Rorschach Psychoanalysis (some Watchmen spoilers)

ourchair

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As promised, here is the Rorschach Psychoanalysis I co-wrote with a friend at about the same time I wrote the Doom Psychoanalysis.

“From Rorschach’s journal.
October 12th, 1985.
The streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over, all the vermin will drown. The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout “Save us!”… …And I’ll look down and whisper ‘No.’”


The vigilante known as Rorschach (real name Walter Kovacs) of Alan Moore’s The Watchmen has one intention behind every action: purpose. His most distinguishing feature is a plain white mask with black “inkblots” on it. In Dave Gibbon’s illustrations, the mask blots are always changing and are never in the same pattern twice.

Although he lacks any powers and carries little weaponry, Rorschach is quite skilled in his crusade. He kills, captures, and injures criminals with no remorse. To him it’s just part of his job – delivery of justice no matter how brutal.

The Watchmen opens with Rorschach investigating the brutal murder of Edward Blake, a retired adventurer who went by the nom de guerre of The Comedian. Rorschach forms his hypothesis rather quickly: Blake’s murder is part of a calculated annihilation of masked avengers and that out on the streets, is a serial killer of costumes.

He injures multiple people in his investigation, but he is eventually subdued by the New York Police Department and placed in maximum security. While in police custody he is assigned a psychoanalyst, Dr. Malcolm Long, who, for a moment, considers the kind of career boost he would get from a success with Kovacs/Rorschach.

During their first session together, Dr. Long observes that Kovacs is “withdrawn, with no expression in either face or voice.” The doctor is shown administering the Rorschach inkblot test. Kovacs imagines dogs with their skulls split and people coupling within the inkblots, but when asked for answers he stays on the safe side: pretty butterflies and nice flowers.

In one chapter dedicated exclusively to Rorschach, we are presented with Kovacs’ childhood memories: His first flashback narrates how he walked in on his prostitute mother in bed with a client, and how he is physically and verbally abused after for ruining her night.

In another flashback, we are presented with the beginnings of a conduct disorder. Young Kovacs is seen being picked on by a couple of older boys, making nasty remarks about his mother and calling him “whoreson”. He responds by stabbing a lit cigarette into the eye of one of the boys and physically assaulting the other.

In another section dedicated to files and documents on Kovacs we learn that after the attack, the investigation revealed that he was regularly beaten and exposed to “the worst excesses of a prostitute’s lifestyle.” He was taken out of his mother’s care and placed in the Lillian Charlton Home for Problem Children where he remained until 1956.

During the time at the house, away from his mother, Kovacs did very well at schoolwork. He was unusually quiet and shy, especially around women, but was capable of lengthy conversations with classmates and instructors. His loathing for his mother remained though. When she was murdered later that year, his only comment was “Good.”

When Dr. Long isn’t satisfied with the tests, he confronts Kovacs about “Rorschach.” He gets a little more than he wanted. Kovacs tells Dr. Long everything he wants to know, about how Rorschach (and his mask) came to be, and why.

He relates how, at 16, he became a manual worker in the garment industry, a job he found unpleasant because he had to handle female clothing. In 1962, he was working with a special fabric worn by another hero, Doctor Manhattan, that had viscous fluids between two layers of latex that was sensitive to heat and pressure.

“1962… Customer young girl, Italian name. Never collected order. Said dress looked ugly. Wrong. Not ugly at all. Black and white moving. Changing shape… But not mixing. No gray. Very, very beautiful. Nobody wanted it… Took it home. Learned to cut it using heated implements to reseal latex. When I had cut it enough, it didn’t look like a woman anymore. Soon became bored. Left it in trunk. Forgot about it. March, 1964. Stopped at newsstand on way to work, bought paper. There she was. On front page. Woman who’d ordered special dress. Kitty Genovese. Raped. Tortured. Killed. Here. In New York. Outside her own apartment building. Almost forty neighbors heard screams. Nobody did anything. Nobody called cops. Some of them even watched. Do you understand? I knew what people were then, behind all the evasions, all the self-deception. Ashamed for humanity I went home. I took the remains of her unwanted dress and made a face that I could bear to look at in the mirror.”

This was the beginning of Rorschach, but Kovacs insists that even then he was just “Kovacs pretending to be Rorschach.” According to Kovacs, it takes a special kind of insight to actually be Rorschach, the kind of insight he lacked early in his career. To Kovacs, his early days as a costumed crime fighter were particularly soft and marked by what he perceives as naiveté.

“Hadn’t realized the stakes we were playing for back then. All of us… me, my friends: all soft… Kovacs had friends, other men in costumes. All Kovacs ever was: Man in a costume. Not Rorschach. Not Rorschach at all.”

Unlike many other costumed crime-fighters, the young Kovacs was driven by a sense of moral indignation. When he first met The Comedian at the first meeting of the Crimebusters in 1964, Kovacs/Rorschach took an immediate liking to him. He described The Comedian as a “forceful” and “uncompromising” personality:

“Of us all, he understood most. About world. About people. About society and what’s happening to it. Things everyone knows in gut. Things everyone too scared to face, too polite to talk about.” He understood man’s capacity for horrors and never quit. Saw the world’s black underbelly and never surrendered.”

Long notes that although Rorschach points out that he is “compelled,” he never is clear as to what exactly it is that compels him other than his sense of self-righteousness. His mother, his childhood and Kitty Genovese were merely elements that made him overreact to the world’s injustice. “They’re not what sent him over the edge. They’re not what turned him into Rorschach. It’s as if continual contact with society’s grim elements has shaped him into something grimmer, something even worse.”

The next session deals with the true birth of Rorschach. In 1975 there was a publicized kidnapping case involving a six year old girl named Blaire Roche. The kidnapper believed she was heiress to a chemical fortune, but they had the wrong family. Her father was a bus driver, and they had no money at all. Rorschach intervened and promised her parents that he would bring her home.

Rorschach visited the underworld bars looking for information. When he finally got the address of a disused dressmaker’s in Brooklyn, Rorschach continued his investigation there. He quickly concluded that the kidnapper, Gerald Grice, killed the little girl, butchered her, and fed her remains to his two German Shepherds.

Rorschach took his revenge by splitting the dogs’ heads, the same dogs he sees in the inkblots. He vividly recalls that as he bludgeoned the dogs, “it was Kovacs who said “Mother” then, muffled under latex. It was Kovacs who closed his eyes. It was Rorschach who opened them again.”

When Grice returned he handcuffed him to a piece of furniture, doused him and the house in kerosene and set him ablaze.

“Watched for an hour. Nobody got out. Stood in firelight, sweltering blood stain on chest like map of violent new continent. Felt cleansed. Felt dark planet turn under my feet and knew what cats know that makes them scream like babies in the night. Looked at sky through smoke heavy with human fat and God was not there. The cold, suffocating dark goes on forever. And we are alone. Live our lives, lacking anything better to do. Devise reason later. Born from oblivion; bear children; hell-bound as ourselves; go into oblivion. There is nothing else.”

It was from that incident that the “true” Rorschach was born. The costumed adventurers of The Watchmen are driven by many things. The Nite Owl uses this job to live out his adolescent fantasies. The Silk Spectre feels a sense of obligation to her mother. The Comedian is driven by unbridled patriotism and a sense of self-superiority.

None of these motives drive Rorschach. Rorschach views himself as a “post-human” being, for lack of a better term. He thinks his mask is his “face” and Walter Kovacs is the costume he uses to blend in. Initially driven by moral indignation, Rorschach has transcended that motive to bend all heroic conventions and completing his growth towards becoming clinically antisocial.

As such, Rorschach’s crusade on criminals has little to do with any kind of moral duty or conscientiousness on his part. Instead, the means of his crusade have become an end in itself. He achieves more satisfaction out of the violent methods he uses to accomplish his goals rather than the justice he claims to serve.

Rorschach’s journal entries are also marked by an emotional indifference and his interactions with other people are characterized by cold purposefulness. He lacks the remorse that most other costumed adventurers would feel and makes use of a perverse belief system to justify his wanton disregard for the rights and safety of others.

It is doubtful that Rorschach could ever be convinced to give up his crusade. When the Keene Act of 1977 made vigilantism illegal and forced many heroes into retirement, it engendered a very blunt response from Rorschach: The dead body of a multiple rapist left outside of the New York Police Department, with a note attached to that said, “NEVER!”

Rorschach has seen so much failure in humanity and success in his reckless vigilante ways that a return to normal living would be difficult for him. He equates humanity with failure and that belief is the greatest obstacle to his rehabilitation.
 

GMaster

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That's pretty good, I had a quick skim through it. You could have added stuff like right at the start of Watchmen, his notes in his dairy about the town and the blood, and how he refers to himself as God (people look up and ask him to save them). but yeah, interesting.
 

ourchair

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marvelman said:
I'll post what is coming out to be a [email protected] paper when it's finishd.
It's not lame if it gets the grade you need.

I do hackwork all the time. Speaking of which, anybody need any psych papers done? I accept gifts from my Amazon wishlist as payment.
 

marvelman

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Well, here is my literary analysis. The thesis is the last sentence of the first paragraph.

Please grade my paper.


Rorschach​
Watchmen is the graphic novel that changed not only its industry, but influenced modern fiction as well. Written by Alan Moore (Dave Gibbons provided the art) in 1986 and published by DC Comics, it transcended the barriers of the comic medium and became an outstanding piece of literature in its own right. This novel, which is included on Time's "100 Greatest Novels" list, tells the story of a band of adventurers who investigate the murder of one of their own and stumble upon a conspiracy that is even greater than them. One of these adventurers is the unusually dark (for the popular comics medium) character of Rorschach. Alan Moore presents Rorschach as a rigid but dynamic character who sees the world in black and white terms through the life experiences of the character.

Rorschach, alias Walter Kovacs, has one motive behind his actions as a masked adventurer: justice with purpose. But Rorschach has a rather grim view of humanity, as we see in the opening lines of the story: "Rorschach's Journal. October 12th, 1985.: ... This city is afraid of me. I have seen its true face. The streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over, all the vermin will drown. The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout, 'Save us!' And I'll look down, and whisper, 'No.' They had a choice, all of them.... Don't tell me they didn't have a choice."

Moore fully realized Rorschach from his childhood to his demise. From the beginning of his life, Kovacs had been exposed to the worst that humanity had to offer. His mother was a prostitute, his father was completely absent from his life, and he was verbally abused by children. Little Walter would not stand for this, though. At the age of eleven, all of the hate and evil he had seen was unleashed against two heckling bullies; he took out his anger by burning one in the eye with his own cigarette and tackled and bit the other until he was removed from the bullies-turned-victims. After this Kovacs was sent to a home for troubled children. When he was told of his mother's death some years later, his only response was, "Good." Walter's perceptions of good and evil had been formed; he knew what was good, and he aimed to enforce and protect good no matter the cost. He became a masked vigilante, and many years later, after a bill was passed by the government that outlaws vigilantism, he was captured by the police.

Moore then delved into the formation of the anti-hero that Kovacs would become. Kovacs began working as a tailor's assistant. One particularly interesting dress that he handled had two layers of white with a black fluid in between these layers. Kovacs was intrigued by his garments, but again he witnesses a tragic event that he dictates to a psychiatrist: "1962… Customer young girl, Italian name. Never collected order. Said dress looked ugly. Wrong. Not ugly at all. Black and white moving. Changing shape… But not mixing. No gray. Very, very beautiful. Nobody wanted it… Took it home. Learned to cut it using heated implements to reseal latex. When I had cut it enough, it didn't look like a woman anymore. Soon became bored. Left it in trunk. Forgot about it. March, 1964. Stopped at newsstand on way to work, bought paper. There she was. On front page. Woman who'd ordered special dress. Kitty Genovese. Raped. Tortured. Killed. Here. In New York. Outside her own apartment building. Almost forty neighbors heard screams. Nobody did anything. Nobody called cops. Some of them even watched. Do you understand? I knew what people were then, behind all the evasions, all the self-deception. Ashamed for humanity I went home. I took the remains of her unwanted dress and made a face that I could bear to look at in the mirror." It is with this dress that Kovacs makes the mask, the face, for who he is to become. (The mask forms various shapes that look like the Rorschach test ink blots in the field of psychology.) Even though he went masquerading as an adventurer and vigilante, he was not yet Rorschach; no, he was only "Kovacs pretending to be Rorschach." As Rorschach, the man he had become by the time of the recounting, states, "Being Rorschach takes certain kind of insight. Back then, just thought I was Rorschach. Very naive. Very young. Very soft. Let [the criminals] live."

Eventually, Rorschach recounts the events that led to his becoming the masked vigilante, the legend that he had become. There was a highly publicized kidnapping involving a young girl who was thought to be an heiress to a corporation fortune. In reality the girl only shared the name of the heiress. When Kovacs took the case into his own hands, he discovered the girl had been murdered and fed to the murderer's German shepherds. When the murderer came home from a day's work, Kovacs ambushed him and chained him to his own house as he set the building on fire. As he stared into the fire, as the building burned to the ground, he concluded that, "This rudderless world is not shaped by vague metaphysical forces. It is not God who kills the children. Not fate that butchers them or destiny that feeds them to the dogs. It's us. Only us. ...Streets stank of fire. The void breathed hard on my heart, turning its illusions to ice, shattering them. Was reborn then, free to scrawl own design on this morally blank world. Was Rorschach." And thus, Alan Moore describes how Rorschach, as opposed to Walter Kovacs, came to be.

Rorschach views himself as something more than human; he almost views himself as a god, intervening and bringing justice down upon the lives of men, as is evident in the passage that opens the story. He talks in broken English with a monotone voice to further disconnect himself from the wretched existence that is humanity. But, as doomsday looms as part of the grand conspiracy, once he is broken out of jail by his former partner, Nite Owl, he begins to try to reconnect himself with humanity. Rather than kill his apartment tenant who committed slander against him while he was in jail, he shows mercy. When Nite Owl becomes frustrated with Rorschach's emotional disconnection, Rorschach extends his hand in friendship, realizing his own faults.

As he and Nite Owl stumble upon the true conspiracy and the man behind all their troubles, the importance of the situation becomes clear to Rorschach. At the center of the conspiracy is the murder of half of New York City, all by the doing of the true culprit of the story. A false threat has been imposed on the world so that the warring nations (keep in mind, this is written during the cold war) will be left with no choice but to unite or die. With the fate of the world in his hands, he must make the ultimate decision: damn himself by keeping quiet about the truth behind the conspiracy, or bring the world to certain destruction by exposing the conspiracy and thus starting a war. The choice for Rorschach is simple: he must expose the evil of the conspiracy and avenge the deaths of all the innocents slaughtered by exposing the conspiracy, no matter the cost. This decision, however, leads to his own undoing, as he is not allowed to succeed in his mission for final justice.

Though rigid in his world view, Rorschach, by the stroke of Alan Moore's hand, transitions from a disturbed human to a man with no connection to humanity. In the end, though, he finally becomes a man who consciencly struggles to regain some of the humanity that he lost in the horrific events of his life. Though he has a "change of heart" internally, his extremely stark view of the world stays rigid throughout the story. It is in this internal change and in this steadfast world view that Rorschach is created as a rigid but dynamic character.
 
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marvelman

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Why thank you!


Well now, I had to edit it from 4 to 2 pages. What a pain. Here is the new, arguably better copy, which is more about how Moore creates the character than about the plot action.

Rorschach​
Watchmen is the graphic novel that changed not only its industry, but influenced modern fiction as well. Written by Alan Moore (Dave Gibbons provided the art) in 1986 and published by DC Comics, it transcended the public perception of comic books. This novel, which won the Hugo Award and is included on Time's "100 Greatest Novels" list, tells the story of a band of adventurers who investigate the murder of one of their own and stumble upon a conspiracy that is even greater than them. One of these adventurers is the unusually dark (for the popular comics medium) character of Rorschach. Alan Moore presents Rorschach through the character's life experiences as a rigid but dynamic character.
Rorschach, alias Walter Kovacs, has one motive behind his actions as a masked adventurer: justice with purpose. Moore wrote Rorschach as having a rather grim view of humanity, as we see in the opening lines of the story: "Rorschach's Journal. October 12th, 1985.: ... This city is afraid of me. I have seen its true face. The streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over, all the vermin will drown. The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout, 'Save us!' And I'll look down, and whisper, 'No.' They had a choice, all of them.... Don't tell me they didn't have a choice." Moore developed this grim outlook from the character's childhood.
From the beginning of his life, Kovacs had been exposed to the worst that humanity had to offer: his mother was a prostitute, his father was completely absent from his life, and he was abused by anyone bigger than him. Kovacs' perceptions of evil in society were formed early; he recognized evil in the world, but he did not yet know how to combat it. This ideology is the what Moore utilizes to transform the character from a victim to one who aims to destroy evil.
After setting up the base ideology for the character through his childhood, Moore delved into the formation of the anti-hero that Kovacs would become. Kovacs began working as a tailor's assistant. A client who ordered a dress that he was particularly fond of was killed; many people watched the murder, but no one cared to call the police. Moore used this event as motivation for Kovacs to take up his crusade against injustice and immorality. It is with the dress that Kovacs made the mask with which he began his crusade. Moore made it clear, though, that Kovacs was not yet Rorschach: "Being Rorschach takes certain kind of insight. Back then, just thought I was Rorschach. Very naive. Very young. Very soft. Let [the criminals] live." Kovacs had yet to come to the conclusion that the best way to combat injustice is to fight it without mercy.
Moore completed Kovacs' transformation by unleashing the character's inner demons on the murderer of a young girl. Kovacs chained the murderer to his house and set it on fire. As he stared into the fire, as the building burned to the ground, he concluded that, "This rudderless world is not shaped by vague metaphysical forces. It is not God who kills the children.... It's us. Only us.... Streets stank of fire. The void breathed hard on my heart, turning its illusions to ice, shattering them. Was reborn then, free to scrawl own design on this morally blank world. Was Rorschach." Alan Moore used this event to complete Kovacs transformation into the merciless Rorschach.
This transformation affected the psyche of the character as well: he almost views himself as being above humanity in the book, intervening and bringing justice down upon the lives of men, as is evident in the passage that opens the story. Moore wrote his dialogue in broken English with a monotone voice to further disconnect the character from his negative perception of humanity. But Moore shows that in the darkest of times there can still be some light: with doomsday approaching, Moore has the character attempt to redeem some of his humanity. Rather than kill his apartment tenant who committed slander against him while he was in jail, he shows mercy. When a past ally becomes frustrated with Rorschach's emotional disconnection, Rorschach extends his hand in friendship, realizing his own faults.
When Moore finally reveals the truth of the conspiracy, he puts Rorschach up to a decision that will decide his own fate. At the center of the decision is the question of where his morals lie: is Rorschach willing to damn himself but save the world from destruction, or will he continue on his crusade for justice and expose the conspiracy that killed millions, even if it means his own death and the deaths of many more? The choice for Rorschach is simple. He must rise above the human weakness of selfishness and attempt to expose the conspiracy and avenge the lives lost in it. This decision ultimately leads to his own death, but Moore shows us that Rorschach refuses to regain the negative aspects of humanity by staying true to his morals.
Throughout the story, Moore displays Rorschach's steadfastness in his refusal to represent the negative aspects of humanity. He wants only to bring justice to the criminals, and he shows no mercy. But through the crusade, Moore brings about a transformation in the character: Kovacs, the man, becomes Rorschach, the symbol of justice. In the end, Rorschach realizes that there is some good that humanity has to offer. It is in this internal change and in this steadfast view of justice that Moore created Rorschach as a rigid but dynamic character.


Please review again. And I mean everyone.
 
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