Study Guide

Watchmen Chapter IV

By Alan Moore

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Chapter IV


  • Watch out everyone. Ugh. Bad joke. That nervous tic won’t happen again. See? We didn’t turn “tic” into tick-tock. We could have, but we didn’t.
  • Finally, a chapter so easy to follow, told in such a straightforward way, that it’s almost like clockwork! Yeah, um, sorry guys… we couldn’t resist.
  • Here we are, on Mars, as Dr. Manhattan sits on a rock and looks back to a more normal period of his life. Now, space and time’s all jumbled up for him, Einstein-style.
  • He stares at the 1959 photo of Janey Slater and himself (killer crew cut, Jon) at a New Jersey amusement park.
  • Flashback time: The date is August 7th, 1945; the place is Brooklyn, where sixteen-year-old Jon Osterman is futzing with his father’s old pocket watch.
  • Pop Osterman enters with news that the A-Bomb’s been dropped on Hiroshima, and that his lifetime spent as a watchmaker has been a waste.
  • Cut to May 12th, 1959, where a young Dr. Osterman is the new kid on the block at Gila Flats. With his doctorate in Physics from Princeton, Jon’s kind of a big deal, and Wally Weaver shows him the time-lock test vault.
  • At the local watering hole, Janey Slater fawns over him. They fall in love.
  • Jon fixes Janey’s broken watch but forgets it in his lab coat back at Gila Flats’s I.F. Chamber. Big mistake.
  • He goes to retrieve it, but ends up stuck in the time-lock test vault. Dr. Glass, his mentor, can’t override the system, and Jon is vaporized into a bazillion particles.
  • Six months later, he starts to put himself back together again, like a self-made Humpty Dumpty. But this eggman is giant and blue with almost unlimited superpowers.
  • He and Janey get back together, but that ship has sailed.
  • In 1960, the media names him Dr. Manhattan, and footage is released of Jon looking muy peligroso. He starts to fight crime, and meets JFK at the White House, although he proves unable to stop his assassination two years later.
  • If all this sounds choppy, pretend there are sparkly lights and a big whoosh between every scene. It is now 1962. Jon talks with Hollis Mason at his retirement party, and dashes his auto mechanic dreams. You see, Jon has invented technology for electric cars, making Mason’s skills obsolete.
  • Cut to 1966, as Jon shows up at the inaugural Crimebusters meeting (see “Chapter II”). Jon spends more and more time with young Laurie Jupiter. Janey Slater, jealous and afraid of aging, packs her bags.
  • Jon’s father dies in 1969 without ever knowing Dr. Manhattan was his son. Gila Flats closes down in 1970. The story’s pacing goes into rapid-fire mode.
  • Laurie moves in with Jon, and President Nixon asks him to end the controversial war in Vietnam. In Saigon, Jon runs into Edward Blake, who’s also working for the Government.
  • The surrendering Viet Cong worship Jon like a God. In 1975, President Nixon amends the Constitution, and runs for a third term.
  • Meanwhile, Ozymandias (Veidt) retires and invites Jon to his swanky Antarctic retreat.
  • It is 1977 now. The Keene Act has passed, making it illegal to be a masked vigilante unless working for the Government.
  • Nite Owl and Silk Spectre retire, while Rorschach goes underground.
  • Jon learns of Edward Blake’s murder. Laurie walks out on him.
  • On live TV, Doug Roth accuses Jon of being cancer incarnate, a death sentence on anyone close to him.
  • So he has come full circle, and here he is again, hanging out on Mars, where he creates a new world, perfectly in tune.
  • Fate or free will can’t touch him here. Or can they? Phew, the rollercoaster is over, for now. Let’s take a minute to catch our breaths. Inhale, exhale. Ahhh.
  • Chapter Postscript: The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking… The solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker. –Albert Einstein

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