Watchmen

Watchmen

by

Alan Moore

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Rorschach’s Mask Symbol Analysis

Rorschach’s Mask Symbol Icon

Rorschach’s mask symbolizes his view of ethics and morality, as well as his use of a constructed identity to hide his vulnerable true self, Walter Kovacs. Rorschach’s mask is white with shifting black shapes on it, resembling a moving Rorschach blot test (a tool once used in psychology to assess a person’s thoughts and emotions). The shapes are either completely white or completely black; there is no gray. This reflects Rorschach’s view of reality, since he believes that the world divides clearly and easily into good and evil people; he leaves no room for moral ambiguity or gray areas. However, the fact that the shapes on his mask constantly move and morph symbolize how Rorschach’s judgments of what is good and what is evil are inconsistent, constantly changing. He hates evil people, for instance, yet commits torture and murder and still sees himself as a good person. Rorschach’s mask also represents his constructed identity as a whole, which he assumes as his true identity in order to gain a sense of control over the world. Rorschach calls his mask his “face” and remarks that he only feels like himself when he wears it. Although his costume and identity consist of trench coat, gloves, and a fedora as well, the thing that truly makes him Rorschach rather than Walter Kovacs is his mask.

Rorschach’s Mask Quotes in Watchmen

The Watchmen quotes below all refer to the symbol of Rorschach’s Mask. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Heroes, Villains, and Vigilantes Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the DC Comics edition of Watchmen published in 1986.
Chapter 5: Fearful Symmetry Quotes

My things were where I’d left them, waiting for me. Putting them on, I abandoned my disguise and became myself, free from fear or weakness or lust. My coat, my shoes, my spotless gloves. My face.

Related Symbols: Rorschach’s Mask
Page Number: 162
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6: The Abyss Gazes Also Quotes

Black and white. Moving. Changing shape… But not mixing. No gray. Very, very beautiful.

Related Symbols: Rorschach’s Mask
Page Number: 188
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Watchmen LitChart as a printable PDF.
Watchmen PDF

Rorschach’s Mask Symbol Timeline in Watchmen

The timeline below shows where the symbol Rorschach’s Mask appears in Watchmen. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: At Midnight, All the Agents…
Heroes, Villains, and Vigilantes Theme Icon
Moralist vs. Utilitarian Ethics Theme Icon
American Corruption and Patriotism Theme Icon
When the street is empty, a man wearing a trench coat, fedora, and white mask with black shapeless blots appears—Rorschach. He shoots a grappling hook from the street up into... (full context)
Heroes, Villains, and Vigilantes Theme Icon
Identity and Empowerment Theme Icon
...finds Rorschach in his kitchen, eating from a can of beans. Rorschach doesn’t take his mask off to eat, only pulls it up over his mouth. (full context)
Chapter 5: Fearful Symmetry
Heroes, Villains, and Vigilantes Theme Icon
Moralist vs. Utilitarian Ethics Theme Icon
“Rorschach’s journal. October 21st, 1985.” Rorschach wakes to shouting outside. He folds his mask and slips it in his jacket. As he wanders outside, dressed as a normal person,... (full context)
Heroes, Villains, and Vigilantes Theme Icon
Moralist vs. Utilitarian Ethics Theme Icon
Identity and Empowerment Theme Icon
Nihilism and Meaning Theme Icon
“Rorschach’s journal. October 21st, 1985.” Veidt’s attempted murder confirms Rorschach’s suspicions about a “mask-killer” on the loose. He finds a note in his “maildrop” from Moloch claiming that he... (full context)
Heroes, Villains, and Vigilantes Theme Icon
Moralist vs. Utilitarian Ethics Theme Icon
Identity and Empowerment Theme Icon
Nihilism and Meaning Theme Icon
...story window and crashes onto the street. Police surround him, beat him, and tear his mask off—he’s the doomsayer who usually holds “The End is Nigh” sign. They drag him away,... (full context)
Chapter 6: The Abyss Gazes Also
Heroes, Villains, and Vigilantes Theme Icon
Moralist vs. Utilitarian Ethics Theme Icon
Identity and Empowerment Theme Icon
Nihilism and Meaning Theme Icon
...Kitty’s dress and makes himself a “face” he can finally bear to look at: his mask. In prison, Dr. Long tries to convince Kovacs that not all people are rotten. Kovacs... (full context)
Heroes, Villains, and Vigilantes Theme Icon
Moralist vs. Utilitarian Ethics Theme Icon
Identity and Empowerment Theme Icon
Nihilism and Meaning Theme Icon
...cleaver, goes out to the yard, and butchers the dogs. He recalls that, beneath his mask, Kovacs closes his eyes as the blood splatters his chest, and Rorschach “open[s] them.” The... (full context)
Chapter 12: A Stronger Loving World
Heroes, Villains, and Vigilantes Theme Icon
Identity and Empowerment Theme Icon
...this way and tells him to go ahead and kill him. He pulls off his mask, revealing Walter Kovac’s face, tears streaming from his eyes. Jon points his arm out and... (full context)