In the eleventh part of Monstrous Regiment, Polly gets to know one of her fellow recruits while Jackrum plots for his own gain. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of abuse, warfare.
I still have no real sense for where Monstrous Regiment is leading me. At this point, it could be about the eventual arrival at the front lines, but I’m not even sure they’re going to make it. What if the Zlobenians get them first? What if de Worde’s intrusion sets them on a different path? The only real story that I need resolved, however, is Polly’s search for Paul. But we have no clues regarding that either!
Instead, Pratchett continues to chip away at… well, fucking everything. Polly’s journey is not necessarily a coming-of-age, nor is it an epiphany about how terrible people can be during wartime. She knew that long before the events of Monstrous Regiment kicked into gear. Indeed, that’s a large part of why she was motivated to leave home, dress up as a boy, and go find Paul. She wants to get him out of this mess. And yet, Pratchett doesn’t ignore the opportunity to address multiple facets of war.
Like, for example, the reasons people leave home and sign up for the military in the first place. There are certainly plenty of folks who do so out of a sense of duty and nationalism, who feel as it is a moral choice to make to support their country. Others might be compelled due to religious reasons, and I bet that’s the case for a lot of Borogravians. How many signed up because The Duchess told them to? Because it was considered a holy act? In the case of Tonker and Lofty, though, the military, despite being horrifically flawed and dangerous, was the better option compared to where they came from. We don’t get much detail about The Girls’ Working School, but what Tonker does tell Polly is enough to get a picture of just how repressive, violent, and toxic that place was. Which is not to suggest that there isn’t a toxicity in the military! I think Pratchett’s done a fine job showing us how bad it can be, and LET JACKRUM BE THE MOST EXTREME EXAMPLE. The Girls’ Working School is just an example of how gender norms can be uphold in vicious and hurtful ways. And if it’s true what Tonker says about Wazzer… Y’ALL. No wonder she sticks so faithfully to her religion! As someone who clung to religion due to an abusive upbringing, HI HELLO, I RELATE TO A STORY, ZERO PEOPLE ARE SURPRISED.
So, let’s talk about Jackrum. As I said on video, the second that someone starts referring to themselves in the third person, you know it’s over. Sadly, this is actually the least awful thing about this conniving, manipulative man. It’s frightening that he’s so open about the fact that he moves people around like pawns, but he also knows that he can get away with it. And for those people who are aware of his persona… well:
Once again Polly had the definite feeling that Jackrum was enjoying this, just as he’d seemed pleased when she’d argued about the uniform. He wasn’t a bully like Strappi—he treated Igorina and Wazzer with something approaching fatherly concern—but with Polly and Maladict and Tonker he pushed all the time, wanting you to push back.
And she tries, y’all. She really does! But Jackrum knows that the majority of soldiers are, as he puts it, trained to the point of unquestioning obedience. It’s one of the things that unnerved me about my father’s military service and why, even at a young age, I refused all his attempts to get me to sign up for the Army. He told me stories of being ordered to do things he completely disagreed with, and when I asked him why he did them, his reply was always the same: because he was told to. He called it “discipline,” and he said it built “character.”
That was not a character I wanted to become.
Thus, I wonder if de Worde is going to have a larger affect on these people than he intended to. His appearance again was a surprise, but I feel like Pratchett is using him to lead these people to the truth. (Eh? Eh? Get it???) Again, de Worde tries to tell the recruits that their perception of the war is a fabrication, but he doesn’t quite get to do it. (That’s partially due to Maladict’s coffee needs, which I understand because I couldn’t drink coffee the entire week I was recording the audiobook for Anger Is A Gift. I TURNED INTO HIM, Y’ALL.) However, my impression at the end of the scene is that these people want to know what de Worde has seen. And if he tells them that Borogravia has basically lost the war, how the hell is Jackrum going to react to that?
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