Mark Reads ‘Men at Arms’: Part 10

In the tenth part of Men at Arms, I WAS WRONG. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld

Trigger Warning: For alcoholism

You know, as I was writing the final parts of the previous review for this book, I thought to myself: You could seriously have read this wrong. I mean, the Patrician knows everything. How would this be the one thing that slipped by him? And yet, I thought it was good commentary based on what I knew, especially since it put Vimes in such a fascinating position. He was being told he was grit in the cogs of Ankh-Morpork.

And yet, I couldn’t even see it for what it was: a deliberate manipulation on the part of the Patrician. He knew exactly how Vimes would react, and he purposely pushed Vimes in that direction. It makes sense! If the Patrician believes in the machine of the city, the Watch is still part of that. So, this was his way of utilizing another part of the city to go after the gun that Leonard da Quirm invented.

WHO IS CURRENTLY IN A PRISON CELL UNDERNEATH THE PATRICIAN’S PALACE. Seriously, talk about a plot twist. But the Patrician is concerned with control, so this is how he exerts it. Which fascinates me! The Patrician doesn’t seem to hate or despise Leonard, and he actually seems rather interested in what the man’s mind has produced. But he can’t let Leonard be free. Why is that? I suspect because he is, roughly speaking, an agent of chaos. Look, Lord Vetenari becomes bothered at the end of his POV section by the fact that he may have pushed Vimes too far, and given what we see of Vimes, it’s fair to assume that he is worried that he can’t control Vimes. So, I think it’s easy to assume that he wants the same of Leonard.

But there’s another level to the story here, and while I can’t speak authoritatively in any sense to Pratchett’s politics, I’m getting a very strong anti-gun commentary from this plot. Leonard and the Patrician dance around stating anything outright most of the time, at least until Leonard admits that he shouldn’t have made the gun, despite being proud of what he created. He’s conflicted by it, you know?

“I suppose I should have dismantled it, but… it was so clearly a made thing. I had this strange fancy that I was merely assembling something that already existed. Sometimes I wonder where I got the whole idea. It seemed… I don’t know… sacrilege, I suppose, to dismantle it. It’d be like dismantling a person.”

Yet what both men are concerned with more than the existence of the gun itself is what people will do with it. The Patrician speaks openly about how the citizens of Ankh-Morpork rarely think about the repercussions of their actions. Thus, I don’t know that this is anti-gun, per se, as it comes across more as a chance to Pratchett to talk about personal responsibility. The people of the city are not responsible enough to think about what having a gun means, and Edward is a perfect demonstration of that.

At the same time, we’ve got exceptions to that. I found it brilliant that Pratchett followed this bit with two separate scenes where both Detritus and Cuddy fought for one another, defending their fellow Watch guard from bigotry and prejudice. It’s not a rapid change, either. They don’t just suddenly decide one day not to be assholes to each other. It’s a process that involves – surprise! – actually getting to know another person. And when these two do that, what happens? Well, Cuddy fights to save Detritus, and then verbally eviscerates someone for… well, this.

“Can’t one of you get him a blanket or something?” he said.

A very fat man said, “Huh? Who’d use a blanket after it had been on a troll?”

It’s beautiful. And look, as someone who belongs to MULTIPLE MARGINALIZED GROUPS, it can actually be a very powerful thing to have someone else come to your defense in these situations. Often, we’re left to fend for ourselves, and that can end in disaster. But Cuddy does this as a dwarf! Maybe he doesn’t understand the full implications of that, but he’s a dwarf in a society that’s supposed to guarantee that he hates Detritus. And yet?

UGH I REALLY LIKE THIS. I love that when Cuddy takes Detritus to Quarry Lane and both characters do whatever they can to defend each other. Granted, this doesn’t exactly work well in their favor. How can they de-program the hatred each group feels for the other in a matter of seconds? They can’t, honestly, and a massive fight breaks out, and I don’t know how this is going to be resolved. How do you break this kind of thinking?

And that leaves us with Sam Vimes, who appears to have taken the Patrician’s words to heart. It’s sad to watch him return to the bottle because I suspect he feels devastated or worthless by what Lord Vetenari told him. His identity is wholly wrapped up in being part of the Watch, and this is how he’s supposed to go out? He’s supposed to obey, crawl away with his tail between his legs, and just… give up? Look, that’s depressing, y’all. So, are Angua and Carrot going to try and… cheer him up? I don’t know! I DON’T KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON AND I’M OKAY ADMITTING THAT.

The original text contains use of the word “moronic.”

Mark Links Stuff

I am now on Patreon!!! MANY SURPRISES ARE IN STORE FOR YOU IF YOU SUPPORT ME.
– I will be at numerous conventions in 2016! Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be seasons 1 & 2 of The 100, Death Note, and Neon Genesis Evangelion. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
– Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since ’09.

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