In the third part of Monstrous Regiment, Polly and the new recruits repeatedly ruin Corporal Strappi’s day, and I’m HERE for it. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
I AM JUST GONNA START WITH THIS: PLEASE LET MOST OF THIS BOOK BE THE RECRUITS CONSTANTLY EMBARRASSING STRAPPI AND MAKING EVERY JOB OF HIS A MILLION TIMES HARDER THAN IT NEEDS TO BE. I just!!! I love it so much! I am well aware that it’s very easy to hate him. He’s designed to be despicable in practically every sense, so I can’t help but love how frequently he’s proved wrong. Contradicted. Interrupted. Humiliated. It is pure entertainment, and I WILL STAND FOR IT FOREVER.
But there’s so much more to this than just the chaotic hilarity that Pratchett has imbued into this ridiculous group. I MEAN, I DON’T WANT TO IGNORE THAT, EITHER. It’s very important to the style of the story! Why? Well, it conveys the sense of desperation that Strappi and Jackrum are operating under. People don’t seem to be rushing to sign up for the military in huge numbers, so what are they left to recruit from? These people, who are either a huge mess themselves or who exist along the margins of society in Borogravia. Strappi, though, doesn’t care one way or another. I suspect he’s a little harsher with this specific batch of recruits than others because he’s so angry, but let’s be real: this really feels like his baseline level of operations. Y’all, the man speaks in nothing but a shout, and he actually started crying during Borogravia’s national anthem. OKAY, SO HE’S ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE.
Which also means that he is ruthless in his leadership style. As Polly does her best to both hide in plain sight and adjust to her brand new life, she’s already the subject of his merciless attention. In the last section, he picked on her for using that specific cup. Here, though, her morning routine includes Strappi zeroing in her for having any sort of knowledge of sword fighting. Y’all, I an endlessly amused that I managed to read two separate books, one right after the other, where the main character headbutts a total bigot. HOW DID THE UNIVERSE SYNC UP SO BEAUTIFULLY??? Of course, I don’t feel bad that Strappi picked on someone, only to be immediately proved wrong. It’s satisfying and this book just started. THIS IS CHAOTIC GOOD, I LOVE IT SO MUCH ALREADY.
While I’m getting a huge kick of just how funny all of this is, I was equally impressed by how honest these characters were about their predicament. When they’re speaking with Strappi, you don’t really get a feel for their true opinions on the military. They all just seem either slightly interested to join or as if it is their only real choice. I don’t know that any of these characters are exuberant to be part of this, you know? Thus, after their first day on the road, I was pleased to see their frustrations with nationalism and the military start to creep through in their words. Y’all, the lesson for “What We Are Fighting For” IS SO GOOD. Right off the bat, Pratchett addresses how historical narratives can be twisted to serve the agendas of nations that want to feel justified in going to war. In this case, the recruit Shufti is quick to point out that Borogravia was actually the one who attacked the city of Lipz. But that’s not exactly important for someone like Strappi, who long ago made up his mind about who is right and who is just.
Then there are his thoughts on Ankh-Morpork. HOW MANY OF US HAVE MET SOMEONE WHO TALKS JUST LIKE THIS ABOUT BIG CITIES, OH MY GOD. Of course he thinks the place is godless and terrible, but let’s just appreciate Tonker’s comeback:
“I was just wondering why it’s so crowded, Corp,” said Tonker. “If it’s so bad, I mean.”
YEAH, STRAPPI, I’M WONDERING, TOO. Is it possible that you don’t know what you’re talking about??? Unsurprisingly, the man would never admit to being wrong about anything, despite that he’s proven wrong about five seconds after he says… well, anything. Even when he calls Vimes “The Butcher,” Polly is quick to point out that Ankh-Morpork is mad because Borogravia cut down their clacks towers.
Logic and reality is not Strappi’s strong point. The soldiers are much more aware of what’s actually going on, though, and their convo in the tent that second night is… seriously, look at this:
“Well, I’m not buying it. It’s all trickery. They keep you down and when they piss off some other country, you have to fight for them! It’s only your country when they want to get you killed!” said Tonker.
I MEAN, HE’S NOT WRONG. So, Tonker is already aware of the fact that he exists as a pawn for other, more powerful men, who won’t have to suffer from the painful and deadly ramifications of war. Even Polly vocalizes her discontent:
“But they always lie,” said someone, and then Polly realized it was her. “They lie all the time. About everything.”
I feel like this speaks to Polly’s motivation, too. She knows that Paul was lied to about glory and duty, and now he’s missing, lost in some terrible war with no end in sight. She really is going to go get him, isn’t she???
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