't Cry for Me, Argentina
Eva Peron was the wife of Argentina's president, Juan Peron. From 1946 to 1952, Eva Peron, also known as Evita, controlled the labor unions, and purged them of their leaders, thus making them entirely dependent on the government. She also suppressed groups that insulted her. She was well-loved by much of Argentina, however (Alexander) Eva Peron inspired a musical, Evita, written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, and shown first in London in 1978.
230, 1, 1 ...valderee, valdera...
I was unable to determine the meanings or languages of these words.
Addendum - As many readers have noted, this is "The Happy Wanderer."
Addendum - reader Philip Eagle noted: "Valderee, valdera" - from the chorus of the folk song "The Happy Wanderer", associated with the Socut Movement in the UK. For complete lyric, see http://www.djmorton.demon.co.uk/scouting/songs/wanderer.htm (Eagle, personal email, April 9, 2003)
230, 1, 1 ...and did those feet in ancient times...
The first lines from the afore-mentioned poem by William Blake.
233, 2, - ...so how can you tell me you're lonely...and say for you that the sun don't shine? Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London, I'll show you something to make you change your mind... (song)
This may be a real song; however, I have been unable to determine its origin or any other information about it.
Addendum - at some point, I came across this song on my own, and several readers have sent me various versions of it. It is, of course, "Streets of London," and has been covered and performed by many artists.
Addendum - reader Andrew Boissonneau noted: The song is the "Streets of London" by the Beatles. (Boissonneau, personal email, March 15, 2003)
Addendum - reader Philip Eagle noted: From the song "Streets of London" by the English folksinger Ralph McTell. For the full lyrics, see http://www.esl-lounge.com/songs/songstreetsoflondon.html (Eagle, personal email, April 9, 2003)
245, 3, 1 a viking funeral
Vikings "buried" some of their dead by laying the corpse out in a ship and setting it ablaze, then pushing it out to sea.
245, 3, 1 Ave atque vale
Latin for "Hail and Farewell," (Simpson 63, 70, 629)
255, 2, 2 Les Miserables (poster)
This poster was from Les Miserables, a modern operatic piece by Claude-Michel Schonberg, based on a novel by Victor Hugo and first performed in London in 1980. It is about a former petty criminal who, upon being released from jail, becomes a revolutionary leader (Behr 391).
258, 2, 2 ...reports of my death were exaggerated...
This quote is from a telegram sent from London to the Associated Press by Mark Twain in 1897 (Bartletts 625).
264, 2, 2 Gissa shag, ay?
The tramps are soliciting sex from Helen. Shag is 19th-20th century slang for intercourse with a woman. The word possibly came from meaning "to shake or toss around," hence, a term for masturbation. (Partridge, Unconventional, 748).
Betteridge, Harold T. Cassell's German-English, English- German
Dictionary. New York: MacMillan, 1978.
Over the many years since I first had these annotations posted online, a number of people have contacted me to give me further information or to correct me errors or oversights. I am always delighted to see that people have spent enough time with the annotation - and with the original novel - to send me these comments, and I continue to welcome them.
In the next few weeks, I will be updating the annotations to reflect these changes, additions, and corrections. I will also list the contributors of these changes here.
First, I have to thank David Wald, who has hosted the annotations (in their original text format) on his website since 1994. During much of that time, I had no place to host the annotations in any form, and I'm very thankful for his service in making and keeping the annotations available online.
A few related links:
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