Mark Reads ‘Monstrous Regiment’: Part 4

In the fourth part of Monstrous Regiment, the future looks pretty damn grim. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld. 

Trigger Warning: For extensive talk of war and its effects

This is real messed up, y’all. And not in a quiet, subtle way, though Pratchett uses subtleties to communicate the horrors of war. It’s not subtext either. It’s the main text. As the soldiers get closer to the camp where they’ll receive their weapons and their uniforms, the injured, the dying, and the disenfranchised march the opposite direction. It’s such a brutal scene because it is impossible to ignore. I mean that in reference to both the characters—all of whom immediately question their superiors about what they’re seeing—and the reader. We can’t ignore it because it’s right there. 

It’s all the more disturbing because Pratchett pairs this with an intense, absurd devotion to country and religion. The most effective propaganda allows people to lie to other people, despite the truth being right in front of them. In that sense, there’s a lot of propaganda that doesn’t work on these people. Maladict, for example, is quick to point out the dire nature of the stream of refugees who are fleeing in the opposite direction, and he is even quicker to snap out a comeback when Corporal Strappi tries to silence him. He’s not the only one to voice his concerns and anxieties either! It’s a persistent theme throughout this part of the story. Who can blame these people??? Every new piece of information that they receive screams at them that they’re on the losing side of a war, that they’re not about to find glory and joy wherever they’re headed.

Take the snippet of the Ankh-Morpork Times that Polly manages to save. It could be good news, but there are so many sentence fragments that suggest otherwise. Like “surrender had been rej,” which I suspect is “rejected.” What about “desperate situ” or “-spread fami”? Famine??? Is that FAMINE? No alternatives? Invasion???

That’s why this conversation is just so, so damning: 

“We are winning this war, aren’t we?” said Polly. She’d given up correcting him.

Suddenly, every ear in the squad was listening.

“Don’t you bother yourself about that, Parts!” snapped the corporal. “Your job is to fight!”

“Right, Corp. So… I’ll be fighting on the winning side, will I?”

And Strappi never actually gives an answer. He evades. He deflects. He does anything but tell them the truth, and y’all… it’s because he knows it. He knows they’re probably losing. But the type of military reverence that Strappi is obsessed with doesn’t allow for anything other than a complete worship of what they do. It’s victory at all costs, even if there’s not actually any victory at all. 

So when they arrive at Plotz and meet Lieutenant Blouse, it only gets worse. Look, it’s not like I assumed it would get better, but this just confirmed that everyone’s fears were very justified… and it goes even further than that. First of all: WHAT SECRET WERE STRAPPI AND JACKRUM HIDING? Why is Jackrum so upset about his honorable discharge? He doesn’t have to fight anymore! Isn’t that a good thing? Why does he say he is “fit and well again”? Strappi himself is so terrified of having to go to the front lines that he wets himself. AND HE WAS TRAINED! What of all the recruits, who get no training and have to go along with him? How are they supposed to deal with this? 

This is bad, friends. REALLY BAD. And you know, I don’t actually feel better knowing that Polly will work as the lieutenant’s batman. She’s still going to be close to the action, and Blouse didn’t inspire any confidence in me.

The only thing that didn’t make me feel like the WORLD was ending was Lofty. Y’all, ANOTHER GIRL IS IN DISGUISE!!! Holy shit, I genuinely was surprised by that, and I also agree that it’s probably not the same person who helped Polly in the privy. MORE MYSTERIES, Y’ALL.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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