In the twelfth part of Monstrous Regiment, Polly convinces Blouse to lie to de Worde to get what they need, and it goes just as chaotically as expected. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
I know there’s been no interruption for all of you, but it’s been WEEKS since I read the last part of Monstrous Regiment, so this was a real treat to return to. EVERYTHING IS SO WEIRD WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS BOOK ABOUT. Well, I do know what it’s about: the absurdity of war and obedience, the dedication of Polly in finding her brother, the tragedy of violence. But unlike a lot of the recent Discworld books, Monstrous Regiment has an angular, chaotic shape. It’s structure is not traditional, as it tends to jump from one sequence to another with a building sense of dread because we are so uncertain what the whole thing is supposed to be. Indeed, one of the main aspects of this section is to finally reveal the “truth” to these characters and sort of to the reader. Like… we all anticipated that Borogravia was losing the war, right? It’s not a surprise at all. Hell, it’s not a surprise to Polly either! But it’s been unsaid; danced around; ignored.
It’s the presence of de Worde that pushes Polly to then push Jackrum to finally say it: they’re losing. Yet from there, the truth now in the open, these characters DOUBLE DOWN on lying by painting an absolutely ridiculous portrait for De Worde. Who, for the record, is CLEARLY AWARE THAT HE’S PROBABLY BEING LIED TO. So there’s an irony Pratchett leans on throughout this: Polly wanted to see if de Worde’s own lies would reveal the truth, yet the “truth” is far more obvious from Jackrum’s lies. Is Blouse truly one of the best lieutenants ever? Oh, no, and de Worde calls him out in his own way almost immediately. IT’S SO OBVIOUSLY NOT TRUE. So what does Jackrum do?
Immediately lies again. I can tell a great deal of what he does here is due to resentment. Jackrum despises Blouse and wishes he was in charge, and thus, it’s got to be a lot of fun for him to portray Blouse as he does here. Jackrum himself tries to go for the dutiful soldier angle in terms of how he portrays himself, which isn’t precisely a lie. He is dutiful? I guess? Blouse, however, is not the powerhouse lieutenant that Jackrum makes him out to be, but you know what? NEITHER IS JACKRUM. He’s survived as long as he has because he’s shrewd and violent, but that doesn’t mean that he’s won this war or that it’s even possible at this point. Yet Jackrum has deluded himself into believing this, hasn’t he? It doesn’t matter what truth he is told by others who do know what they’re talking about. Jackrum would much rather believe a lie because it suits him. He’d rather believe that Borogravia was invaded rather than the other way around. It’s a much more comfortable reality, isn’t it?
Which isn’t to suggest that the reality that de Worde sells is necessarily any better either! This is a case of two dueling truths, and de Worde’s paper—especially that cartoon—presents a reality that sells best. Is it true? Well, there are truths built into it, but it’s not an accurate depiction of what Polly did. There’s metaphor and satire wrapped up in de Worde’s cartoon, but it doesn’t feel right to Polly because she’s just a pawn, a piece of a new story, that appears for Ankh-Morpork’s consumption. That’s weird! It’s strange to have context stripped away or altered for the sake of something else.
It’s all part of the complex commentary that Pratchett has crafted here. The people of Borogravia can’t fathom anyone viewing their country as the Zlobenians or the Ankh-Morporkians do, and not just with respect to the political cartoon. There’s that amazing sequence where Blouse wonders aloud if the clacks system should be updated, and it’s a perfect demonstration of how someone not within a certain mind-frame can often have the best idea on how to improve said mind-frame or system. But THAT’S THE POINT. Blouse and ESPECIALLY Jackrum are so caught up in this war that it is unfathomable to them that there’s another solution to their problem. As de Worde says:
“Would you agree that sometimes a country’s system is so out of date that it’s only the outsiders that can see the need for wholesale change?”
They don’t. Not yet at least.
And then, on top of it all: there’s now the very-real threat of Maladict reverting to his true self. WHICH IS GREAT. SOMETHING WE DEFINITELY NEEDED.
What the hell is this book?
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