In the seventeenth and penultimate part of Maskerade, the Ghost is truly unmasked. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
I want some closure for Agnes in the final section, but otherwise? Wow, this resolution is so satisfying. Pratchett dances a fine line here between satire of opera, satire of people who like opera, satire of people who hate opera, and a necessary emotional end to Walter Plinge’s journey. IT’S A LOT TO JUGGLE, I ADMIT. But it works! It works to have Agnes call out Salzella and be the one to unmask him just as it works to have Granny cede the fight over to Walter.
Why does all of this matter? Well, the power of the theater and of opera is what fuels Salzella’s eventual end. It is quite ironic that he hates the thing that destroys him, but his whole villainous monologue is an act of irony. He claims to hate opera with a passion (REMEMBER WHEN I SAID HE LOVED IT, OH MY GOD), yet he follows the operatic climax to a T. That’s the humor, of course, as well as the tragedy of his character. When Walter arrives, freshly full of confidence and decked out in the costume of the Ghost, Salzella just assumes that the narrative will stay the same because he is in control of it.
And I get why he thinks that. He stole the image and the story from Walter, well aware that he could pin his own heinous crimes on that poor kid. That’s his whole thing, too! He can’t even be original in his crimes; he has to piggyback off what someone else came up with. So it’s fitting to me that he can’t be original or unique in the end. He’s trite. Contrived. A copycat. Unoriginal. The funniest part about that is that Salzella reveals that he thinks he’s the ONLY NORMAL PERSON HERE. Oh, Salzella, I hate to burst your bubble, except I love bursting your bubble. You’re not special at all, and that’s what Granny exploits. It’s Walter who is special, whose intensity in his beliefs fuels the dramatic fight between him and Salzella. It’s what allows the “mask” to work, isn’t it? Walter believes the invisible “mask” is real, so much so that he immediately transforms into the Ghost before everyone’s eyes.
I guess it’s satisfying to me because I love seeing people who are cruel to characters like Walter get their comeuppance. Make no mistake: Salzella is incredibly cruel to this kid and not just for trying to get the people in the opera to believe he was a murderer. This whole monologue highlights how poorly he thinks of a kid who never once did anything to affect Salzella’s life. Walter had been obedient and kind to Salzella, and this is what Walter got in return.
So fuck Salzella. I’m happy that Granny got to intimidate him (GRABBING A SWORD WITH HER BARE HAND OH MY GOD), and I’m glad that Walter fought him, and I’m glad that Salzella died by stage fighting. It’s hilarious and poetic. There’s definitely a poetry to all of this, too. Since the conclusion of this matches the absurdity of much of opera and theater, it means that Salzella takes a long time to die, which is great. But the poetry I’m most impressed with is when Granny suggests that Mr. Bucket hire Walter as the music director of the theater. It’s awesome to know that he’ll be the person to bring musical theater to Ankh-Morpork, but it’s also exactly what this kid deserves. Granny explains it so well: no one knows this place and music and storytelling quite like the kid who made up a story for himself because he was ignored. Walter’s life has been full of stories up to this point, hasn’t it?
Gods, I can’t wait until he gets to tell his own. Except for the one about cats. Cats is an awful musical, FIGHT ME.
I’m also glad that Henry Slugg chooses to be Henry Slugg instead of maintaining the impossible and miserable identity of Enrico Basilica. AND HE IS REUNITED WITH HIS BROTHER AND MOTHER IN THE PROCESS. Which… can we also take a moment to address how hilarious it is that the audience doesn’t leave the entire time all of this is happening? IF THAT’S NOT THE BEST JOKE ABOUT OPERA AUDIENCES OR THEATER AUDIENCES IN GENERAL, I DON’T KNOW WHAT IS.
But what of Agnes? I can tell that Granny tried to push her towards being a witch again, given that she reasons that it’s more rewarding to control the story rather than be a part of it:
“You can either be on the stage, just a performer, just going through the lines… or you can be outside it, and know how the script works, where the scenery hangs, and where the trapdoors are. Isn’t that better?”
Agnes, however, disagrees. Granted, this section’s cutoff comes before the end of the book, so I’m hoping that means there is more to her story. I don’t know where Agnes will feel more satisfied; I just know that she’s not happy being Christine’s voice, nor does she want to be a witch. Where does Agnes fit in?
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