This was originally a response post for a class. The class was bad, and so were most of the readings, but it spawned some fun and snarky critiques. Here is one of those.
“all of our conversations become crossword puzzles,” evey tells V. “You asked for KNOWLEDGE, Eve, and that is what I shall pass on to you.” The ‘y’ of Evey’s name falls away to reveal it, the name’s, solution, with knowledge italicized to save us Eve’s confusion. This dynamic, between Evey and V, is the same as that between the reader and the book. V shows us three paths to freedom: torture in an elaborate dungeon-charade paired with steadfast integrity, LSD, and reading V. The book reduces itself to the stupor of the stoner or acid-head of the worst kind, who, in the height of chemical enlightenment declares definitively to have figured it all out, who transcribes to a scrap of paper the singular truth of existence, and, in a spell of sobriety, rediscovers the scrap: “everything is everything.” The scrap of paper story is true, it was told to me in a tone of self-deprecation. V has repeated it to me in a tone of self-importance. When Finch found himself at stonehenge, I only found myself wondering: “It seems V could have saved himself quite some time in giving Evey her enlightenment, surely he could’ve found her some acid.” Even if psychoactives could be treated as a beneficial or even interesting keys to the doors of perception, the treatment of truth and freedom as so simplistic and singular exhausts the book before the end of the first read-through (unless an uncareful reader missed any generously italicized phrases or rolling stones quotes). We are left with a superficial story and superficial philosophy, each subtracting from the other– for the last 30 or so pages, i could hardly focus on the pages, so frequently were my eyes rolling: “Tonight, you must choose what comes next. Lives of our own, or a return to chains. Choose carefully” (it’s almost like we’re the sheepish denizens of new London! If only someone would blow up our symbols of power!!).
Except, like any good post-war American, the lesson I learned from fascism was liberalism. (Arthur Schlessinger’s The Vital Center, anyone?). To recreate society, we would need not just a physical clean slate, but a mental foundation– “You gored their ideology as well” Did he? “As well”- the text box is stuck in as an afterthought. In reality, V does nothing to subvert this dominant narrative (half-forgotten (half-internalized?) by the time of its writing), and in fact affirms the idea that not radicalism, but conservative liberalism is the safeguard against fascism. This is most tellingly revealed when V hijacks the airwaves around page 116 in the extended assembly line metaphor: “the management is very bad…But who elected them? It was you! You have allowed them to fill your workspace with dangerous and unproven machines.” Work, even assembly line work, is a given. It is in fact an ideal; if only machines were safer, management better. The distinctions between workers and management, work and other activities, is unquestioned even in V’s utopia, which is realizable in electoral arena (as any good anarchist utopia is!). There are contradiction with other lines in the book, the claim that (more rightly) insists that all rule brings on these destructive distinctions is unresolved, as is the problem that electoral voting can be seen as a leveling of voting groups and is no absolute safeguard to rights (i didn’t vote for Susan, the book said the fascists claimed power violently!). Anarchism is nominally purported while dominant ideology remains thorougly affirmed. The afterthought of ideological anarchism rests solely on the somewhat problematic omnipresence of bombings of iconic public buildings– no real anarchistic ideas make the prevalence of the word justified or sensical, only affirmations of destructive dominant caricatures of the bomb-toting anarchist.
The positive singularity of the book functions as the ideology it (actually, not nominally) affirms. It’s insistence on us-the-reader as a decoder of its crossword puzzle form appropriates our interpretative power. (Oh it’s Eve, like Adam&Eve). We are instrumentalized as consumers of the book’s shambling metaphysics. Only a small degree of pop-acculturation and a copy of V is needed to unlock the riddles of life. We are ascribed the role of the diligent mentee (Evey) set to absorb the book’s purple preaching (at least V’s bishop was self-aware). The purported ideal of pluralistic anarchism is undone by the singular hierarchical structure of the book. The seemingly discongruous digression in V’s lecture to Evey: “We cannot have too much science, despite its nuclear quirks,” does not go unnoticed. The book is a crossword puzzle; ditto life, albeit slightly larger. V participates in the wildly destructive didactic over-simplifications of its totalitarian targets in a (slightly) different direction, and, in a dying gasp before total self-asphyxiation, demonstrates the fetishism of over-simplified hierarchical truths characteristic of those irrational rationalists who carry the mental structures of physical sciences ad infinitum.
The last segment suddenly explodes the scope of an response post. It’s really just a reference to Adorno and Horkheimer’s Dialectic of Enlightenment, if youre curious.