Saturday, September 1, 2012

Watchmen: Chapter IX - thematic overview


Thematic Overview: 

Chapter IX centers on the haze through which we view our memories.  Whether the metaphorical rose-colored glasses (visually symbolized by the bottle of Nostalgia perfume) or the holes that crop into our minds with the distance of time, our memories are more subjective than objective, despite how ardently we might argue the point.  And with “The Darkness of Mere Being,” Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons put that truth on full display.

This chapter is most prominently about Laurie Juspeczyk – Silk Spectre II – learning the truth about who her father was, shattering the fallacies built up over the course of her life.  Not only does her mother deceive her, but Laurie also deceived herself, placing many of her memories into a distorted context that helped keep the truth suppressed.  This blurring of her history, of these memories, is most obviously represented in this chapter by the multiple times we see Laurie in a blurred or formless reflection – both in the polished surfaces of Dr. Manhattan’s Martian fortress as well as the recurring image of Laurie’s young face reflected in the snowglobe. 

Despite this focus, the vagaries of memory are not relegated solely to Laurie.  Dr. Manhattan, who is able to see all things at all times, admits, in this chapter, to having trouble seeing the future.  Images of destruction flicker in his mind’s eye, but the details are vague, stripping this information of proper context.  This is a first for the omnipotent Dr. Manhattan, but he quickly offers a plausible, if hypothetical, explanation, giving readers permission to let that little bit of data to fade away – in the same manner that memories fade over time.  But it is this inability of Dr. Manhattan to precisely see the future that leads to the climax of this chapter.  And, in the end, these indistinct memories are sometimes the realities that allow us to deal with the hardships life throws at us.


  1. Have been keeping up with your fantastic analysis.
    Everyone knows this twists and reveals of Watchmen now but reading it at the time I confess I didn't see them coming. The revelation in this chapter about Laurie's father was a shock to me as it was to her, and yet all the clues were there. Along with everything else they did in Watchmen Moore and Gibbons produced a great detective story.

    1. Thank you, Eamonn. As always, your support means a lot.

      And I had the same reaction when I first read this book 20+ years ago. I saw none of the revelations coming; it all flowed so naturally from the scenes and the dialogue. I know it was meticulously thought out, but the manner in which Moore & Gibbons crafted this story never made anything feel forced.