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The Watchmen is a novel that was written by Alan Moore in 1986. In the book, Moore explores the concept of the superhero in a different way from what regular comic books depict a hero. In the plot of the book is the classic heroic characters who save many lives but at the cost of some people losing theirs as a result (Wu). The book uncovers the story of several vigilantes who discovers the plan of their partner, Ozymandias, who is determined to save and unite the world but at the cost of millions of innocent lives. The character blames his actions on an alien invasion. The superheroes are however too late because when they uncover the plan, it had already been carried out and instead Ozymandias manages to buy the silence of others apart from Rorschach who vows to expose the truth to the world. In the story, the novel watchmen focus the idea of greater good ("Literature Commentary: Watchmen"). The main argument that is presented by the author is whether the death of innocent lives can be justified if it serves the greater good. While it is impossible to ignore the various efforts done by the heroes in the book, the ramifications of their actions cannot be overlooked as it endangers people from all walks of life. Therefore, taking lessons from the story, it can be determined that killing cannot be justified morally under any circumstances, by trying to defend the loss of innocent lives, the morality of the heroes action can be put into question.
To truly understand the notion of morality and the obligation that every person who is entrusted with other people's lives should have, it is necessary to look at the three heroes who make up part of the story; these characters are Rorschach, Ozymandias, and Manhattan. All these three are superheroes who handle issues that they are faced with differently (Green 101). While Rorschach appeared to calm and determined to pursue the truth and justice, Ozymandias, on the other hand, is more determined by the results regardless of the methods employed in achieving these results. Manhattan, on the other side, is a superhero with incredible powers, yet he doesn't seem to care what is going on here and earth and spends most of the time on the moon's surface. The reason why the three characters are an essential part of the story is that they pose the crucial question of "who should watch the watchmen?" should the actions of the watchmen be absolute without moral obligation and responsibility? While Rorschach's opinion and behavioral characteristics suggest that the actions of the superheroes should be questioned and where they are inappropriate held accountable, Ozymandias's actions portray his believe of absolute control and no moral obligation whatsoever (Wu). However, Manhattan who is the most powerful of the superheroes is less concerned with the efforts of the partners. Instead of condemning what is wrong, he agrees to play along with the activities that cause a substantial loss of life. To conceal the truth, Manhattan takes away the life of Rorschach before he could expose the truth to the world. These actions depict the real-life society, where the sound people are murdered by the corrupt to protect themselves from the consequences brought about by their heinous and cowardice actions ("Literature Commentary: Watchmen").
The graphic novel watchmen was written at the heights of the cold war; this was a time when the United States government and the Soviet Union war seemed inevitable. When Moore wrote the book, fear had gripped the lives of New York people who were always waiting for the worst. It is for this reason that his work profoundly depicts violence and connotes the unimaginable destructive power of a nuclear war. His characters are desperate to stop the war by scaring as many New York people as possible through taking away their lives. The heroes blame the aliens because they need to destruct the people from the Russians and make them believe that a greater and a more dangerous enemy exists (Pellitteri 98). The enemy created is meant to be of greater good as war would have been avoided. However, as it later turns out, the orchestrator of the plan turns out to be even worse than the fared bomb. The aspect of religion also plays a significant part in shaping up the characters in the story. Manhattan is depicted with a lot of superiority yet unwilling to assist humanity at the time of need when the war becomes inevitable; he chooses running away from the earth where he observes the world from a distance. This character is symbolic of the God, according to Moore, who is cold, emotionless and oblivious to the sufferings of humanity (the Graphic Novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons" 23). This view is developed and maintained throughout the story and as it later turns out the choice of Rorschach consume which is a mask that is stained with black ink-blots is symbolic of sins and imperfection of humankind.
The question of morality in the book also lies in the lack of a real protagonist in the story. The book neither depicts any character as a hero nor a villain. Instead, the character who questions the morality of the other hero's actions is killed by the most superior superhero. The imagery representation of the comic book is dull, vicious and above all bloody. In almost all the pages, images of depicted bodies and blood socked grounds are displayed defeating the very purpose of a comedy (Green 100). However, the story exposes the dark side of the world where the humans have turned against each other and have turned out to be enjoying more violence than peace. In short, the book watchmen can be safely described as gothic (Wu). According to Christian Schneider's analysis of the book, he claims that Moore uses gothic images to show a world that is at a blink of collapse and one which might not be worth saving (Schneider 89. He further indicates that "with a world looking so dull and the air so contaminated, the conduct of fighting crime became blurred. Criminal gangs were not the only elements killing innocent people, but the most despicable murders were committed by the heroes, the very people who are tasked with preventing these crimes from occurring" (Schneider, 90).
To sum it up, it can be argued that despite the horrors and the atrocities in the novel, the aspect of good deeds are exhibited as being the characteristics of the human beings. Despite being viewed as superheroes, all the characters created by Moore are human beings who are prone to human failing and flaws. However, these characters are all committed to saving the world despite the moralities of their actions being put into question. Perhaps the point of the story is that the superheroes can be human, and sometimes they should not be seen as gods. Instead, they should be viewed as humans who should be tolerated and understood in spite of their shortcomings (Pellitteri 88). Moore indicates that as humans, we are masters of our destiny and we are tasked with the ability to choose our ethics, limitations, and fate for the future of the world rests entirely in what we do.
Schneider, Christian W. "'Nothing Ever Ends': Facing the Apocalypse in Watchmen." Alan Moore and the Gothic Tradition. Ed. Matthew J. A. Green. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013. 84-102. Web.
Sheridan, Claire. "Radical Coterie and the Idea of Sole Survival in St Leon, Frankenstein and Watchmen." Alan Moore and the Gothic Tradition. Ed. Matthew J. A. Green. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013. 179-194. Web.
Wu, Jeffrey. "The Greater Good: Analyzing Morality in Watchmen >> Writing Program >> Boston University." Boston University, www.bu.edu/writingprogram/journal/past-issues/issue-8/wu/. Accessed 06/04/ 2018
"Literature Commentary: Watchmen." Literary Analysis, 31 Aug. 2009, literaryanalysis.net/2009/08/31/literature-commentary-watchmen/. Accessed 06/04/ 2018
Green, Matthew J. "Chapter 5: 'Nothing ever ends': facing the apocalypse in Watchmen." Alan Moore and the Gothic tradition, pp. 84-102.
"Michal Wroblewski: The Evolutionary Potential of Metacriticality in Reference to "Watchmen" - the Graphic Novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons." Critical Theory and Critical Genres,
Pellitteri, Marco. "Alan Moore, Watchmen and some notes on the ideology of superhero comics." Studies in Comics, vol. 2, no. 1, 2011, pp. 81-91.
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