I understand that Doctor Manhattan was very much out of touch with humanity at the end of the graphic novel, but how did he feel about his final scene with Rorschach?

Did he regret killing Rorschach because he cared about him as a friend?

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    This is possibly opinion-based, especially since Manhattan tends to be so emotion-less. – FuzzyBoots Feb 4 '15 at 11:09
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    "I've known John long enough to see he isn't devoid of emotion. His subtle facial twitches wouldn't have been noticed by the layman but to me, he might as well have been sobbing." - John isn't lacking emotion, he's just reserved. – Valorum Feb 4 '15 at 11:27
  • @Richard Not to be that guy but Dr Manhattan spells Jon without an H – Matthew Stevenson Jan 5 '16 at 11:17
  • @MatthewStevenson - I'd correct it except that a) I'm not a moderator any more and b) I don't care. – Valorum Jan 5 '16 at 11:19
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    "I've known @Richard long enough to see he really does care. His subtle typos wouldn't have been noticed by the layman but to me..." – CigarDoug Feb 27 '16 at 12:10
up vote 34 down vote accepted

It's totally wrong to characterise Jon/Manhattan as being without emotion. Although we see him increasingly attempting to divorce himself from his own humanity (presumably to protect himself from the emotional impact of Laurie's affair) the reality is that he spends a considerable amount of time, effort and energy on creating a facade of implacability.

When it finally comes time to dispatch Rorschach, Jon hesitates. Even though he's seen the future and knows what must happen, he still attempts to reason with Rorschach. He practically pleads with him to be reasonable, to no avail.

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The act is so upsetting that he lies about it a few minutes later. He can't bring himself to admit to Adrian (the mass murderer) the enormity of what he just did, that he just killed his friend:

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And ultimately we learn (in Before Watchmen : Dr Manhattan #4) that Rorschach's death is one of the acts that has haunted him so badly that it, along with his complicity with Adrian's actions, convinces him to leave Earth entirely. So yes, I'd say that he regretted not just the necessity of killing Rorschach, but the act itself.

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    I disagree. He is not 'unable to admit to himself', he is hiding the truth from Adrian - because Adrian had at great risk chosen to spare his friend Rorschach moments earlier, and Manhattan had gone against his wishes and murdered the man. – Fhnuzoag Feb 5 '15 at 0:13
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    That last image is the best evidence for this answer, IMO. "I see death and I feel responsible." That's quite poignant from Dr. Manhattan. – Web Head Feb 5 '15 at 4:05
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    If you consider Before Watchmen to be canonical. – Fhnuzoag Feb 5 '15 at 11:25
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    I wondered whether he hesitated because he was attached to Rorschach or because he was simply questioning the morality of killing someone in general, I mean I know he killed people in war but maybe he saw this as different. Rorschach was sociopathic and never told the Watchmen (who were each others closest friends) his name or showed them his face. If Jon was attached to Rorschach, I think it would have been like an object of sentimental value rather than a human being that was your friend. – Matthew Stevenson Jan 5 '16 at 11:18
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    @MatthewStevenson - To your limited understanding of time, perhaps. – Valorum Jan 5 '16 at 11:22

Recall Manhattan's words to Adrian/Ozymandias:

I've walked across the surface of the sun, seen events so tiny and so fast that they hardly can be said to have occurred at all. But you, Adrian... are just a man. And the world's smartest man poses no more threat to me than does its smartest termite.

It is important to remember just how far Manhattan is detached from humanity. If he regrets killing Rorschach, it is likely to be in the same way you or I might regret having to kill an insect.

It's also significant that Manhattan only got to know Rorschach after his transformation into a super-being. He maintains a somewhat greater emotional connection with those he knew as an ordinary human. The exception was Laurie, with whom he fell in love. But Manhattan was not nearly so close to Rorschach, whom he knew as more of an ally and colleague.

Conversely, Rorschach is very difficult for anyone to get to know, and when he interacts with Manhattan (for instance, when he sneaks into the military base at the beginning of the story) there is no indication the two of them feel any particular affection for each other.

Manhattan does hesitate for a few moments before killing Rorschach; but in general, Manhattan is reluctant to kill anyone. He might simply have been taking time to evaluate whether it was necessary to kill Rorschach to keep him quiet. On the other hand, he might have felt some human connection with Rorschach, perhaps for old times' sake, or out of respect for his courage and principles. As the readers, we really don't know.

In short: No, there is no reason to suppose Manhattan felt any particular regret.

This is distinct from what the reader is likely to feel; having got to know and understand Rorschach as a tragic anti-hero, we understand the necessity of his death, but may well regret it. Manhattan's perspective on Rorschach is quite different.

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    I disagree. He seems to show great reluctance toward killing Rorschach. – Valorum Feb 4 '15 at 12:05
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    That's the point -- as far as Manhattan is concerned, Laurie is an exception. He has very little interest in whether other humans live or die. Remember the pregnant woman in Vietnam -- as the Comedian pointed out, he could have stepped in to save her, but he just didn't bother. Since then, he has only grown more detached from humanity. Maybe "insect" is putting it a bit strongly -- to him, humans may be more like a dog or a cat to us. I might love my dog, and still not regret killing a dangerous dog which was not my pet. – Royal Canadian Bandit Feb 4 '15 at 13:52
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    It struck me that he's speaking out of anger toward Adrian. – Valorum Feb 4 '15 at 20:23
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    In terms of the graphic novel, Dr Manhattan only admits to finding three people in any way significant: Ozymandias, Laurie, and the Comedian. So I don't think he cares about Rorschach at all. – Fhnuzoag Feb 5 '15 at 0:07
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    I'm pretty sure he only likened Ozymandias to an insect to scare him, not because that is really how he viewed humans. – Matthew Stevenson Jan 5 '16 at 11:24

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