Mark Reads ‘The Truth’: Part 7

In the seventh part of The Truth, William has his first experience with investigative reporting. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld

Well, now I know, y’all. And this is going to turn into a mess, isn’t it? I didn’t even say anything about Mr. Otto’s obscurograph, and CLEARLY, that’s way important than just a throwaway gag. I don’t get why, of course, nor do I understand what William saw in that photo. Or why Corporal Littlebottom freaked out as much as she did. There’s something there, right???

Anyway, I’m jumping way ahead of myself here. Even more so than the previous section, William is on the edge of a precipice. Pratchett does a fine job of giving us some cultural background on William to help us understand his behavior at the “murder” scene, which means that William could choose to be unethical in his reporting. I don’t think that’s ultimately going to be the case, but I want to build to that moment. The man is good at exploiting social awkwardness to get what he wants, and he finds a way to push Detritus just far enough to get him to admit both himself and Mr. Otto into the Patrician’s palace. From there… well, it’s complicated.

Why? Well, as I mentioned, Pratchett sheds some light on the aristocratic life that William was raised in. While I can appreciate anyone who has a healthy distrust of law enforcement or government officials, the de Wordes had a classist view of the Watch. They were beneath them, a force that belonged to the criminals of the city. As the text puts it:

William’s family and everyone they knew also had a mental map of the city that was divided into parts where you found upstanding citizens, and other parts where you found criminals.

Well, that sounds frighteningly realistic. Look, y’all, I currently live in the latter part of Los Angeles. We have a joke here that if you live south of the 10 freeway, you better make friends south of the ten because you sure aren’t making any north of it. When I lived in Oakland, I knew people (I hesitate to ever call them “friends” in any sense) who literally refused to come to my city. Why? Because they utterly believed this same notion! There are some places you just aren’t supposed to go, you know?

Bullshit. William knows that’s the case. I mean, look where he lives! What he does! He’s opposing his family every chance he gets. Still, I believe you can see this bias slip into his treatment of the Watch throughout this section, at least in the sense that he always comes off as just slightly contemptuous of them. He gets the information he wants, though, by presenting Vimes with an interesting way of looking at the situation. (I should also note that I didn’t comment this in the video, but it felt so odd to “experience” Vimes through someone else’s POV. I’m so used to seeing things through his eyes!)

The problem, of course, is that the “truth” of the case appears to have no truth to it. Apparently, Vetinari tried to kill his secretary, Drumknott, apologized for it on his way out, then tried to escape on a horse with seventy thousand dollars. Vimes makes an excellent point about all this: the “facts” are terrible! This literally sounds like it’s describing a completely different person! Yet that’s what he told William because… well, what else did he have? Obviously, this is a case where the audience knows more than the characters in the story, so I’ve got it pieced together for the most part. (WHY DRUMKNOTT, THAT IS SO CRUEL) But I began to worry: would William print those facts verbatim without questioning them? Was it more important to report the “news” rather than figure out what the news was? I feel like this was a fair concern to have because William was kinda slimy as he made his way through the palace, desperate to get as much information as possible. Was he being an opportunist, or was he seeking out the actual truth?

It seemed like he was just taking advantage of situations and people when he talked to Nobby and during that scene where he pissed off Littlebottom. However, the end of this section gave me hope. William, as he tries to dictate to Goodmountain, openly questions what he’s learned. He knows he’s on to something, and he also knows that his instinct is telling him that these facts don’t add up at all. And once that seed of doubt is sowed, is there any turning back? Can he ignore these hunches, or will he turn them into something else?

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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