Watchmen: What Makes a Hero?

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Alan Moore’s, Watchmen
Rorschach: Hero or Villain?
Leslie O’Sullivan

The conflict between good and evil has been a prominent aspect of literature, and society itself, for ages. Many popular stories are based around the hero succeeding in their endeavours by defeating the arch nemesis; good conquers evil by performing in a manner that is deemed morally right. However, in Alan Moore’s, Watchmen, the notion of morality is questioned, suggesting that the line separating good from evil does not exist. Rorschach, the most morally influenced watchman, is a major icon when analysing good and evil in this story. Moore incorporates Rorschach with a distinct moral code, demonstrating the complexities of morality and challenging the idea that good is separate of evil. By critiquing the moral judgments of Rorschach, the standardizations of good and evil will be deconstructed, proving that the differences between what makes a hero or villain cannot be identified. Whether an action is “morally correct”, or whether the ends justify the means, rests with individual interpretation. In order to achieve justice, Rorschach follows moral absolutism, punishing those who he perceives as evil with no remorse and challenging the definition of heroism. Throughout the story, Rorschach displays a black and white outlook on life; there is an empirical right and wrong and wrong must be punished. He is a firm believer that human value is worthless and the only point in life is to make sure justice is provided. His first act of retribution occurs when Rorschach uses fire to burn down the house and kill the man who kidnapped a young girl, butchered her, and fed her to his dogs, “Stood in street, watched it burn. Imagined limbless felt torsos inside; breasts blackening; bellies smouldering; bursting into flame one by one. Watched for an hour.” (Moore, VI. 25) This moment shapes the persona and demonstrates the morality of Rorschach. Although he could have easily turned the man into the police, the masked hero takes it upon himself to punish the man as brutally as the girl had died; an eye for an eye. However, the hero’s need to avenge the innocent makes Rorschach a sadistic predator of his own as he argues that, “existence is random... No meaning save what we choose to impose.” (Moore, VI. 26) Interpreting life in this way enables the hero to justify his approach to eliminating evil in the world. He kills without feeling, lacking any sort of empathy for his victims. Rorschach’s dedication to his existentialistic morality is truly shown when he murders a psychotic man who chooses to instigate a confrontation, “Do you remember that guy? The one who pretended to be a super villain so he could get beaten up... Whatever happened to him’... ‘He pulled it on Rorschach and Rorschach dropped him down an elevator shaft.” (Moore, VI.26) Although the actions of this man would typically be considered less evil then the previous man, Rorschach reprimands him with the same severe punishment; death. He does not place evil actions above or below one another, but treats all wrong doers in the same manner. Rorschach’s uncompromising morality in the prior situations deconstructs the facade of the hero. His actions are brutal, violent, and arguably unreasonable, yet he is successful in delivering justice from evil. Therefore, it is evident that the standardizations concerning heroes cannot be solely defined as those who are unwaveringly “good”. Despite his black and white nature, Rorschach repeatedly contradicts his own morals, displaying the flaws present in his judgments. Although he firmly believes and acts upon the idea that no evil should go unpunished, it is noted that in certain instances, Rorschach is observed to deviate from this principle. One instance where his hypocrisy can be acknowledged is when Rorschach confronts his landlady; “Told press I’d made sexual...
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