In the ninth part of Maskerade, Nanny and Granny discover that Walter Plinge may be at the center of the mystery. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For talk of bullying and nonconsensual drugging.
Oh, my heart goes out to Walter Plinge. The portrait painted by this section is of a young man who has a difficult, thankless job and, from what I can tell, absolutely no friends aside from his mother. Mrs. Plinge opens up to Granny (as everyone does whenever they speak with Mistress Weatherwax) about Walter’s life, and IT’S JUST SO SAD:
“They torment him so,” she mumbled. “They poke at him and hide his broom. They’re not bad boys round here, but they will torment him.”
“He brings his broom home, does he?”
“He looks after his things,” said Mrs. Plinge. “I’ve always brought him up to look after his things and not be a trouble. But they will poke the poor soul and call him such names…”
And that’s not all that much different from his life at the theater either. His life is made up of other people, if that makes sense. His isolation from others comes from how he is perceived. His mother sees him as an obedient, sweet kid, but she’s also a huge influence on how he behaves. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was made fun of by the local boys because he’s a mama’s boy, though I suspect that he’s not winning any popularity contests by bringing his broom back and forth between his home and the Opera House.
Let’s also talk about the Ghost, who makes NO SENSE AT ALL ANYMORE. Look, I was just as surprised as Granny was that the man in the black cape and white mask WAS PROTECTING MRS. PLINGE ON HER WAY HOME. Even more perplexing: the timeline makes it possible for him to follow Mrs. Plinge home, protect her, and get back to the Opera House so that Agnes can hear him singing in the empty theater. It’s got to be the same person, and yet I don’t get it. How can someone so full of life and care about others and give company to Walter and MURDER PEOPLE JUST FOR THE HELL OF IT?
As if this weren’t enough to deal with, Pratchett also spends time detailing the aftermath of Agnes’s first performance as Christine’s ghost. I’m not sure if Pratchett intended it, but I saw a direct parallel between Walter and Agnes. Both of these characters are, more or less, ignored by everyone else around them unless someone needs something from them. In Agnes’s case, she’s treated worse than practically everyone around her because she’s not traditionally beautiful. Pratchett highlights this through absurdity by having everyone rush to Christine’s side when Dr. Undershoot is discovered. Even when it comes to something as strange as who is allowed to be comforted, Agnes is still left out:
Christine, on the other hand, had just folded up. So had Dame Timpani. Far more people had fussed over Christine than around the prima donna, despite the fact that Dame Timpani had come around and fainted again quite pointedly several times and had eventually been forced to go for hysterics. No one had assumed for a minute that Agnes couldn’t cope.
In this, Pratchett taps into a phenomenon that actually extends beyond body size. How many of you have been subject to this assumption? I don’t talk about it often, but most doctors I’ve seen assume I don’t actually feel pain or that I’m already addicted to drugs. The world makes assumptions based on our bodies and what narrative they think should be automatically applied to them. In Agnes’s case, her size means that she doesn’t deserve to be comforted. Now, of course Christine is being ridiculous and dramatic. But no one even bothers to ask Agnes if she’s okay. That kind of stuff matters! It is definitely exacerbated by the fact that Christine gets multiple curtain calls and ovations, and Agnes gets nothing, despite that she did all the work.
Seriously, the parallels with Walter feel so clear to me!
Where the two diverge, though, is in their reactions. Walter quietly goes about his routines and almost seems to cherish being invisible. Agnes, however, desires validation and recognition. Which isn’t a bad thing at all, for the record. I see nothing wrong with that. I do feel weird about her using herbs to guarantee that Christine stays asleep, but I know that I’ll always be biased about this sort of thing. I’ve been drugged before, so any time a character uses something to keep someone else asleep, I’m gonna feel weird.
I also wonder how this plot could possibly end well. Ideally, Agnes is recognized for her talent and allowed to sing the lead as she deserves to. But how can she get around the horrible prejudicial treatment she’s given? What about Christine? What’s gonna happen when she finds out she can’t actually sing? AND WHO THE HELL IS THE GHOST??? How do they have access to roses THAT ONLY BLOOM IN THE DARKNESS???
Diane Duane is still offering a massive discount on the first 9 books in the Young Wizards series just to this community, so please take advantage of this deal while you still can:
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