V for Vendetta vs Nineteen Eighty-Four

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Many modern stories appear to parallel classic novels. While the setting may be the same, or even the initial conflict, the modern story can still present new content that differs from the novel it was inspired by. Alan Moore’s graphic novel, V for Vendetta, appears to be heavily influenced by George Orwell’s novel, Nineteen Eight-Four. Both stories, set in dystopian future Englands, have a government that controls the populace through fear and manipulation, but similarities between these two stories are superficial. V for Vendetta is different from Nineteen Eight-Four because of the stories’ atmospheres, empowerment of the protagonists, and rebirth.
The tone in both stories is initially one of hopelessness. Winston and Evey each become disillusioned with their governments, and strive to fight back after falling in with charismatic conspirators, but the results are quite dissimilar. Winston is forced to accept that he has been ineffective at every turn, and never had any real chance of affecting a change, while Evey witnesses a genuine catalyst take place, and is inspired to continue fighting. This feeling of hope is not only germinated in the story’s protagonist, the general public is moved by V’s actions. The ultimate lessons from these stories are polar opposites; in V for Vendetta there is still hope despite all efforts to crush it, but in Nineteen Eight-Four there is no hope despite all efforts to start it.
The ability to make a difference is itself a difference between these fictional worlds. Orwell’s government is a self-perpetuating machine, and the steps are already in place to ensure its continued existence no matter who is in charge or what the political climate becomes; there is no single head that can be severed from a seat of power to disable or cripple that government. Winston and Julia try to be more than just victims of their environment but ultimately fail, because one person, two people, or even a revolution cannot undo the system. Society’s participation in that government is marginalized to the point that it makes no difference who opposes it. In contrast, Moore’s fascist state is run by a single man atop the pyramid of power, and when he is toppled, there is no one in a clear position to assume control. Evey and V are successful in their opposition, because in the world of V for Vendetta, one man can make a difference, even if that difference is only to serve as an inspiration for others to make their own differences.

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There are not only heroes; there are clear villains. If Orwell’s world ever had clear villains, the Ministry of Truth long ago removed all records of them, and their relevance to Oceana is overshadowed by Oceana itself.
Both Winston and Evey were entombed within a chrysalis, but Evey emerged from hers while Winston did not. Evey ignored the oppression of the government until she met V. He used fear to create a rebirth in Evey where she reclaimed her individuality and recognized the difference between surviving and living. She adopted ideals that gave her something to fight for above her own life. Winston, however, acknowledged things were wrong from the beginning. It was through Julia that he became a revolutionary, but when Winston and Julia faced their fears, they succumbed to the terror, and chose survival over their ideals. Winston lost his identity, while Evey found hers.
Orwell was writing a warning of what could happen, and should it happen there is no recourse; his is a story primarily of fear. Moore wrote a story of inspiration, that anyone can be bigger than themselves if they are willing to do what is necessary. The potential for both world governments to oppress the masses is equally great, but the individual in Moore’s dystopia also has potential, and where one can achieve something small, many can achieve something big.



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