The background and identity of V is largely unknown. He is at one point an inmate at the infamous "Larkhill Resettlement Camp", one of, if not the worst of many concentration camps where political prisoners, homosexuals, Jews, Pakistanis, Muslims and probably all non-Europeans are exterminated by Britain's new fascist regime, Norsefire. While there, he is part of a group of prisoners who are subjected to horrific medical experimentation, conducted by Dr. Delia Surridge, involving artificially-designed hormone injection. Lewis Prothero is the camp's commandant, and a paedophile priest, Father Anthony Lilliman, is at the camp to lend "spiritual support". All prisoners so injected soon die under gruesome circumstances, with the sole exception of "the man in room five" ("V" in Roman numerals). Although there is nothing physically wrong with him, Surridge theorizes that his mind had been warped by the experimentation. Still, his actions seem to maintain a twisted logic to them. The experiments actually yield some beneficial results: he develops Olympic-level reflexes, increased strength, and incredibly expanded mental capacity (as demonstrated consistently throughout the novel, V is a genius in the fields of explosives, martial arts, philosophy, literature, politics, computer hacking and chemistry).
Over time, the man is allowed to grow roses (violet carsons) and raise crops for camp officials. The man eventually starts taking surplus ammonia-based fertilizer back to his cell, arranges it in bizarre, intricate patterns on the floor. He then takes a large amount of grease solvent from the gardens. In secret, the man uses the fertilizer and solvent to make mustard gas and napalm. On a stormy night (Nov. 5th), he detonates his homemade bomb and escapes his cell. Much of the camp is set ablaze, and many of the guards who rush in to see what happened are killed by the mustard gas. The camp is evacuated and closed down. He adopts the new identity, "V", and dons a Guy Fawkes mask and costume. V then spends the next five years planning his revenge on the Norsefire government, building his secret base, which he calls the "Shadow Gallery". He then kills off most of the over 40 surviving personnel from Larkhill, making each killing look like an accident. However, he saves Prothero, Lilliman and Surridge for last, showing only the remorseful Surridge a bit of mercy by using a painless poison.
V's true identity is a mystery, and he visibly removes his mask only once during the entire story (at Surridge's request), at which point his back is to the reader.
He doesn't even consider "V" his "name", saying "I do not have a name. You can call me V". The only explanation given regarding V's past is Surridge's diary, which V leaves out in the open for the "Finger" (Norsefire's secret police) to find after he kills her. Inspector Finch, the head of London's police department and one of Norsefire's most powerful officials, reads through the diary, but points out that V wanted them to read it. V also tore out many pages, which possibly left clues to his true identity before arriving at the camp. Finch further speculates that V fabricated the version of Surridge's diary which he left with her body, just to confuse the police.
In the comic and graphic novel Delia Surridge states in the diary "Physically, there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with him. No cellular anomalies, nothing". His confidante Evey Hammond speculates in the comic that V might be her own father, who was arrested years before as a political prisoner; V denies it, however, and Moore has confirmed that V is not Evey's father. There is also some speculation that V could actually be Valerie, the prisoner in the cell next to his whose autobiographical letter inspires V not to give up (and which he later passes on to Evey). However, Prothero and Surridge both describe V as the "man" from room five (V claims Valerie was the "Woman in room four" and also that he did not write Valerie's letter), which would seem to dispel this theory.
As Finch comments on the pages V tore from Surridge's diary, "What was on the missing pages, eh? His name? His age? Whether he was Jewish, or homosexual, or black or white?". He later describes himself to Finch as "an idea". Late in the story, Evey, having taken over V's mission, also appears to consider herself anarchy incarnate. In effect, V is an Everyman: potentially, anyone oppressed by their government could become a revolutionary avenger.
Four years after his escape from Larkhill, V begins his vendetta against the government by blowing up Parliament on November 5, Guy Fawkes Day. V then kidnaps Prothero, who is now the "Voice of Fate" on the government's propaganda radio, and drives him insane by destroying his prize doll collection in a satire of the exterminations that occurred at Larkhill. V kills now-Bishop Lilliman by forcing him to eat a communion wafer laced with a lethal dose of cyanide. Norsefire had infused a perversion of religion into their rhetoric, saying that those who were exterminated were not pure in the eyes of God, and V's black joke was in forcing Lilliman to put some of his religious rhetoric to the test of transubstantiation. V then kills Surridge, the one Larkhill official who feels remorse for her actions, by injecting her with a poison which painlessly kills her. Having thus leveled the playing field, V moves his plans forward.
V stages an coup d'état on the government's propaganda broadcasting station, strapping himself with explosives and forcing the staff to follow his orders under threat of detonating them. V then broadcasts a message to the people, telling them to take responsibility for themselves and rise up against their government. Finally, V destroys the government's CCTV surveillance buildings, eroding its control over British citizens. However, V is mortally wounded when he is shot by Finch, and he staggers back to the Shadow Gallery, where he dies in Evey's arms. Evey then puts him in state, surrounded by lilies (scarlet carsons in the film) and gelignite, in an Underground train which stops at a blockage along the tracks right under 10 Downing Street, where the explosives-laden cab detonates, giving V a viking funeral, as per his final request of her, in the process. Evey then takes on the mantle of "V".
Powers and Abilities
- Enhanced Physiology
- Superhuman Strength: V's strength allows him to easily overpower most opponents. He was able to pick up Peter Creedy and break his neck with his bare hands.
- Enhanced Reflexes: V's reflexes have been enhanced to allow him to react extremely quickly to threats.
- Enhanced Intellect: The experiments also increased V's intellect to remarkable levels. He is extremely skilled in a variety of fields and is able to pull of a very long-term and intricately designed plan to take down the Norsefire Government with little assistance and limited resources. He is also extremely well-read, having hundreds of books in his hide out and can recite extended lines from them perfectly.
- Superhuman Stamina
- Superhuman Durability: V is able to take hundreds of bullets against his body armor and it does little, if anything, to keep him down or impede his abilities and he is able to still fight and kill people even while dying from multiple gunshot wounds.
- Superhuman Agility: V's agility and coordination have been enhanced to the levels of an Olympic athlete.
- Superhuman Speed: V moves with incredible speed. He is able to move across rooms and attack opponents almost instantly and was able to take down half a dozen of Creedy's men before they had a chance to reload their weapons.
- Demolitions: V is skilled in the art of demolition. He is able to blow up the Old Bailey building using only over the counter materials and he was able to blow up the internment camp in which he was held using fertilizer and other gardening supplies.
- Hand-to-Hand Combat (Advanced)
- Swordsmanship: V enjoys using a sword in his spare time and is highly skilled with it.
- Weaponry: V can wield most weapons and has a strong preference for knives, which he wields with expert accuracy.
- Stealth: V is able to invade highly secure areas with ease and escape just as easily. He was able to kidnap Lewis Prothero from his secure home and was able to plant explosives in the Old Bailey without being noticed as well as show up in Delia Surridge's bedroom without waking her.
- Intimidation: V's appearance and abilities give him an intimidating appearance and most people are unwilling to engage with him as a result. Lewis Prothero and Archbishop Lilliman both descend into intense panic upon seeing him.
- Charisma: V is an extraordinarily charismatic figure who is able to invoke feelings of rebellion in the nation with his speeches and inspires thousands of people to don his mask and joining his cause.
- Disguise: Despite the horrific burns on his body, V is able to impersonate others and disguise his voice, allowing him to meet with Inspector Finch and impersonate a Norsefire official in his plan to make Evey believe she has been captured.
- Thievery: V is a highly skilled thief. He has rescued dozens of works of banned art from government officials, stolen various supplies needed for his various schemes and has even stolen food supplies intended for the Chancellor.
- In an interview with Alan Moore, Engine Comics writer Daniel Whiston asked "Can you tell us who V really is?", to which Moore responded "V's exactly what he looks like: he's an idea, with a mask and a hat and a cloak. He's much more symbol than reality."
- V's physical body may have been mutated as a result of the Batch-5 experiments. Dr. Delia Surridge once described him as "ugly", but later referred to him as "beautiful". The true meaning behind her second sentiment is unknown.
- V is also known as Code Name V, Batch 5, Five, the Villain and Prisoner #5.
Appearances in Other Media
- 11 Appearances of V (V for Vendetta)
- 6 Images featuring V (V for Vendetta)
- 2 Quotations by or about V (V for Vendetta)
- Character Gallery: V (V for Vendetta)