Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Why does Rorschach cry before his death

Rorshcach watchman death by Dr. manhattanI guess this particular incident in Watchmen (graphic novel) involving Rorschach bursting out in tears just before his death is a very significant one! It's significant not just because this is the first time that Rorschach actually shows some emotions, but also because Rorschach himself pretty much "orders" (or permits, in a way) Dr. Manhattan (Jonathan Osterman) to kill him! The two words that Rorschach speaks before his death - "DO IT" - make him pretty much one of the wisest of the characters in the Watchmen super heroes!

Before I further elaborate on this, let me remind you that Rorschach is the only super hero in Watchmen known for his singular Black & White view of the world. He feels that there is either absolute right or absolute wrong and there are not gray areas! This somehow contradicts the basic theme of Watchmen book that IS pretty much about the gray areas in our lives! You will note that this also makes Rorschach more like DC's Batman whose view of the world, again, is black & white! No wonder, Rorschach is often referred to as Watchmen's Batman or real world Batman (or Batman is sometimes referred to a fantasy Rorschach for that matter)!

Unfortunately, sometimes doing the right thing be bad in the long term and Rorschach's "black & white" ideology proves to be his undoing towards the end when Rorschach's actions fall more into the gray areas! In the last chapter of Watchmen we are confronted with a moral and ethical dilemma - Should a crime be punished if the punishment itself might result in an even bigger crime? (I'll be writing more about it in a separate article). But according to poor Rorschach "wrong must be punished, no matter what". And here I come to the part that literally turns the whole outlook of Rorschach's character from a mindless-psychotic-killer-Rorschach to wise-sentimental-true-superhero-Rorschach.

Rorshcach watchman death by Dr. manhattanRorschach apparently realizes the folly of his "black & white" ideology towards the end and although he doesn't really show it, he is in two minds about whether to go report a crime or not. Reporting the crime committed by Ozymandias (Adrian Veidt) means that Rorschach will stay true to his understanding of right & wrong but that also means that Rorschach might be instrumental in even more destruction in the long term! As you can see from Rorschach's past, he would rather not go against what he believes must be done (reporting the crime); but Rorschach also would not want to be the fore bringer of any senseless destruction. A dilemma indeed for someone like Rorschach (or Batman) with his strictly dual view of the world!

So Rorschach has to decide whether he would want to be guilty of not Rorshcach watchman death by Dr. manhattanreporting "this" crime or be guilty of reporting and consequently causing a later crime! And finally, as you would imagine (or may be not seeing Rorschach's personality), Rorschach decides to die rather than be guilty of either! Madness, true, but this also shows that Rorschach was the only true "watchmen" so to say. Rorschach's tears (Rorschach never showed any emotions before in life even in extreme circumstances) towards the end followed by his request / demand to Dr. Manhattan to kill him says it all better than what any words would. I think that last panel that shows Rorschach in tears demanding Dr. Manhattan to kill him is the most significant of all the storyline. If there was just one reason to read Watchmen, that panel and Rorschach's character would be it!

To read more about Rorschach's psychology, click - Rorschach's unique psychology among Watchmen characters

To read more about Rorschach and Batman's similarities, click - Watchmen's Rorschach's similarities to DC's Batman

To find if Rorschach is same as SAW movies' Jigsaw, click - Rorschach's and SAW (movie) villain Jigsaw's similarities

To read a funny article on Rorschach, click - Rorschach's superpower - Super Stench

Read about funkiness involving Dr. Manhattan's transformation - Osterman's funky transformation into Dr. Manhattan

47 comments:

  1. pretty neat thoughts :)

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  2. I think you are spot on.... though I would also argue that Rorschach might have possibly felt that he couldn't live in a world that would allow such a tremendous lie about the deaths of millions to go unpunished.

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  3. The only issue I have with this, is that Rorschach gave his journal to the paper in order to get the truth out if he were to die.

    Mind you, he did this before he knew that Adrian's plan was for the betterment of the world.

    I'm confused.

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  4. @Cold Dragon

    Yupp, I agree. Rorschach's "No Compromise" philosophy really doesn't allow him to live with such a burden on his conscience. That coupled with what he said earlier to Dr. Malcolm Long - "Whatever was left of Walter Kovacs died with that girl" - means the only way he could go on as Rorschach. Tangentially, I'd note that this personality trait is shared by Batman as well (more so in Darknight) and stated explicitly by Rachel in Batman Begins - "This (Bruce Wayne) is the Mask"!

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  5. @Anonymous

    Excellent point there! Somehow I missed that point in all my readings of Watchmen! I think you are spot on there when you say "he did this before he knew that Adrian's plan was for the betterment of the world."! At that moment he didn't / couldn't know the repurcussions of exposing Veidt and leaving some sort of evidence behind was the logical thing to do. But as you indicated, he didn't tell Dr. Manhattan or Ozymandias about the journal before his death! That is quite puzzling because some reporter reading the journal is pretty much the same thing as Rorschach explaining it all to the world in person! I guess this requires some more analysis on my part (and perhaps another post on Rorschach).

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  6. I'll also have to disagree. One of his final phrases was "Never compromise". Signifying that he is indeed tried and true to his ideals. I'd say that he'd rather die than exist in a world based on a lie of, what he considered to be, evil.

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  7. Yupp, I agree. This is what I meant to say with "Whatever was left of Walter Kovacs died with that girl" thing. He just couldn't and wouldn't exist outside of what he considered to be right but at the same time he knew that his "right" was "wrong" in that situation.

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  8. Great read, and glad to finally find a pic of his final moment through google.

    Something interesting you might like: in an essay Walter Kovacs wrote as a child (shown when the psychologist is examining his file), Walter says that he likes President Truman and that he agrees with him dropping the bomb on Japan. This was something that struck me as odd because Adrian's plot is very similar, especially in Rorschach's mind. He states that Truman dropped the bomb to deter the Japanese so that less people would be killed in the long run, so it was good. Adrian does something nearly the same, yet Rorschach can't go along with it. Now I realize several things that conflict with this: he was a child when he wrote the essay; he states that he likes Truman just like his Dad and it could be inferred that he blindly agrees with it so that his father (who he never knew) would accept him; and lastly, Adrian's plot was preformed under a lie/false pretense of an invasion, and this is wrong to him especially compared to openly dropping a bomb in war-time.

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  9. @Dorian

    Thanks for the comment. Some thought provoking ideas in what you wrote and I'm glad to discover some more points that I had initially missed while reading the book! About president Truman, I guess one issue arising from Rorschach's "black and white" personality is the feeling of "us vs them". So its either superhero or supervillain, either allies or nazis, either good guys or bad guys in general. So, with that view, USA is inherently "good" and Japan (then enemy, perl harbor and what not) is inherently "evil" (so to say) making the distinction clear in some way and the act of dropping the bomb is good fighting the evil. Once you take sides, it becomes easier to decide what is good and bad. But in the case of Ozymandias, it's a dichotomy because Rorschach is on both sides (people killed and Ozymandias). What Ozymandias did was good (in the long run ie) but killing our own people is inherently evil (definition of crime that Rorschach is supposed to fight)! But then we run into the other problem - what would Rorschach have done if Ozymandias chose Moscow instead of USA?

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  10. Ever notice just before Rorschach gets killed, when he walks out of the fortress, his mask has the image used throughout the comic of two people kissing? Take a look, its just like the frame just before, of Dan and Silk Spectre II kissing at the poolside? It also is just like the drawing young Walter made of his mom and a man having sex and he walked in on it.

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  11. Interesting point there! Thanks for pointing that out, I've always missed it and its only now that I'm realizing that that particular image is repeated countless times all over the book. But what does it mean though?

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  12. When i first read the watchmen as a young person i hated it because i prefered the cheesy kind where the hero always succeds. Now im almost 15 and i thought this was the best graphic novel i've ever read. When Rorschach gets killed i read it again multiple times becuase i was so shocked. Watchmen graphic novel get 10/10

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  13. I agree. I had read Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns I & II before it so I had an idea how the graphic novels differed from then mainstream comics but still the first time I read Watchmen, it totally blew me away! Dark Knight still had the superhero thing going on and in a big way and focused more on trite issues but Watchmen turned out to be much more human and realistic. Reading Watchmen actually led me to read up rest of Alan Moore's works. The Watchmen movie was a bit of disappointment though.

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  14. though, after his death, rorschach still standing in his white n black world! he is clever too coz he left his journal to the paper before he went to stop ozymandiaz, so if he die, they can publish his story to the world.. ( although the truth it self could make the problem even bigger..)

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  15. About leaving the Journal thing, I'd say that Rorschach didn't know what was really going on at that point! I mean from his point of view, Ozymandias could just be a regular villain trying to cause world war 3 to boost his weapons sales or something. It was only after Ozy explained his plan that Rorschach realized that it was really meant to save the world! Then his leaving was more of his acceptance of death (in a way) so I kinda doubt if he would've still left the journal out there if he had known Ozy's motives. (but then he didn't tell nightowl etc about the journal either because he didn't want to or because it skipped his mind so it's a double bind either way!)

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  16. Rorschach knew and accepted that his fate was death. You could argue it was pre-ordained in the words of Dr. Manhattan. Rorschach acted true to his beliefs and illustrated that as omnipotent as Dr. Manhattan is, his comment that he was unable to control human nuture was true to the end. If he could, then he would have prevented the journal from ever being delivered/published. Rorschach by ordering Dr. Manhattan to kill him becomes a self-proclaimed martyr standing strong for right against wrong and ultimately succeeding in a battle between friend and foe he knew he could never win from the outset(Ozymandias being the smartest and strongest human, quick enough to stop a bullett and Dr. Manhattan an all powerful, near god like entity). A great read and film adaption.

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  17. you need to use less exclamation points, 90% of them weren't even needed.

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  18. @Anon

    :) Yes, thanks for the tip. I do tend to use more exclamation points than what is grammatically reasonable. I guess its because I write the way I think and when I'm thinking each new "idea" comes with its own exclamation mark.

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  19. I didn't really consider these complicated approaches...

    I think Rorschach was crying and angry because of how Dr. Manhatten was compromising the heroic effort. I think he wanted to live.

    He told Manhatten to do it I think because he believed he couldn't change him, but was probably holding out some hope that he'd be spared.

    I think he was sad because he knew he had the best chance of getting the message out if he remained alive.

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  20. I just came across this blog after seeing the movie and reading the graphic novel/comic for the first time. Thanks for the interesting thoughts.

    On one of your other posts, you mentioned how the character that is most like the Comedian is Rorschach. The Comedians general approach, for most of his life, was to laugh. Here is Rorschach is crying. I think this is the particular counterpoint that important: Rorschach did not choose to laugh off everything. That was not his approach. (Indeed, even the Comedian cried to Moloch when he learned what was happening. Perhaps there are still differences in their approach.) The interesting question is why both characters cried.

    Perhaps the inevitability and futility are part of it, I'm not sure.

    But I don't think the wisdom of R. comes from his "ordering/permitting" Dr. M. to kill him, at least not in the way you say. It's a least as well explained by he knows this is what Dr. M is going to do if R. doesn't stop, and R. knows R. isn't going to stop, so Dr. M might just as well get it over with already. Why both telling him the justifications? R. isn't open to that kind of conversion, even at the end. Perhaps also he is crying because he is realizing his stance doesn't make sense in this world.
    On his stance: I don't think R. views it as a crime to let the world know. I don't know that he accepts the whole 'guilty of causing a crime' by reporting it -- for him, that extensive link of causation is not how he thinks of guilt and crime. (Another theory is that perhaps he is realizing that his whole way of thinking about guilt is flawed, or at least that his inability to 'grasp' this means he must be destroyed.) Or, perhaps, R. does not want to be tempted by Dr. M.'s rationalizations, and wants to be killed before he is tempted. Or, R. has deliberately closed himself off to such conversion to the other side through "logic" that he is simply announcing that Dr. M. should not pretend he is using anything other than brute force, utter destruction.

    As I'm writing this, I have just thought of a variant on what you said. It fits with the parts of your analysis that say that R. would have been guilty if he reported the crime, but in the reverse way. It is not, as you say, that R. refuses to be guilty, and so orders his killing. Rather, he sees that 'god' (Dr. M.) is going to smite him. R. wants to remain both true to his belief that the guilty should be punished, yet can't (if you are right) do this without being guilty himself. Just in wanting to report it R. is guilty (and here I think you miss this point, like longingly gazing at tree in the garden of eden is a sin even before tasting). He will report if not stopped. The only way for him to be true to his black and white philosophy is to be punished for it, in the style of being smiting, wiped off the earth by a blue god, like sodom and gommora (which is the guilty being punished after all).

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  21. I didn't get the same feeling as most people did I guess.

    Rorschach (R.) is in a sense justice incarnate.
    Walter Kovacs on the other hand is a man, a man of weakness'. R. has no problem dealing with street thugs or killing the Big Figure. And although he seems to have a black and white ideology he did have small streaks of mercy.
    When his landlord slandered him. The illegal medication that the x-villain had. He called what the Comedian did a "moral lapse".

    Lets establish that R. had already delivered his diary. So even IF he felt he was in some no win situation clearly the damage his diary would uncover would eventually be done.

    That being said. I believe R. cries not because he's in some no-win situation that was already brought to the readers attention when Dan gave his damned if we do/don't speech. Why didn't R. break down then? But he remained firm and left. He cries because its not the fearless R. that faces his death, its Walter Kovacs. His taking off the mask and facing death LIKE Rorschach is whats pivotal.

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  22. holy exclamation points batman.

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  23. Rorschach was the only one who tried to do the right thing, two wrongs never make a right and Dr. Manhattan himself didn't condemn or condone what Veidt did, however his actions of killing a fellow Watchmen suggests he thinks the ends justify the means so I dislike the pompous man! Daniel also says Adrian hasn't saved the world, he's merely deformed it and I really doubt world peace can be achieved under this shameful conspiracy. Rorschach definitely saw the right from wrong to the end, his breakdown resulting in that he couldn't get out there to expose the sordid truth, his very identity is his principles and losing that is worse than dying. If he could have gotten past Dr. Manhattan he would have tried. I do not like how Daniel and Laurie are so loved up at the end like nothing happened but that's movies for you.... As horrible as what Adrian did (It echoes how the world is too much, all the needless deaths from wars and such over our 'freedom' or religion etc perpetrated by those in power in the name of a 'greater good') I still think he's a cool villain! If I hated any character in this Comedian hands down and at the end Dr. Manhattan I hate for killing Rorschach!

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    1. Every character in the movie has both good and bad about him/her. Rorscach seems to be the only one who is more of a good person, but in most cases his badass-ness is justified. But yes I agree with you, iI initially thought Adrian was going to get his butt kicked by Dr Manhattan, but he turned out to be just as bad as Adrian. The killing of millions to save billions is just inhumane; its killing no matter how you put it. And the way this was achived (giving Manhattans loved ones cancer, setting up a spy then giving him cyanide, etc) is just horrific. But I think all thsi good and bad (i.e. black and white, again with reference to Rorscach) is what makes Watchmen stand out from say the world of Batman or Superman, where the good are good and the bad are totally bad!

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  24. Is anger not an emotion? He was ticked when his "face" was pulled off.

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  25. What I don't understand was that Rorschach admired his dad for liking Truman who saved billions by sacrificing those people at Hiroshima. So I don't understand why he would want to be against that theory of common good. And since his journal gets discovered at the end, it means he won. I think the whole message is about human self destruction. We choose what to do with the information we receive, so you can't blame the person who gives the message. If the government decides war after finding out the truth, then humans are just corrupt from the core.

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    1. Truman didn't actually save anyone. The Japanese surrendered prior to the bombs dropping, but the Americans ignored them. Also ignored the Swedish government that tried to relay the surrender by proxy.

      The Americans just wanted a proper field test of the atom bomb, as terrifying and as disgusting as that is. Any confusion you might have about why Rorschach admired his father either comes from misinterpretation on your part, or political ignorance on the part of the Watchman author.

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  26. very valid points that echo an informed thought process... however, i have always read Rorschach's final scene through the eyes of a man who has reached the end of his rope... in both his self-imposed mission and the unending years of pain that continually shaped him into being who he was... i see his tears as those of a man who has both finally endured too much and seeks a noble way of exiting the stage (martyrdom) and is at peace knowing that after he is gone, his legacy remains (the journal)... i hear his words, "Do It!" not as an order, so much as an agonized supplication from the only character who is ambiguous enough to be forgiven for granting his desire and at the same time would not suffer emotionally from performing this final act...

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  30. In the end, he took off the mask.

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    1. Does anyone else hopes Manhattan just banished roarshach to another dimension and made it seem like he killed him

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    2. Does anyone else hopes Manhattan just banished roarshach to another dimension and made it seem like he killed him

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    3. Yes that was exactly one of the thing I was thinking of...if he could not deal with human nature as he said, then he could have used his brains to teleport him to I dont know, middle of the Tibetean Mountains!!! That way he could have settled down with a pretty girl and become accustomed to the beautiful lifestyle!!!! :)

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    4. He takes it off on a few occasions in the movie (dunno if its true in the comic). He would rather not reflect on his past (as explained in jail) i.e. with the mask on, but would stand up to injustice with the mask and vigilante frame of mind. When he faced death by Dr Manhattan, he did so with his mask off.

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  31. Rorschach doesn't make the decision to die because he becomes wise or accepting, he makes the decision because he realizes he cannot stay in the world. He doesn't go out thinking he made the right decision, he goes out submitting. He knows he can't fight and beat manhattan, so he martyrs himself.

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    1. Its not better, but it is another way of thinking about the scenario. Why would he announce that he disagreed with everything then?

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  32. WHAT IF:

    Since he [Rorschach] believes all guilty must be punished, he realized that his journal notes would go public, thus causing even more havoc, but at the same time punish the initial conspirators by exposing them.

    So, to conclude -
    He [Rorschach] wanted to get punished by death, because his journal would cause it to others via war down the line. But at the same time, the journal's eventual publicity also punished those deemed in the 'wrong' for the initial fiasco. So everybody who deserved punishment received it, even if it was premature.

    That's why he cried. :P

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    1. I like how your conclusion is longer than your introduction and main body combined.

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  33. A good article, except for the utterly *excessive* use of exclamation points. Seriously, it is meant to emphasize a sentence; you can't simply throw it at the end of every statement. It makes an otherwise decent article look amateurish and childish.

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    1. I completely agree, except for the part about it being a good article. The exclamation marks aren't the only things that make the article seem childish.

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  34. How is Rorschach more "real" than Batman?

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  35. What makes you think he's in tears? I don't see any tears.

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  36. I loved the character of Rorschach in the movie, and had a hunch he would be the one who would die somehow, but I was rooting for him right until the very end. But the above analysis is correct; Rorschach still maintained his duty as a vigilante, otherwise he would have given up when the others disbanded. It was thanks to him the plots were revealed, and he himself paid the ultimate price via his sacrifice. Another thing to note (dunno if its true in the comic, because I have note wholly read it) but Night Owl grieves at the loss of a true (and only) friend after Rorschachs death. His request for Rorscach to reconsider (whilst others could not care less about his views in a way), his crying out of "NOOOOO!!!!" when Dr Manhattan blows him up, and the beating up of Nozmandeus/telling him he has mutilated the world rather than saved it/leaving him in his hideout to reflect on his actions all display both his dissapointment at events, and loss of a close friend.

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  37. I feel like Rorscach's removing of his mask and bursting into tears while telliyJon to kill is less about his never compromise outlook as he had already sent the journal
    And had that as a failsafe in the event of his death
    But more about him becoming Walter Kovacs one more time
    Showing evidence that "Rorschach" wasn't all that was left.
    Dying as his true self.
    Showing his true face

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