Watchmen

Watchmen

by

Alan Moore

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The Pirate Comic Symbol Analysis

The Pirate Comic Symbol Icon

The pirate comic is a comic within the novel, which an unnamed, incidental character reads throughout the course of the main story. The pirate comic symbolizes how someone who initially seems the hero of a story may actually become a villain. The pirate comic parallels the major arcs of the main story of Watchmen, forming a microcosm of several key moments. In the comic, the unnamed narrator (the survivor) endures a pirate attack and washes up on an island, believing that the pirates will now sail for his hometown and slaughter his family as well. The survivor commits many despicable acts to beat the pirates there, only to mistakenly murder his own wife, believing her to be a pirate and himself a righteous avenger. The survivor believes he is on an urgent mission to save his family, which drives him to gradually let go of his inhibitions and commits successively more grotesque acts. This reflects the way that Rorschach and especially Adrian Veidt allow the perceived urgency of their respective missions to drive them to worse and worse behaviors. Rorschach tortures, maims, and kills to track down his “mask-killer” and unearth what he believes to be a conspiracy. Veidt, believing he must avert World War III and human extinction, rationalizes murdering millions of people in New York. Although the novel avoids making a judgment on whether Veidt’s actions are justified, the story’s ending leaves the reader, like the survivor in the pirate comic, wondering if it was all worth it.

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The Pirate Comic Symbol Timeline in Watchmen

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Pirate Comic appears in Watchmen. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3: The Judge of All the Earth
Heroes, Villains, and Vigilantes Theme Icon
...Russia and let God sort it out.” Next to him, a man sits reading a comic about a sailor whose ship and crew are destroyed by pirates. The news vendor talks... (full context)
Heroes, Villains, and Vigilantes Theme Icon
American Corruption and Patriotism Theme Icon
...of Nova Express, which insinuates that Dr. Manhattan gives people terminal cancer. In the pirate comic, the survivor worries that the pirates will go to his home village and murder his... (full context)
American Corruption and Patriotism Theme Icon
...about Dr. Manhattan’s disappearance. They suspect the Communists are somehow to blame. In the pirate comic, the survivor digs a pit to bury all the dead bodies washed up on shore.... (full context)
American Corruption and Patriotism Theme Icon
On the street corner, the pirate comic ends with the pirate ship headed for the survivor’s home and family. The story’s lack... (full context)
Chapter 5: Fearful Symmetry
Heroes, Villains, and Vigilantes Theme Icon
Nihilism and Meaning Theme Icon
...it doesn’t seem possible to escape at all. In the next issue of the pirate comic, the survivor determines he must build a raft and sail home before the pirates get... (full context)
Heroes, Villains, and Vigilantes Theme Icon
Moralist vs. Utilitarian Ethics Theme Icon
...news vendor theorizes that weapons manufacturers are about to make a fortune. In the pirate comic, the survivor contemplates his morality and stares down at the dead corpses keeping him afloat. (full context)
Heroes, Villains, and Vigilantes Theme Icon
Nihilism and Meaning Theme Icon
...surmises that it’s always the things one doesn’t see that kill them. In the pirate comic, the survivor dozes on his corpse raft and thinks about how regular people “exist upon... (full context)
Heroes, Villains, and Vigilantes Theme Icon
In the pirate comic, the survivor endures a shark attack. The biggest shark is yellow and strange. It entangles... (full context)
Chapter 8: Old Ghosts
Heroes, Villains, and Vigilantes Theme Icon
Identity and Empowerment Theme Icon
Nihilism and Meaning Theme Icon
...it is that Rorschach used to be one of his regular customers. In the pirate comic, the survivor floats on his raft of dead bodies and imagines pirates cutting his wife... (full context)
Heroes, Villains, and Vigilantes Theme Icon
Moralist vs. Utilitarian Ethics Theme Icon
Nihilism and Meaning Theme Icon
...announces that Rorschach caused a prison riot that left 5 people dead. In the pirate comic, the survivor starts to speak with the corpses keeping his raft afloat. (full context)
Nihilism and Meaning Theme Icon
...kids in costumes discover his body when they arrive, looking for candy. In the pirate comic, the survivor jumps into the water to drown himself, but he doesn’t sink. He realizes... (full context)
Heroes, Villains, and Vigilantes Theme Icon
A back page article states that the police investigation into pirate comic writer Max Shea’s disappearance has been called off. Of note, several other creative professionals have... (full context)
Chapter 10: Two Riders Were Approaching
Heroes, Villains, and Vigilantes Theme Icon
Moralist vs. Utilitarian Ethics Theme Icon
In the pirate comic, the survivor wades ashore, figuring he is less than 20 miles from his home. However,... (full context)
Moralist vs. Utilitarian Ethics Theme Icon
Nihilism and Meaning Theme Icon
...gazette, then offer him some religious literature. He angrily shoos them away. In the pirate comic, the survivor finds that killing is easy when death feels near. He ties the woman... (full context)
Heroes, Villains, and Vigilantes Theme Icon
Moralist vs. Utilitarian Ethics Theme Icon
Nihilism and Meaning Theme Icon
...her girlfriend, Aline, is angry with her and they’re settling things tonight. In the pirate comic, the survivor and the dead woman ride down the street, under the gaze of what... (full context)
Chapter 11: Look on My Works, Ye Mighty…
Moralist vs. Utilitarian Ethics Theme Icon
...new issue of Hustler will be in soon. Aline runs away, upset. In the pirate comic, the survivor rushes into his home and bludgeons the pirate he finds sleeping on the... (full context)
Heroes, Villains, and Vigilantes Theme Icon
Moralist vs. Utilitarian Ethics Theme Icon
Identity and Empowerment Theme Icon
...says she wishes she were “straight” and she wishes she were “dead.” In the pirate comic, the survivor reaches the ocean. (full context)
Moralist vs. Utilitarian Ethics Theme Icon
...briefly, but she spots Malcolm down the street and goes to him. In the pirate comic, the survivor hears an angry mob pursuing him. The pirate freighter floats in the sea... (full context)
Nihilism and Meaning Theme Icon
 The pirate comic ends when the pirate crew lowers a rope to the survivor. The news vendor says... (full context)