Watchmen, on Heroes and Monsters

After the horrible experience of reading Foe, I got to read Watchman.  I had watched the movie prior to reading this book, but it didn’t give me the best picture.  Lots of people have said they really liked Watchman, I enjoyed it, much more than Foe and admired it in a sense.

Alan Moore basically takes the stereotypical ideal of heroes and neutralizes it, grounds it into mincemeat, does what the machine did to Dr. Manhattan.  The ‘heroes’ in Watchmen are different from the ‘heroes’ that we have studied within the texts and in pop culture.  They do not just have one Kryptonite, not just succumb to anger easily, or get beat by a dragon or old age, and certainly not fate.  The ‘heroes’ in watchmen, are all flawed, incredibly flawed, and some more than most.  They have powers, or certain advantages, but apart from that, they are very flawed, more like real people than characters (i’ll talk about this later).  Rorschach may come to one’s mind when I mention this, but I am talking about Nite Owl, who can see in the dark, but at the same time, he can’t really see in the ‘dark’ of the world’s underbelly, who to an extent, abandoned his fellow heroes, and lacks determination.  Dr. Manhattan, the overpowered, super powerful man, who is so powerful, he actually isn’t really human is also another example.  The Comedian?  He’s incredibly flawed, but at the same time it is his total A-hole attitude that lets him see into the darkness of society.

I found it interesting that artsoneb (in whoever’s blog) said that the characters in Watchmen are not ‘characters’, but are people, with incredibly detailed backstories.  I sort of agree… and sort of not.  The characters in the graphic novel are incredibly detailed and are very realistic, but they are still characters.  They are meant to fulfil a specific role within the story of the graphic novel and prove a certain point.  This means that some parts of them are fictionalized, despite how realistic they may appear to be.  Certainly, Watchmen provides a certain degree of stark/dark realism, but there is still a certain boundary between the art and reality, which makes the characters, characters.

So are the heroes in Watchmen actually monsters?  Hard to say.  I’m actually not sure.  It is very subjective and it actually should be for all of the supposed ‘heroes’ we’ve read.  Odysseus may be a hero to his family, but certainly not to the cyclops or the suitors.  Beowulf is a hero to the Geats and Danes, but not to Grendel’s mother.  It seems, that who is a hero and monster really depends on a person’s point of view.  Rorschach for his determination and black and white beliefs, which leads to his brutality, is a sort of monster, but at the same time, I see him as possibly the most naive hero of them all.  Despite that there is no moral compass within the abyss, he continues to deliver retribution according to his own form of ‘justice’ (please correct me if I’m interpreting this wrong) and never compromising despite of that.


Foe: A Rant About How I Dislike it.

I did not like this story.  I mean, I have not enjoyed some of the readings in Arts One, but I still had a hearty respect for them.  Mainly I just had a problem with the rhetoric, or these were simply works I would not always read.  For Foe though, I vindictively hate this story (though not the discussions that it brings up).  So much, that I honestly consider it to be a little more than glorified fanfiction. It certainly begs me to question on how did this story gain the Nobel Prize for Literature, for while the discussions and the points it eventually brings up are interesting, the character of Susan Barton just makes me want to scream.

To be up front, I set some higher expectations when I went into this story.  I expected this alternate version of Robinson Crusoe to be quite interesting.  Mayhap a discussion on the role of women.  What I read, is about a quarter of the story in which Barton basically throws herself into Crusoe’s arms.  Crusoe, painted as this flat, ornamental, deranged man who can’t seem to care for himself.  His backstory on how he came to the island is interesting and I liked the references to the original Robinson Crusoe.  However, I was mortified to see the original character reduced and twisted literally a shadow.  I much rather preferred the original.  The entire island sequence, was so boring, why is Barton even bothering to ask Foe to write this story?  Friday, is far more interesting, but this does not compensate for my dislike of how in my opinion, how the author twisted DeFoe’s text.  I mean yes, the plot is that Foe relentlessly distorted Barton’s tale and I find it rather disgusting that the author’s character takes advantage of Barton like this.  However, there are events within this story that do not make sense, that I see no purpose in being there.  The entire tale on how Barton details her travels with Friday, was useful in showing how alienated she was, but that went on for a quarter of the story!  Then after this extraordinarily interesting discussion with Foe about literature, one of the few parts in fact of this book which i found worth reading, Barton, is so disillusioned she mistakes a stranger for her daughter, and then throws herself into Foe’s bed… .  … What?  Just. what?  The story does get a little interesting when they start discussing stories and literature again, but events like those simply make me go what the hell just happened.

Now why do I hate Barton.  For a multitude of reasons, she’s weak-willed, delusional, her perception of reality non-existent, proven by the fact she thinks this girl Foe hired is her daughter.  She’s so distorted, so… lame.  That’s the word, lame.  for a person who wants to record her and Crusoe’s experience, she does a horrendous job of it.  She has some interesting things to discuss with Foe, but that’s it.

Is there anything I enjoy about this story?  A few.  Friday in particular.  His character was quite wonderfully developed and I loved reading about the discussion between Barton and Foe about him being a slave or a cannibal.   He was the highlight of this story for me, while Barton was useless, Foe was an ass, Crusoe an ornament, I found Friday quite refreshing and the discussion that revolved around him brought out the more interesting parts of the story.  The imagery was good and the use of repetition was neatly done. In fact, the general discussions between Barton and Foe were the parts of the story I most enjoyed.  They brought up some interesting issues in the telling of literature and of stories.

Still, I consider Barton’s character lame and thus, the story in general to be basically glorified fanfiction with some interesting arguments about literature.  For some reason, I’m not sure why, but my hate stems from my view that the author twisted DeFoe’s text, in a way I dislike and took it in a direction that I disliked.  I consider, that Defoe’s text is the original, the author built her story from it.  If the circumstances were different, my opinion would be different, and that is interesting, because the originality does affect how I see these works.  Moreovoer, I read Robinson Crusoe a long time ago before Arts One, and I liked it, as boring/repetitive some parts were, I found it a good story.  Of course the story is that Foe distorted Barton’s tale… but the original fragment that Barton had… was so… pointless, that I think that if the events of this story were true… I’d prefer reading Defoe’s version.

P.S… Jon, if you chose this text by any chance. FORGIVE ME!!! I just really could not sympathize with Barton.


Auschwitz: At Man’s Limits

If there’s anything that Survival in Auschwitz emphasizes is that not only the importance of the physical survival of man, but the mental and moral survivability of man.

Auschwitz’s as Levi emphasizes is completely different from the outside/normal world.  It has its own rules.  Its own society in a sense.

As shown in the several inmates who are surviving   They in a sense, become monsters in  order to survive in this monstrous war.  They do so by various ways.  The physical, the mental, invoking pity, invoking fear.  In a sense, even Levi becomes monstrous, stealing in order to stay alive.  The horror of Auschwitz, isn’t meerely contained to the physical, it is also the mental and the moral.  In a world that is monstrous, that pushes man to his limits, a man has to become essentially a monster, or take up monstrous abilities to survive.  He instead becomes an outcast, stealing to keep himself alive.  Taking advantage of the system and pushing it to the limits.

This brings up a critical question.  Do we have to turn into a monster when we are confronted by a monstrous situation?


Borges, Labyrinths, Humor

Reading Borges I have to say was humorous in some ways.  Interesting in others, but regardless of my feelings on the subject, he definitely is an excellent short story writer.

The Two Kings and Labyrinths was what really struck out to me.  The labyrinth with many features, gilded and obviously complicated, could not compare to the absolutely featureless, yet so much more vast labyrinth that was the desert.

The South was very interesting.  As we learnt in the lecture and as I noticed while reading the story, there was a sort of disconnect.  It was as if the guy wasn’t actually there and it made sense since it is implied he died in the sanatorium.  The language used, the subtle hints, Borges was a master at that.

The Library of Babel?  Blew my mind.  Books upon books, overlapping books, somehow unimportant due to the massive overlap, yet somehow important because each one is ever so slightly different.

Pierre Menard’s Don Quixote perplexed me.  I understand it a little more after today’s lecture.  The idea that if it was written by Pierre Menard, in a different time, by a different person, would the meaning be the same?  Just because you change the milieu it came out of, does the story’s meaning change as well?

Emma Zunz made me go Huh?  But now that I reflect on the lecture I kind of get it.  Everything she said was true… to an extent, but what was changed was the milieu, the setting, the circumstances… which meant that everything else.. was false?  Or was it true?

I am eager to discuss this in the seminars, if I can make it out of bed tomorrow because I feel absolutely horrible.