Study Guide

Watchmen Narrator Point of View

By Alan Moore

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Narrator Point of View

Third Person (Objective) with short bursts of First Person and Third Person (Limited)

In simple comics, all you need is dialogue (speech balloons) and action (characters moving from one panel to the next). So it’s no surprise that the baseline point of view in Watchmen is third-person (omniscient). That Watchmen is far from simple adds to the need for a narrator who knows what’s up and can untangle all the little story threads as they twist and turn. But that’s just the bare bones. If that’s all we had, the characters would come off like robots, not people.

While Moore doesn’t stick with one overarching narrator, there are many examples of characters recording snippets of their lives in the first-person. To give you a quick rundown, we have: Rorschach’s journal (in yellow), the marooned sailor in Tales from the Black Freighter (in tan), Dr. Manhattan’s inner thoughts (in blue), and Dr. Malcolm Long’s notes (in white). By way of example, let’s start from the beginning: “Rorschach’s journal. […] This city is afraid of me. I have seen its true face” (I.1.1).

And that’s just Chapters I—XII. If you add in the eleven mini-Chapters A-K, then we have many, many voices in either first-person or third-person (limited). From Hollis Mason in Under the Hood, to interviews with Doug Roth and editorials by Mr. Godfrey, there are plenty of “I” narrators in Watchmen. Beyond that, we have articles by Professor Glass, Dan Dreiberg, and others, which don’t use “I” but still showcase a single character’s limited point of view.

So, the ultimo question is why. To answer that we’ll have to put on our non-prescription Shmoop glasses, so we look all smart when we drop the following: polyvocality. It means many voices, and Watchmen is a perfect illustration of polyvocality in action. The result is this chorus effect that makes a more interesting sound than any soloist (character) on his/her own.

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