Hey, Mom! The Explanation.

Here's the permanent dedicated link to my first Hey, Mom! post and the explanation of the feature it contains.

Monday, February 4, 2019

A Sense of Doubt blog post #1445 - My Watchmen Analysis for class - LCC - ENGLISH 101

A Sense of Doubt blog post #1445 - My Watchmen Analysis for class - LCC - ENGLISH 101

I interrupt the normal flow of events on this blog to bring special content for class.

Usually I share MUSICAL MONDAY on a Monday each week, but I am postponing my musical mix until tomorrow to share analysis that I shared with students last week on the Watchmen graphic novel.

For the uninitiated, I already shared the assignments (both solo and group):

A Sense of Doubt blog post #1439 - Watchmen Assignments English 101 LCC

and some good commentary for re-reading the comic:

A Sense of Doubt blog post #1440 - Re-Reading WATCHMEN


One thing I am trying to get students to see is the connections within the text. Elements of the text refer to other things in the text to create a resonance between image and text or between two images or two instances of text.

Comprehending Comics and Graphic Novels: Watchmen as a Case for Cognition
By Travis White-Schwoch and David N. Rapp
Northwestern University

states that:

"In comics, pictures and text support each other; these supports emerge through
complementary depictions and descriptions rather than by presenting redundant information. For
example, in chapter 6, page 15, of Watchmen an unmasked Rorschach describes his origins as a
crime fighter to his prison psychiatrist. In that discussion Rorschach talks about the Comedian
understanding more than his contemporaries, while the illustrated narrative shows the Comedian
behaving in an obnoxious and confrontational manner. This juxtaposition helps to exemplify the
traits of the character. The pictures and words provide complementary details that, when
integrated, encourage the construction of a more complex model of the story characters and
narratives. In most cases, these combined presentations provide richer examples containing more
information, and in less space, than would be available in traditional text-only narratives" (Schwoch, Rapp, 3).

Also, See the Strings: Watchmen and the Under-Language of Media
by Stuart Moulthrop

Moulthrop talks more about the external connections. Elements of Watchmen that connect with ideas  outside the novel, such as these references to "Fat Man" and a famous Time Magazine cover.

"In the fatal event, Osterman is betrayed by a pair of timepieces. In 1959, he enters an experimental chamber to retrieve a wristwatch he has repaired for his fiancee, Janie Slater, becoming trapped by a time lock on the door, thus dooming him to disintegration (IV.8.2). Albert Einstein, or the collateral result of his physics, is still very much to blame. Slater's wristwatch is smashed by a "fat man," connecting it by allusion to the image of a blasted watch on the cover of Time magazine in 1985, commemorating the fortieth anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing (IV.6.5; IV.24.7)."Fat Man" was the nickname for the plutonium bomb dropped on Nagasaki. The Hiroshima device was called "Little Boy." For what it's worth, the panel preceding the fat man's tread (IV.6.4) shows a young boy in tears" (Moulthrop, 9-10).


I am more interested in students seeing the internal connections. Like this one.

Or this.
Clearly the pirate story's narrative mirrors the Watchmen novel's narrative. Dr. Manhattan has left earth, no longer caring for the people of his "home." The juxtaposition here is clear: the hero of the pirate story is caring for the dead, those slaughtered by the Black Freighter, which is a clear foreshadowing and symbol of Veidt's "apocalypse" to come, but then we cut to the news stand owner and the kid reading the comic, two people who will die, for the connection with the line "who would care for them, now I was gone?" (Watchmen, pg. 22 chapter four)

I want students to see the way the connections resonate and make meaning.

For instance, there's this one. From chapter five, entitled "Fearful Symmetry," which is a quote from William Blake's "Tyger Tyger."

This is the chapter in which Rorschach is captured by the police after Veidt (as we learn later) tips them off of where he will be when he discovers Moloch has been murdered in his apartment.

In this chapter, scenes of Rorschach's investigation are intercut with the "Marooned" episode and a few other plot lines, such the staged attack on Veidt.

At the beginning of the chapter, Rorschach visits Moloch to put the screws to him, thinking he knows who the "mask killer" is or may be able to find out.

Also, to bring the cops into it who will arrest Rorschach, there's another murder/suicide, unrelated to the mask killer, from someone "worried about nuclear war."

The main character of "Marooned" has made a raft of dead bodies, trying to beat the Black Freighter back to his home and have a chance to save his family from the horrors the pirates said that they would visit upon them.

The rotting corpses attract a huge shark that becomes entangled in the raft's roped and decking, giving the character enough time to kill it.

On the bottom of page 21, we see the panel shared below as he is eating "raw shark" to avoid starving.


Not the language as the character notes the "natural inversion" of how the predator has become prey (he's eating the shark; the shark is the predator).

The connection Moore makes is playful. When Veidt calls in the tip (assuming it is Veidt), he is asking the cops if they want to know where to find Rorschach, but the cops mistakenly think the caller is saying "raw shark."

As below from the very next page, page 23:

But the connection proves to be an extendable metaphor on multiple levels.

On one level, like the "Marooned" character eats "raw shark," both the cops and Veidt "eat" Rorschach because he needs to be removed from the scene so as not to interfere with Veidt's plans, and if he gets killed all the better.

On another level, examining the ideas implicit in "Marooned," the character in that comic book has made a raft of dead bodies to literally sail across the ocean in an attempt to save his family and his town from certain and total destruction.

This is the same thing that Veidt is doing. He creates his own raft of dead bodies to push the nations of the world to save themselves, to band together for a single, though fraudulent, purpose.

Also, Rorschach is doing the same thing. He sees himself as a savior, a fighter of evil, no compromise. He is sailing on his own raft of the dead -- Blake, Moloch -- to find a way to save those who remain.


In chapter ten, pages 22-23, there's another connection.

Rorschach finishes his journal and "delivers it" sends it to the New Frontiersman, a newspaper that he idolizes as the only one that tells the truth.

Here, in the last line of it, Rorschach notes that he "steps into the shadow without complaint."

This "delivery" connects to the pirate narrative again, on the bottom of page 23, in which the narrator of "Marooned" writes: "Dear God, let me have vengeance, then die swiftly, delivered at last into the hands of higher judgment."

Again, this connection works to make meaning on multiple levels.

The "Higher Judgement" is God, who is very much like Veidt, who has set himself up like a God, though Dr. Manhattan, greater still, may actually be a God, with the power of God.

Rorschach delivers himself to Veidt much as the "Marooned" narrator delivers himself to God.

Both seek vengeance. Both are uncompromising. Both take extreme actions to safeguard people and "do the right thing."

But what is the "shadow" Rorschach speaks of? Could this be Jung's shadow? Could this be the dark side, even farther into the belly of the whale than Rorschach went when he "became Rorschach" as he explains in chapter six?

But like Rorschach who delivers himself to the enemy, the narrator of "Marooned" ends up joining the Black Freighter in the end, becoming the horror he hoped to avert, becoming the evil he hoped to prevent.

This is a good start for the analysis I want my students to perform. I could go deeper and expand, but these passages I have written here show clearly the way these "connections" work in Watchmen.

Thanks for reading.


- Bloggery committed by chris tower - 1902.04 - 10:10

- Days ago = 1311 days ago

- New note - On 1807.06, I ceased daily transmission of my Hey Mom feature after three years of daily conversations. I plan to continue Hey Mom posts at least twice per week but will continue to post the days since ("Days Ago") count on my blog each day. The blog entry numbering in the title has changed to reflect total Sense of Doubt posts since I began the blog on 0705.04, which include Hey Mom posts, Daily Bowie posts, and Sense of Doubt posts. Hey Mom posts will still be numbered sequentially. New Hey Mom posts will use the same format as all the other Hey Mom posts; all other posts will feature this format seen here.

No comments: