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In Chapter XII of Watchmen, Ozymandias opened, and thus destroyed, his vivarium.

I cannot see a meaningful reason for doing that. I believe he didn't destroy it per se and there must be a reason for that, but still I cannot figure out why. I have some thoughts and theories about that but none of them are convincing enough.

Is there any explanation why he would do that?

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    It's not polite to ask why someone opens their vivarium.
    – Omegacron
    Jan 13, 2015 at 20:47

3 Answers 3

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Ozymandias fancied himself a conqueror like Alexander the Great or like the kings of ancient Egypt and as in those traditions, he deemed himself in their image. The death of his staff and the destruction of his works was his way of emulating these traditions.

  • He believed he would possibly die as his plan was coming into fruition (given the actual superpowers of Doctor Manhattan, this was a reasonable assumption) and as such, decided to destroy and bury with him, one of his great works, his vivarium and the technicians who served him in the same way as when pharaohs died, their entire staff died with them.

  • In Watchmen #11 he explains all of his history to his staff as they are drinking wine in the vivarium and ultimately he poisons them before exposing the hothouse vivarium to the elements.

  • Note the symbolism of the butterfly with the same colors as Ozymandias' costume floating above the scene, seemingly unaware of its impending doom in a matter of moments. Perhaps Ozymandias thought of himself in the same way, finally free after all those years of confinement, free from his self-imposed exile and with his plan so close to fruition, he had done what Alexander had not. He would bring mankind together in unity. Granted, a fear-induced, false-flag kind of unity, but from Ozymandias' perspective, close enough to "save the world".

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    I think there was a practical reason for the death of the staff, along with everyone else involved--he believed that without his plan, there would be nuclear war and humanity would become extinct, so presumably he also thought that if his plan was ever exposed the peace could be destroyed and humanity would again be at risk. Even if he thought the chances of his staff spilling the beans were minimal, he may have thought that even a slight risk should be eliminated given how high the stakes were (though by the same logic he should have killed himself too, so he wasn't being purely utilitarian).
    – Hypnosifl
    Jan 12, 2015 at 19:48
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    I had always thought of it from the practical standpoint of destroying evidence, with his Pharaoh stylings as an excuse. Now that I think about it more, though, this makes sense. He was fully aware of his namesake's legacy as recorded by Percy Bysshe Shelley (And on the pedestal these words appear:/'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:/Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'/Nothing beside remains. Round the decay/Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare/The lone and level sands stretch far away.) and has accepted it. His plan is not for his own glory, in fact, it requires secrecy.
    – KSmarts
    Jan 12, 2015 at 20:53
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    I want to pluck your comment regarding the Shelley poem and place them right at the end of my post. Would you be offended if I did that? Jan 12, 2015 at 21:27
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    @KSmarts - It's possible Ozymandius was inspired by the Shelley poem, but he doesn't quote it in the book (he just mentions the pharaoh), so I think it's also possible that Alan Moore chose that name for the character because of its ironic connotations of grand self-importance that's made to look absurd by the passage of time, without the intention that the character himself was thinking in those terms. This might fit with the fact that Adrian seems to have been hoping his plan had finally worked out "in the end", and is confused by Dr. Manhattan's last lines that "Nothing ever ends".
    – Hypnosifl
    Jan 12, 2015 at 23:08
  • @Thaddeus Not at all. It's not my poem, after all.
    – KSmarts
    Jan 13, 2015 at 14:38
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There's a practical reason for this: He just poisoned his remaining staff. Burying them alive in snow would make it look like a climate-control accident happened at his Antarctic facility; given news competition from elsewhere it would not appear to be any sort of cover-up. "In other news today, a number of employees died at the Veidt Research Station in Karnak when an air seal was accidentally left open..."

The allusion to the Shelley poem is a nice additional touch, intended by the author. Not sure if intended by the character.

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Adding my 2 cents. It's very much both, they know his secrets, so they have to be disposed of to protect the lie. The death must look like an accident as Ber noted, because of potential investigations.
I lean towards Hypnosifl's explanation that maybe the name Ozy was chosen by Moore and I like his rationale of Ozy being confused at the end and asking if it works out in the end. It's more of a nod to the reader... but I like the other way too. I definitely think him killing the staff was practical first and foremost, and he just used the parallels of Pharoahs taking their whole staff with them as an excuse for his crimes. Cuz he is a massive douche.

Thing that doesn't quite make sense to me is why neither Ozy nor Manhattan seemed to think Laurie or Dan should die. Like, I get that they are kinda friends, but Ozy killed ANYONE who might ruin his plan. He didnt hesitate to kill many ppl close to him, so honestly why risk it with Laurie and Dan?

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  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. If you think Hypnosifl's comment deserves to be made an answer then you need to actually include it in your post instead of just referring to it; it's the difference between posting an answer and posting comment (which you shouldn't do). Note however that an out-of-universe answer like that is less favourable than an answer that makes sense in-universe (like Thaddeus' or Ber's). In any event, whatever answer you want to post, you should provide some evidence it is likely correct. Finally, your last paragraph is its own question and doesn't belong here.
    – DavidW
    Jun 29, 2021 at 2:17

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