In the nineteenth part of The Truth, William confronts the architect of the conspiracy. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of abuse and gaslighting
Holy shit, William did it.
I do want to expand on that, but I wanted to talk about one thing that felt arresting to read at the start of this section:
The worst part, the worst part, was that Lord de Worde was never wrong. It was not a position he understood in relation to his personal geography. People who took an opposing view were insane, or dangerous, or possibly even not really people. You couldn’t have an argument with Lord de Worde. Not a proper argument. An argument, from arguer, meant to debate and discuss and persuade by reason. What you could have with William’s father was a flaming row.
Pratchett takes this in a different direction, namely in demonstrating Lord de Worde’s privilege and arrogance, but for a hot second, this read very specifically to me. I grew up with a parent just like this, someone who shifted the goalposts any time you called them on anything. I know there’s long been a joke about parents believing that they’re always right, but I don’t speak of my mother in that same context. She truly believed this, even when there were things she was demonstrably and unequivocally wrong about. Sometimes, she would be wrong about something immutable, such as the location of a store or a street you were supposed to turn on for directions. I recall once telling her on a drive to the doctor’s that she had missed a turn, and at the end of the argument, I was forced to apologize to her for making her go the wrong way. She absolutely went the wrong way herself, and yet, she found a way to twist things to make it my fault.
That’s fairly innocuous in the long run, but I could provide much more horrifying examples. This pattern continued for years, and it only got much more extreme when I was a teenager and finally began to gain the courage to stand up for myself. I can’t even count how many circular, unending arguments my brother and I had with our mother, where every time we got close to proving that something she said was wrong or bigoted or mean, she would suddenly twist the terms of the argument, and we were back at square one. So I learned to stop arguing. I had to! There’s only so much energy or emotional labor that you can expend in these sort of situations, and there are times when it becomes impossible to win battles or fights or wars.
So you just exclude yourself from the process.
Truth is, I haven’t had a conversation with my mother in nearly a year and a half. The last time I spoke to her was in January of last year, when I was trying to make an attempt to re-assert myself in her life, to be a part of a family that never really felt complete to me. I made an effort, and then the argument hit. Funny part is that it wasn’t about me at all, nor did I technically have any real emotional stake in it. In fact, that’s why I tried to engage my mother, to talk her through something that clearly upset her, but was rooted in some really nasty, bigoted shit. This discussion of ours – it honestly started off as one – lasted over three hours. It was so long that my brother and my boyfriend both literally fell asleep during it, their bellies full after a long lunch, their minds fatigued from the constant back-and-forth, the changing goals of the topic.
It was also the closest that I ever got my mother to admitting that she was wrong. She only confessed to overreacting, but it was such a huge moment for me, one that I felt was a sign that maybe, just maybe, I might be able to rehash a relationship with her. I might be able to build something other than decades of resentment and terror, and the idea was infectious to me. Maybe there was potential.
I found out on the way home that day that my mother lied about a fundamental part of the argument we had. Maybe “lied” is the wrong word. Perhaps she utterly believed in the fabrication she created, or perhaps she really was convinced that it was impossible for her to be wrong. But the very event that she described to me was not what had occurred, and I had proof of it. I felt like a waste. I felt like I had just given so much of myself to someone who couldn’t even respect me enough to just tell me the truth.
So I stopped talking to her.
I relate a lot to the sprawling, vicious argument that William and Lord de Word have, and it’s why I wanted to share this little story with you. In as succinct a manner as possible: it sucks to so vehemently disagree with your parent. It is often even harder to cut them out of your life. As William made his way to his old home, I wondered if he was going to be able to conquer the fear and dread that he had about the confrontation. I was pleased, then, that Pratchett gave William something that felt revelatory: anger. Within just a few exchanged lines, William’s certainty grows and grows, and with it comes a rage that is all-encompassing and brilliant.
I read it as rejection. Here, William rejects every terrible adage and every terrible belief and every terrible bit of condescension that his father has given him. And it seems shocking to Lorde de Worde in some way, as if he never truly stood up for himself in all the years that they lived together. It was interesting to me that Lorde de Worde tried to claim that William was naïve, something that’s often wielded by those in power when they’re met with accusations of wrongdoing. I’d ask y’all to raise your hands if you’ve heard this before, but I suspect I know that most of you would. I didn’t see William as naïve for rejecting his father’s beliefs and his father’s system; if anything, he’s the exact opposite for recognizing this and willingly choosing to do something else.
There’s just… lord, there’s so much here I loved. William repaying his education. That whole line that William delivered about worrying “where it bounces.” OTTO’S APPEARANCE AND HIS FIGHT WITH EVERYONE AND GETTING IMPALED BUT IT ACTUALLY ADDING TO THE INTIMIDATION. Otto kissing Lord de Worde on the forehead!!! Oh god, the sheer drama of William calling his father a traitor and that being the final straw before he actually leaves. IT’S SO SATISFYING.
I know I had said this before, but it bears repeating: it’s also still a lot of fun to see Vimes through the eyes of William. It’s a bold move from Pratchett, and it’s also super fucking funny. You know, Lord de Worde was right about one thing: William is absolutely a de Worde, and his playful treatment of Vimes is proof of that. He expertly avoids having the rules applied to him, though the context isn’t the same as how his father behaved. Instead, William dodges arrest by invoking Mr. Slant as his lawyer. Not only does Mr. Slant get him out of a charge, but then William manipulates him into giving him his services pro bono by threatening him with the information he has which implicates Mr. Slant in the Vetinari affair.
If I’m reading this correctly, William may have gotten Mr. Scrope to step aside by using Mr. Slant, and if so… gods, it’s so dastardly clever. BRAVO. However, who else wasn’t surprised that the people in Mrs. Arcanum’s house weren’t exactly impressed with The Times’s story on Vetinari? I suspected that might happen. I did not expect William’s outburst on Mr. Windling, though. IT WAS VERY INTENSE.
So… what’s left to happen??? I have no idea!!!
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