Mark Reads ‘Carpe Jugulum’: Part 16

In the sixteenth part of Carpe Jugulum, Agnes meets the citizens of Escrow and Granny tells Oats why she has no religion. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.

THIS IS SO IMMENSE. Let’s discuss.

Verence

I cannot wait for this disaster to become real. That’s all.

The Magpyr Castle

I AM SO DEEPLY IN LOVE WITH THE PREVIOUS MASTER’S ORGAN. Through this, Pratchett establishes the two extremes: the trope-obsessed old school vampire and the  trope-averse Magpyrs. His organ made spooky sounds!!! THIS IS A BEAUTIFUL DETAIL.

Escrow

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what I expected of this place, but it’s safe to say that I figured that we’d see a more complete version of what we’d seen the Magpyrs do in Lancre. Lancre was like a phase or two out of a few. Escrow, however, was the complete package. Thus, I assumed that the whole town was completely dominated mentally by the vampires, they they willingly offered themselves up as food once or twice a month, and that the “peace” Vlad spoke of was a just a horrifying way to refer to subservience.

I don’t know if we’ll ever learn the minute details of life in Escrow, though I’m not sure they matter. Pratchett certainly gives us enough to understand the ritual of fear and terror that the people in this town live under. They line up, like “pigs queuing for Hogswatch,” ready to offer their bodies, though not out of a mutual respect for the vampires. Vlad insisted that this was the case, though, that this arrangement was to the benefit of everyone:

“Do you see how prosperous the place is? People are safe in Escrow. They’ve seen reason. No shutters on the windows, do you see? They don’t have to bar their windows or hide in the cellar, which I have to admit is what people do in the… less well regulated areas of our country. They exchanged fear for security.”

Except they didn’t, did they? There’s that damning line where Vlad says that their arrangement could have been worse, and we all know that’s a shitty excuse for ANYTHING. Just because there’s a worse reality that could have been doesn’t excuse the reality that is now. They had a LOTTERY. FOR CHILDREN WHO TURNED TWELVE. A little drop of blood to represent citizenship. THIS IS A FASCIST NIGHTMARE, Y’ALL. And if these details weren’t enough, the mayor’s physical behavior was evidence enough that this was not a beneficial relationship:

As the mayor turned back, he met Agnes’s stare. She looked away, not wanting to see that expression. People were good at imagining hells, and some they occupied while they were alive.

So at this point, I expected the worst. I expected to watch the worst. I was not ready for the town of Escrow to turn on the vampires because of… well, I don’t actually know what affected the vampires so viscerally. Something drains them of energycauses them to VICIOUSLY bicker with one another; makes it hard for them to attack anyone; prevents them from biting nearly anyone. There are a few exceptions: the Mayor and another citizen are killed, and Agnes is bit… I think? She’s got the marks, but claims he missed, but her internal monologue suggests that there is a darkness and a hunger growing within her. So… perhaps she’s fighting it like Granny is? Or maybe she wasn’t bit? I NEED TO KNOW, OH MY GOD.

Faith

I made a comment in the video for this part of Carpe Jugulum that this book is like a quiet sequel to Small Gods. Through Mightily Oats’s story, we’re seeing what Omnianism has become in the modern Discworld. Brutha’s acts set forth schisms that are impossible to count, and those contradictory ideas all seem to rest within Oats’s head. Based on his conversation with Granny, I’d argue that he no longer has a religion, at least not in the sense that he thinks he does.

Pratchett makes a distinction between faith and religion here through Granny, but in doing so, explains why Granny would never pursue a religion for herself. That distinction comes from certainty. If Granny believed a god was real, there’d be no room for faith, at least as humans practice it most of the time. She speaks of “true faith” here instead, of a belief that is so certain and exact that there is no longer room for error. Interpretation. Doubt. That is what frightens Granny about religion: it can lead a person to discard one of the most wonderful things about being human. What is life without questioning the things around you? Learning how to be good to others? Pursuing knowledge and experience? It’s a generalized critique, sure, but it’s something that resonated with me. Most of the people I had problems with in my teenage years were those of the certain sort. They had the entire world figured out; they truly believed they knew everything that was to be known, all because their god or their Bible or their religion told them that this was the case.

You can imagine my frustration with this, given that I often did not fit anywhere into the perfectly-ordered worlds that these people had constructed. And instead of wanting to learn more about me or people like me, I was cast out. Denigrated. Demonized.

I can’t imagine living in this world and feeling like I knew enough. I never want to stop learning about people. Places. Things. And perhaps that’s a simplification of everything, but it’s one reason why I don’t think I’ll ever be religious either.

Mark Links Stuff

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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