Literature Study GuidesWatchmenUnder The Hood Chapter 5 Summary

Watchmen | Study Guide

Alan Moore

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Watchmen | Under the Hood (Chapter 5) : Hollis Mason Autobiography | Summary



The 1950s were difficult for the remaining Minutemen. Costumed criminals were a thing of the past, and according to Hollis, it was "always sort of embarrassing" to be the only one dressed like a trick-or-treater when everyone else was wearing normal clothing. The new class of criminals wore business suits and "just weren't as much fun to fight." Even the cases Hollis investigated for the police force seemed more depressing than before. It seemed as if a gloom had settled over the decade. This was only exacerbated by the House Un-American Activities Committee, which forced the remaining vigilantes to reveal their identities to prove they weren't communists.

The 1960s were no less problematic. This was the decade in which Dr. Manhattan was introduced to the world, suddenly making all other crime fighters seem obsolete. A new generation of masked vigilantes was coming to the forefront, and Hollis knew it was time to hang up the mask. He retired to go back to his first love, repairing cars. A longtime fan took over the Nite Owl name, and thanks to Ozymandias, the Comedian, Dr. Manhattan, and the new Nite Owl, costumed vigilantism continued "[f]or better, or for worse."


Hollis's relationship with crime fighting follows the emotional and social highs and lows of his generation. In 1939 when he became Nite Owl, he was just 23 years old, and the idea of secretly defending the city at night felt dangerous and thrilling. Being part of the Minutemen gave him a group of friends who not only understood his line of work—they lived it. Hollis didn't have to feel weird about what he was doing because there were others just like him, and he was friends with all of them. The post–World War II years were the height of Hollis's crime-fighting experience. "We felt we'd taken the worst the 20th century could throw at us," he writes, and the group didn't merely survive—it thrived. Hollis had just turned 30 at the war's end, and he was in the prime of his life. As he continued to age, however, he began to feel out of place. The times were changing. It wasn't only the criminals; American culture itself was changing. Rock and roll became popular, skirts shortened, and women and minorities began organizing against oppression. This was not the world Hollis knew, nor the world he fought to save during the war years.

By the end of the 1950s, the remaining Minutemen were relics of a bygone era. In some ways Dr. Manhattan rendered vigilantism completely unnecessary. His introduction in 1960 ultimately pushed Hollis into retirement. Dr. Manhattan wasn't just a crime fighter; he had the abilities to be a crime ender. What was an aging police officer in an owl costume doing beside someone who could make weapons—and people— literally disappear? Even the next group of "regular" masked vigilantes was better suited to modern crime fighting than Hollis was. Dan Dreiberg had gadgets and the money with which to design them; Adrian Veidt had the intelligence of an entire think tank. Hollis had only his fists and his morals; those weren't enough to keep him from becoming obsolete. Now in his mid-40s, Hollis found himself in the same position as the rest of his generation, standing on the sidelines and watching a younger generation take over.

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