THE DARKNESS OF MERE BEING
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.
Cover Image: Once again, the cover image for this chapter is also the first panel of the story. The image this time is a bottle of Nostalgia perfume, for which we have seen numerous ads throughout the story thus far, and which is also Sally Jupiter’s fragrance of choice. This bottle of Nostalgia is significant to this chapter, as this particular bottle was given to Laurie by her mother, according to Laurie’s dialogue in Chapter VIII, page 22, panels 4-6. And in this way, the bottle of Nostalgia connects mother and daughter.