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Watchmen | Quotes

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1.

Evil must be punished. Even in the face of Armageddon I shall not compromise.


Rorschach, Chapter 1

Rorschach's strict moral code pushes him to investigate the Comedian's murder even when it seems like the world is on the brink of nuclear destruction. He realizes one death may not matter a lot in the grand scheme of things, but he cannot let a wrong go unpunished.

2.

Who are we protecting them from?


Dan Dreiberg, Chapter 2

Dan asks this question as he and the Comedian hold rioting New Yorkers at bay in 1975. The crowd is rioting against the vigilantes, and Dan is beginning to question the usefulness of the vigilantes' profession. The Comedian responds that they're protecting civilians from "themselves," but Dan doesn't seem so sure.

3.

Yes, we were crazy, we were kinky, we were Nazis.


Hollis Mason, Under the Hood (Chapters 3 and 4)

Alan Moore's masked vigilantes are nothing like the superheroes of old. All flawed in some way, they seem more human than the traditional superhero of the 1960s and '70s. Some of these flaws—Rorschach's terrible childhood, for example—make the characters more sympathetic, while others—like Hooded Justice's admiration for Hitler—make them harder to like.

4.

You know how every damn thing in this world fits together except people!


Janey Slater, Chapter 3

Janey says this to Dr. Manhattan shortly after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. She's trying to tell him he lost his humanity when he became a superhuman. His inability to understand the more illogical aspects of human nature prevent him from being a true superhero.

5.

Part of ... being a hero is knowing when you don't need to be one anymore.


Hollis Mason, Under the Hood (Chapter 5)

Hollis decides to retire his owl costume not long after Dr. Manhattan introduces himself to the world. Hollis no longer feels necessary or relevant now that a godlike being is watching over the United States. He can make peace with his retirement because he knows the world will be well cared for.

6.

The morality of my activities escapes me.


Dr. Manhattan, Chapter 4

Dr. Manhattan's transformation into a superhuman strips him of his moral compass. He no longer sees events or actions as morally right or wrong—he sees only facts and logic. That's not very helpful in the long run. The United States government relies on Dr. Manhattan to protect the country from nuclear attack, but he feels no moral obligation to fulfill his duty. When he loses Laurie Juspeczyk, his one connection to Earth, he no longer feels the need to protect the planet.

7.

We are all of us living in the shadow of Manhattan.


Professor Milton Glass, Dr. Manhattan: Super-Powers and the Superpowers

Dr. Manhattan isn't just a nuclear deterrent. His unique capabilities and groundbreaking research have revolutionized what people wear and how they travel. In his essay Dr. Glass points out just how much the world relies on someone who isn't even human. It's an enormous risk that weighs heavily on humanity, whether people realize it or not.

8.

We're both leftovers.


Dan Dreiberg, Chapter 5

Dan's offer to let Laurie Juspeczyk move in with him hints at how much he misses being Nite Owl. The Keene Act, outlawing masked vigilantism, has made him feel obsolete, and only a few other people, including Laurie, can relate to his feelings. Of all the retired masked vigilantes, Dan misses the old days the most.

9.

I abandoned my disguise and became myself, free from fear or weakness or lust.


Rorschach, Chapter 5

The disguise of which Rorschach speaks is his "civilian" persona. When he is Walter Kovacs, the ugliness of the world—prostitution, commercialism, violent crime—is too much for him to handle. That all goes away when he puts on his black-and-white mask and trench coat. Like a suit of armor, it protects him from the overwhelming unhappiness surrounding him. He feels stronger and more capable than Rorschach, which is why what used to be a costumed identity has become his primary identity.

10.

We do it because we are compelled.


Rorschach, Chapter 6

Rorschach says this while he is in prison, during his interview with Dr. Malcolm Long. He's describing the instinct to face problems head-on instead of turning a blind eye. It is impossible for him to see something and then pretend it doesn't exist, which is why he is still a vigilante long after the Keene Act passed. It turns out Dr. Long is the same way. Like Rorschach, he cannot resist the urge to help others even when it's in his best interest not to get involved.

11.

We're all puppets, Laurie. I'm just a puppet who can see the strings.


Dr. Manhattan, Chapter 9

Dr. Manhattan doesn't experience time as humans do. For him the past, present, and future play out at once. Laurie becomes upset with him when she realizes he goes along with what is preordained instead of trying to change it. His response indicates this is the case for everyone—they just don't know it.

12.

Needing nothing, I burned with the paradoxical urge to do everything.


Adrian Veidt, Chapter 11

Adrian could have lived in ease and luxury after his parents' deaths, but he instead gave everything away so he could create a life on his own terms. He wouldn't have been satisfied as a wealthy playboy; he wanted his life to mean something. He wouldn't consider himself a truly great man until he solved the world's biggest problems.

13.

I understood what innocent intent had brought me to, and ... waded out beyond my depth.


Comic book narrator, Chapter 11

The comic book narrator's musings as he swims to the pirate ship foreshadow what Adrian eventually will realize about his plan to scare the world into global peace. Adrian's intent was innocent, as was that of the comic book narrator, but his actions put the blood of millions on his hands. No matter how much he tries to justify what he did, he will have a hard time living with the consequences.

14.

Failing to prevent Earth's salvation is your only triumph.


Adrian Veidt, Chapter 12

Adrian is right: if Rorschach and Dan Dreiberg succeeded in stopping his plan to send a gigantic mutant octopus to New York City, they also would have blocked any chances of nuclear disarmament and world peace. Their success is in their failure, which is unusual for comic book heroes. It also brings up the question of who is the real hero in this situation. Is it Adrian, who secured world peace but caused millions to die, or is it Dan and Rorschach, who tried to do the "morally correct" thing and prevent the carnage? That is the ultimate question of Watchmen: what should be considered morally correct and who should be the judge of it?

15.

One more body amongst foundations makes little difference.


Rorschach, Chapter 12

Unlike Dan Dreiberg and Laurie Juspeczyk, Rorschach doesn't intend to keep the truth about New York's "alien invasion" a secret. He has always said he refuses to compromise his moral principles, but he also knows not everyone follows the same moral code. He believes "one more body" does make a difference—that's why he spent so much effort trying to find out who killed the Comedian. Dr. Manhattan and Adrian, on the other hand, think the world's greater good is more important. Rorschach appeals to Dr. Manhattan's sense of logic to provoke him to get the job over with.

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