Study Guide

Watchmen Time

By Alan Moore

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“You’re young, you don’t know. Things change. What happened, happened forty years ago. It’s history” (II.1.8).

Don’t believe Sally Jupiter for a second. Why would she kiss the Comedian’s portrait at the end, if it was all just ancient history?

“Every day the future looks a little bit darker. But the past, even the grimy parts of it, well, it just keeps on getting brighter all the time” (II.4.5-6).

This brings to mind the old line “time heals all wounds.” Take a look back at your own childhood, and see for yourself.

“Is that what happens to us? A life of conflict with no time for friends so that when it’s done, only our enemies leave roses” (II.26.2-3).

In Watchmen, so many characters are frenemies with each other. How do relationships change over time?

I am going to look at the stars. They are so far away, and their light takes so long to reach us, all we ever see of stars are their old photographs (IV.1.8-9).

It’s true that most stars are long gone by the time their light reaches Earth. So stars are like memories? Stop blowing our minds, Alan Moore.

“Professor Einstein says that time differs from place to place. Can you imagine? If time is not true, what purpose have watchmakers, hein?" (IV.3.6).

Is Einstein’s theory that time is relative really the same thing as “time [being] untrue”? What does this mean for us time-loving human beings?

We stop at the newsstand and buy a copy of Time Magazine, commemorating Hiroshima Week. On the cover there is a damaged pocket watch, stopped at the instant of the blast, face cracked, hands frozen (IV.24.6-7).

Back in the day, being on the cover of Time Magazine meant the person or event was extremely, extremely important. One of the things it did was make the temporary spotlight of fame seem very permanent.

“Why does my perception of time distress you? […] Everything is preordained. Even my responses” (IX.5.2).

Heavy stuff, all this Fate vs. Free Will talk. Do you really believe Dr. Manhattan when he says this? Discuss amongst yourselves.

“Time is simultaneous, an intricately structured jewel that humans insist on viewing one edge at a time, when the whole design is visible in every facet” (IX.7.6).

If time is the 4th dimension, then, um, uh, are there any astrophysicists in the house? This sure is a beautiful metaphor, we can tell you that much.

“The ensuing vision transformed me. Wading through powdered history, I heard dead kings walking underground; heard fanfares sound through human skulls” (XI.10.7).

As much as we sometimes hate to admit it, so much of what we learn comes directly from our parents, teachers, and others from previous generations. Even Veidt, the smartest person in the world, doesn’t claim to be self-made.

“In the end? Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends” (XII.27.5).

Yes, how wise of you Dr. Manhattan. But Watchmen has an end, its back cover, and has been more or less the same since 1987. Only its readers have changed. Oh, now we get it. The story of the story never ends.

Watchmen Time Study Group

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