RORSCHACH Is the truth worth dying for?

It's the one thing everyone wants to know from the very beginning: the truth. Who killed the comedian? What is interrupting Dr. Manhattan's view of the future? What mass destruction keeps being foreshadowed?

I sought the answers to these questions with fervency, as any other reader would. But I payed particularly close attention to Rorschach, who seemed the most obsessed with solving the various mysteries of the graphic novel. I grew attached to his character from the first journal entry-- his raw, unadulterated honesty and cynicism were both compelling and relatable. With no sense of political correctness or superficiality, Rorschach speaks with elegant, incorruptible reliability that I have seen nowhere else in literature. I felt like I could trust him.

From the beginning, Rorschach wanted to do good. However, his pursuit of justice and truth never served him well. The earliest memory a reader of The Watchman is allowed to share with Rorschach is shown below. As a little boy, he thought his mother is being hurt by a man in her bedroom, and he tried to check on her to make sure she was okay. This only ended in pain for the child, who was apparently abused despite his good intentions and innocence. Despite her abusive behavior, the child still seemed to love and care about his mother. This suggests that Rorschach is naturally inclined towards goodness, and resistant to hate.


Later, he tries to go to the store to buy something for his mother. He encounters some bullies who start making fun on him and his mom, calling her a whore and him diseased. To punish the tormentors for such disgusting insults, he attacks them. He feels he needs to defend the reputation and dignity of his mother, even though she shows no signs of protecting him throughout the novel.

Learning about Rorschach's childhood helped me understand his ruthlessness and violence as an adult. But I also started to wonder if this character was so crazy about justice that he was blind to the injustices in his own behavior. Partially blinding a child is too harsh of a punishment for the crime of heckling and harassment. But Rorschach almost seemed proud of his work. He doesn't care if societies morals and thoughts of him are skewed. He sticks to what he believes in. I couldn't help but wonder if this kind of savage punishment and brutality would help promote peace, or tear it apart.

With age, Rorschach only becomes more aggressive and more entitled to his aggression. Behind his mask, he seems to find that it is in his right to penalize bad behavior while simultaneously excusing his own. This is shown plainly when he murders the dogs of the man who killed the little girl. Although the dogs were seen eating the bones, it was not their fault that their owner was a bad person. It was a merciless move on Rorschach's part. Additionally, while I agree that someone who murders a little girl deserves to die, Rorschach chose to kill the man instead of bringing him to the police. He played god instead of letting the justice system of the United States work the way it is supposed to. This suggests that Rorschach does not trust the police and a jury to give the child murderer a proper punishment. He believes that true justice can only be achieved in his own hands.

It is at this point in the book that I began to feel that Rorschach would not live to the end of the novel, which saddened me. I was very attached to the character and his endeavors to solve the murder case of the comedian and continue to fight crime. Even though he was cruel and could be dangerously impulsive, I still believed in his efforts and overall supported him. I loved his passion for truth. But The Watchman taught me that sometimes, truth comes at a price. Some things are just better left secrets.

(Brain snack: The mask has way more meaning than it originally seems! Don't feel compelled to watch this whole video, but I do find it rather interesting).

In the end, Rorschach dies defending truth. He insists on telling the world the truth about the monster Adrian created, even though it is likely to disturb the peace of the countries uniting. He can't stand that millions of people died. He doesn't care if nuclear war would have killed millions more. To him, Adrian's actions were evil. And evil must be punished. It must be stopped. This would not be compromised. Because he was not willing to compromise, or discuss the matter beyond his fervent pursuit of justice, Dr. Manhattan killed him.

This brought me grief and closure all at once. Rorschach was my favorite character, and even when he was wrong, I wanted him to be right. Even though I agreed with Dr. Manhattan and Adrian, I wanted Rorschach to be allowed to return to America and do as he pleased. I wanted him to be god of truth and justice, but he wasn't.

So is truth worth dying for? I'd say, it depends. There is a balance between Rorschach's infatuation and evil's indifference. Justice and truth should be sought after, but not blindly. Cruelty is never the answer. Punishments should be fair and just. Sometimes, no punishment should be implemented at all, such as in Adrian's case with killing millions to save billions. Doing the right thing sometimes takes a compromise. The best justice is served carefully, on a case-by-case basis. Rorschach is an admirable character in that he died trying to do what he believed was the right thing. He knew he couldn't go on knowing the things he did about the world. He would rather be dead than live knowing the truth, and not being able to share it. Honesty was a lifestyle for him, from the very first journal entry. He couldn't hold it back. It was the only way he knew. But this made Rorschach's life a dangerous one, and not necessarily one that I would want to live. I admired him, but I did not want to be him. I learned from him, but I did not want to follow him. Thus leads to my greatest takeaway from The Watchman: human life is about balance-- a balance between independence and dependence, action and stillness, war and peace. It is our duty to find our niche in earth's careful equilibrium, and help keep the balance.

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