Watchmen | Study Guide

Alan Moore

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Watchmen | Chapter 11 : Look on My Works, Ye Mighty ... | Summary

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Summary

Rorschach and Dan Dreiberg (dressed as Nite Owl) arrive in Antarctica. As they ride air scooters to Adrian Veidt's Antarctic lair, Adrian invites his three servants into the Vivarium, a glass-enclosed tropical garden. He offers them drinks as celebration and tells them his life story. Orphaned at 17, wealthy from a generous inheritance, and indescribably smart, young Adrian could have lived a life of "idle luxury" but instead "burned with the paradoxical urge to do everything." The only person he saw as his peer was Alexander of Macedonia (also known as Alexander the Great), the ancient Greek king and legendary leader who forged one of the biggest empires of the ancient world before he was 30. Adrian decided to give away all his money and literally follow in his hero's footsteps, traveling the world to find enlightenment. Along the way he did some drugs in the desert and had a vision of himself walking with ancient kings. He adopted the name of Egyptian king Rameses II (in Greek, Ozymandias) and came back to the United States to conquer "the evils that beset [men]." When he finishes his story, his servants are dead, or at least comatose. Adrian retracts the glass walls of the Vivarium, and the servants are almost entirely covered in snow by the time he returns to his lair.

Various characters converge at the newsstand in New York City. Ex-lovers Aline and Joey get into a fistfight as Gloria and Dr. Malcolm Long are reunited. Malcolm wants to break up the fight, and Gloria threatens to leave him for good if he gets involved. The black teenager hanging out at the newsstand reads the last part of The Black Freighter. The narrator of the comic book makes it to his family's home and accidentally kills his wife while his children watch. The pirate ship waits for him at sea; he swims to it and climbs aboard to the sound of cheers. When the teenager puts down the comic, the news vendor introduces himself. It turns out he and the kid are both named Bernard/Bernie.

In Antarctica Dan and Rorschach finally make it to Adrian's hideaway. Adrian easily overpowers the two interlopers and explains his master plan. He never liked the Comedian's outlook on the world and vowed "to deny his kind their last black laugh at Earth's expense." He tells Dan and Rorschach he commissioned artists and writers to create an alien-like monster on a remote island to be teleported to New York City. It would explode upon arrival and kill half the population. Fearing intergalactic enemies, warring governments around the world would be forced to band together. World peace would follow. The Comedian found out about the plan and told Moloch, so Adrian killed them. He then got Dr. Manhattan out of the way and staged his own assassination attempt.

Dan doesn't think any of this is possible, but he's glad he and Rorschach got there in time to stop Adrian's "hopeless black fantasy." Except they didn't. Adrian teleported the monster 35 minutes ago. At the newsstand, a flash of blinding light decimates everything—and everyone—in its path. The chapter ends with a quotation from Ozymandias by the English Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley: "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"

Analysis

Adrian's idol, Alexander of Macedonia, ruled the ancient Greek state from 336 to 323 BCE. Ruthless and power hungry, one of his first acts as king was to kill the men behind his father's death, followed by all his own rivals and anyone who stood in opposition to him. He and his enormous armies marched eastward and south into Asia and Egypt, conquering everything that stood in their path. Cities that rebelled against him were burnt to the ground, and all survivors were taken as slaves. Yet the more area he conquered, the more his ideas about social equality changed. When Alexander first set out to conquer the eastern Mediterranean seaboard, it was with the idea that native Macedonians would reign supreme over the annexed peoples, who were mostly Persians. Along the way, Alexander changed his mind and decided Persians would be allowed to stand alongside Macedonians in government and society. Moreover, he wanted to create a "master race" that unified the Macedonian and Persian bloodlines.

The Macedonians hated that idea. This wasn't what Alexander had originally promised them—they didn't want to be considered equals of the people their king had conquered. Alexander, however, didn't much care what his people thought. By that time he had decided he was a god and told everyone to treat him as such. Ancient Greek culture has multiple stories of mortals who acquire divine status, so though his pronouncement was unusual, it wasn't entirely crazy. The city under his control acknowledged his desires but made clear it didn't believe the hype.

So which Alexander does Adrian Veidt identify with: the hard-fisted ruler who yearned to unite different peoples or the somewhat delusional king who thinks he's more god than mortal? It's more than a little of both. Adrian's ultimate goal is to unify ideologically different governments without stripping them or their peoples of the things that make them unique. He's not trying to make the Soviets give up communism or ruin the workings of American democracy. He really just wants everyone to get along. He believes that requires a common enemy, which just so happens to be aliens. This, he believes, will make him even more successful than Alexander, whose hard work was negated when his conquered territories split into separate kingdoms after his death. That's where Adrian's megalomania, or delusion about his own power and greatness, comes in. Adrian doesn't just want to be a king—he thinks he is a king. When he's in his Antarctic lair, he sheds the clothing and personality of businessman Adrian Veidt and puts on the regal cape, tunic, and headband of Ozymandias. That's not normal. Neither is his belief he can succeed where an ancient king whose exploits are bolstered by legend couldn't. He sees himself as being better than everyone else, even famed rulers.

Adrian's belief in the supremacy of his ideas and himself is what allows him to kill his servants with little regret. He justifies their deaths by comparing them to those of servants of ancient kings, who were killed so as not to share their masters' secrets. He doesn't take this responsibility lightly, as he's reluctant to do it in the first place, but he goes through with it for what he believes is the greater good. That same thinking applies to the millions of deaths he knows will result from his fake alien invasion. He believes collateral damage is a necessary evil when solving the problems of the world. This is in stark contrast to the Comedian, who killed indiscriminately because he believed the world was already doomed.

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