Warning: BookTalkII assumes an audience that has already read George Orwell’s 1984, and attempts to compare the classic dystopian nightmare against both the novel 1Q84, written by Haruki Murakami, and V for Vendetta, a graphic novel by Alan Moore. Broken into twelve parts, each part of the BookTalk will focus on a chronologically new section of 1Q84 and V for Vendetta while considering the entire narrative of 1984. See the BookTalkII main page for more details.
Spoiler Alert: This part covers the first 4 chapters of V for Vendetta and the first 8 chapters of 1Q84 (up to page 127).
Let’s start with 1Q84, since it is the newest. A couple chapters in, readers should notice a ping-pong match played between the main characters, in how the chapters are organized. The novel attempts to weave the story of Aomame, the initial female protagonist, and a separate story of a male protagonist by the name of Tengo. Chapters alternate between the two in that Aomame’s story isthe developed through the odd numbered chapters and Tengo’s story is bound by the even numbered ones.
“The Destructors” is the title of a British punk band and a classic short story by Graham Greene. Both entities depict the grittier underbelly of English society, particularly of the Cold War era. The short story suggests that destruction can be as vibrant and pithy as creation, but in a very ambiguous way that leaves one reflecting about the role of society in the assimilation of the individual for the greater good. The sentiments invert Sir Blackstone’s famous line about justice.
The mysterious Aomame reveals herself as a dangerous assassin, a black widow of a character. She operates like Julia—if Orwell had given her equal share of the spotlight. Except, Aomame shows an allegiance to a dowager—a matriarchal character that presents herself as a delicate flower preserved in a hothouse full of butterflies, gently implying the story of Madame Butterfly. Aomame kills bad guys for the greater good.
The male lead, Tengo patiently surfaces as a Japanese version of Orwell’s Winston Smith. He writes with a skeptical purpose. He clearly has issues with his mother, the likes of which trigger anxiety attacks, similar to the disorienting visions Winston experiences. Tengo takes orders from a vast bureaucracy and laments upon the isolation. His father’s back story is an Eastern counterpoint to the devastation Western Londoners experienced as a result of WWII. Just as young Winston barely recalls how his family survived the destruction, Tengo chews on his miraculous ascension.
V for Vendetta tries to reiterate Orwell’s warnings about the cycle of history. Even a blessed democracy can destroy the spirit of man, while still providing for the physical body. Indeed, “it is possible to dehumanize man completely, and yet for life to go on.” The totalitarian government of the future arises from the best of intentions only to squander its popularity on discrimination and genocide. Is this a cleaning of the state’s slate? Does this restore the balance of nature as delicately as the prick of Aomame’s ice pick?
Authority permeates through all three narratives. Tengo struggles with this concept literally. How can he ghostwrite a masterpiece if the author cannot read? Are the forces of law too strong to resist? Will Aomame be the death of Tengo? “Was life better before the revolution than it is now?” Oh, and when did the police get new uniforms?