Mark Reads ‘Guards! Guards!’: Part 3

In the third part of Guards! Guards!, Vimes discovers that Carrot has already made a reputation for himself. Sort of. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld

Trigger Warning: For alcoholism and depression.

Well, this is a decidedly different tone for Pratchett, and I like it.


Well, I definitely got this wrong, but the clues were always there. The Grand Master had said that the items were not nearly magic enough, and now I know how this is going to work. I wonder if he knew all along that he’d become the dragon or if that was merely a bonus. Regardless, it’s a terrifying idea once I give it some thought because the Grand Master could easily manipulate all of Ankh-Morpork AS a dragon. Like??? THIS IS NOT A GOOD THING. (But it’s entertaining. SO ENTERTAINING.)

I’m guessing we won’t see a dragon again until the Brethren can assemble a more valuable magical collection, which also includes a wizard’s illuminated sign apparently! However, I have no idea how this story is going to intersect with Vimes’ or the Patrician’s.

Letters from Carrot

I still think that Carrot himself feels a lot like like Twoflower, Mort, and Teppic, but this might be my favorite usage of this particular character archetype. He is so adorable in his sincerity that it actually HURTS me to think about what a genuinely good person he is. And look, this is not the first time that someone has misunderstood the unique nature of the criminal “laws” within the city, but this feels a whole lot more direct than before. Even Teppic didn’t question the place as much as Carrot does. (Though I understand the key difference between them: Teppic eventually wanted to get away from his home and experience something new. Carrot was more or less compelled to do so out of duty to his parents.) And yet, as confused and shocked as Carrot is most of the time, he doesn’t try to hurt or disrespect anyone. He saves a sex worker from a robbery and gets a place to live: IN THE BROTHEL SHE WORKS IN. (I didn’t misinterpret that, right? Oh, Carrot.)

That contrast is very Twoflower-esque, but there’s also an element of disappointment in Carrot that’s not present in the former character. That’s more obvious when he talks about his experience meeting Sgt. Colon. He’s been told of the grandeur and honor of the Watch, and then he discovers that there’s virtually nothing true in those stories. That’s why he takes it upon himself to go after the Thieves’ Guild. He’s so disillusioned by Sgt. Colon’s apathy that he believes he can make himself a name just by doing some good.

Unfortunately, that’s precisely what he does.

The Patrician

think this is the first time we’ve actually “met” Lord Vetinari, no? It’s not the first time the Patrician has been mentioned in a Discworld book by any means. I recall him in The Colour of Magic and Sourcery, but I don’t know that he was named then as Vetenari. Regardless, you shouldn’t rely on my memory of these characters; I’m aware that he’s definitely not a new character, and the worldbuilding done here is also not a reveal at all. However, I felt like Pratchett went far more into the detail of the Patrician’s system of government than ever before, and I’m super into this??? Like, there’s a pragmatism to the way he does things, and I also got just a hint of Dios’s style in his leadership. I say that because I feel like the Patrician cherishes order and routine, not so much so that things never change ever (he’s clearly not THAT ridiculous), but to limit the amount of chaos in a place that would probably be prone to chaos were he not in charge.

You can see some of that behavior in his interactions with Van Pew. He’s interested in Van Pew’s complaint because it upsets the order imposed on the city’s criminals. But even though the complaint is valid, the Patrician still turns the meeting against Van Pew, passive aggressively reminding Van Pew of his place within the world:

It was always like this with the Patrician, he reflected bitterly. You came to him with a perfectly reasonable complaint. Next thing you knew, you were shuffling out backward, bowing and scraping, relieved simply to be getting away. You had to hand it to the Patrician, he admitted grudgingly. If you didn’t, he sent men to come and take it away.

And that’s the sort of control that the Patrician exerts over Ankh-Morpork. I don’t know that I’d consider him a villain or an antagonist, though. He’s an important character, but I don’t think he fits within a dichotomous framework in the Discworld universe. I’m sure that Vimes might view him negatively, but I see Lord Vetinari more as an agent of the plot. He sets things in motion. His rule is the background setting to everything. And I don’t think it’s something to be ignored.

Captain Vimes

I hesitate to say that I feel pity for Vimes because I don’t know what his backstory is. That’s not to say that alcoholism or depression needs a backstory, of course. We shouldn’t have to look at these things with an origin story in mind because for a lot of people, that’s not how alcoholism or depression works. I recognize that there are elements in Vimes’ characterization that hint at some reason for his current state, the least of which is the fact that no one voluntarily signs up with the Watch. So what did all these people do to end up here? Has Vimes drowned himself in alcohol since becoming the Captain of the Watch? How did the Watch decline to exist in the state that it is in? His history with Wonse suggests that Vimes was involved in petty crime alongside his fellow gang members, and perhaps that is how he ended up where he is. He says he’s drinking to forget, but he can’t remember what he was trying to forget in the first place. Something traumatic?

Of course, this is just speculation because that’s all I can do at this point. There is this, though:

It wasn’t just the loneliness, it was the back-to-front way of living. That was it, thought Vimes.

The Night Watch got up when the rest of the world was going to bed, and went to bed when dawn drifted over the landscape. You spent your whole time in the damp, dark streets, in a world with shadows. The Night Watch attracted the kind of people who for one reason or another were inclined to that kind of life.

I can at least speak to the experience of working the graveyard shift: it fucks with your sense of time. It messes up any social life you might want to have. You honestly feel like you’re living in a parallel world compared to everyone else. I still suspect there’s something else at work here, but it’s clear that the Night Watch job itself affects these people profoundly. And how many of them are there? We’ve got Sgt. Colon, Captain Vimes, and Corporal Nobbs. Who I need to meet immediately, y’all, since I’m guessing his “training” session with Carrot is an UTTER DISASTER. But that’s it, right? That’s the ENTIRE Night Watch, as far as I know. Three people “watching” the entirety of Ankh-Morpork at night, and none of them appear to want to be any good at it.

Until Carrot showed up, that is.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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