In Alan Moore's graphic novel Watchmen, what does Dr. Manhattan mean when he tells Adrian Veidt, "In the end? Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends?"

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Your question is about the meaning of Dr. Manhattan's statement "In the end? Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends" in Watchmen by Alan Moore.

The statement means that what Adrian sees as the end of a problem is actually just an occurrence in time. It's not a grand finale—it's...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Your question is about the meaning of Dr. Manhattan's statement "In the end? Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends" in Watchmen by Alan Moore.

The statement means that what Adrian sees as the end of a problem is actually just an occurrence in time. It's not a grand finale—it's just another event Adrian doesn't yet know the effects of. 

Adrian has faked an alien invasion and killed millions of people to do it, with the noble goal of ending the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union. After the plan is successful, he turns to Dr. Manhattan, who has a deep understanding of the universe and a different perception of time than humans. He asks for reassurance that he did the right thing.

It's possible that he did, from a utilitarian point of view. The end of the Cold War in the Watchmen universe signals the end of the upcoming nuclear armageddon. Adrian's plan has the potential to save more lives than it took.

But Dr. Manhattan can see beyond the current situation. He recognizes that time will continue and that Adrian's plan coming to fruition isn't actually the end of anything. It's possible that the plan will come to light and his work will be undone—that the millions of dead people will be for nothing. It's possible that earth will face another nuclear armageddon down the road for other reasons. It's possible the peace between the countries will fail.

Saying "In the end? Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends" is another way of saying that the world is still turning. Time is moving forward for humans. Nothing about the culmination of Adrian's work makes this the end or an end. Nothing is settled. Everything Adrian has done could crumble away to nothing, like the kingdom in the poem "Ozymandias," for which Adrian's hero alter ego is named.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In chapter twelve, after Adrian Veidt— also known as Ozymandias— enacts his scheme to end the Cold War tension between Russia and the United States by leveling major cities around the world and blaming the attack on an alien force, he seeks validation from Dr. Manhattan:

“Jon, wait, before you leave... I did the right thing, didn't I? It all worked out in the end” (27).

This is when Dr. Manhattan questions the arbitrary nature of “the end.” To Dr. Manhattan, there is no such thing as a beginning, middle, or end; these are distinctions that he no longer makes as an omnipotent, god-like being. Additionally, Dr. Manhattan hints that Veidt’s extreme action, which has admittedly positive implications in establishing world peace, will have long-term effects that Veidt cannot predict. Indeed, in chapter ten, Rorschach puts his journal that has clues pertaining to Veidt’s involvement in the attack into the mail to be delivered to journalists. The end of Watchmen has Alan Moore brilliantly leaving the series on an ambiguous note as a frazzled journalist must add extra material to a newspaper, and he reaches for Rorschach’s journal to read it for the first time. The implication here is that Veidt’s actions are not an “end.” As Dr. Manhattan notes, there is no definitive end.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team