Mark Re-Reads ‘Monstrous Regiment’: Part 4

Good day again, Discworld friends! This week in particular is quite exciting, as I am preparing to leave for the UK to attend my third International Discworld convention. It was important to me that these re-reads get completed before the convention, so I’m glad that this is actually happening. Anyway: onward into the Keep I go!

Part 16

  • Thing I Noticed #30: Lofty does not say a word at the opening of this section but just RAISES A GODDAMN MATCH and I am just… I know I wasn’t reading this closely, and I’m trying not to be too hard on myself, but IT WAS RIGHT THERE.
  • So, certainly didn’t pick up on this: How do you all take Jackrum’s line in response to Tonker admitting that they’re all women? He says, “You are if I says you are!” A flawed joke? Misguided sense of protection? It stuck out to me now that I know what he knows, and I don’t know how I feel about it. I wonder if part of it is that Jackrum is trying real hard not to care about the reveal. He’s certainly rude about it toward Maladict and Carborundum. I think maybe he is actually self-conscious about a lot of this stuff? It’s easier for him to do the whole tough love thing than talk about his feelings honestly. THIS IS JUST A THEORY. Because even the whole lioness thing reads differently in another way I hadn’t considered until now. What if this is all an attempt to get attention off of himself?
  • I also imagine that Jackrum was hurt by Polly’s decision to leave. He likened himself as this great protector of his lads, and they were all abandoning him. Thus, another theory: that’s why he’s a bit drunk when they go visit the sex workers in the military camp. Perhaps not just for the tooth worms or to trick Mrs. Smothers, but to dull the pain of rejection. 
  • I still think it’s fucked up that they stole all those women’s clothing AND their cashbook. ESPECIALLY that part. And Jackrum feels a little out of control during a lot of this, and I wonder if that is related to the complicated feelings he has towards his battalion. He’s not very likable in this whole section, is he?

Part 17

  • And this section opens with Jackrum’s certain declaration that he has no interest in wearing skirts, and oh my GOD, now I know why he says that. I am curious: exactly where does Jackrum go before he reveals himself later in the book? Does he just go sneaking and manipulating about until he figures out where to be?
  • So, what is the actual folk song? I feel like I completely missed a huge cultural moment during the scene with the explanation for the Cheesemongers.
  • I just… the whole scene where they first enter the Keep is RIDICULOUS. Oh my god, the layers here. First of all, we know from earlier in the book that men disguised as washerwomen were able to get in, so you could read what happens here as the guards trying to be extra, extra careful, and unfortunately, they make a HORRIBLE mistake. IT’S SO FUCKING FUNNY OH MY GOD. 
  • The same goes for all of their initial interactions with Blouse. IT IS ASTOUNDING HOW CLUELESS HE IS. Seriously: #me.
  • Thing I Noticed #31: Wazzer is not wrong. Zlobenia does not invade, and the Duchess saw to it. Nuggan is indeed dead, killed by the lack of belief caused by… well, probably a lot of factors, but here’s my take: the Abominations ruined the people of Borogravia. They got so absurd, regressive, and harmful that the people of that country just couldn’t believe in that god anymore. Nuggan provided nothing for them but spite, anger, confusion, and pain. Why believe in Nuggan if that’s the case?
  • But the Duchess… well, there’s one young woman who believes in her so fiercely that she gave her life. It’s incredible to see that transformation happen slowly over the course of Monstrous Regiment, and then it ramps up once they’re in the Keep. That’s where Wazzer needed to be!

Part 18

  • So, one thing that I’ve taken away from the comments on the final review is this notion that Polly is not necessarily an unreliable narrator, but a flawed one. We see things through her eyes, and she’s routinely wrong about the world around her. At the start of this section, she is convinced that the Duchess is messing “with the heads of people like Wazzer.” And I get why she thinks that! At this point, she still thinks (mostly) that Wazzer is imagining all this. But, as we’ll come to discover, this isn’t a delusion, an overactive imagination, or a mental illness. The Duchess is real and has been speaking to Wazzer the entire time. 
  • I almost can’t believe that one of Blouse’s life goals was to have an article of clothing named after him, but it’s just so beautifully fitting for his character, y’all. 
  • So, there’s a HUGE thing that I missed here that I assumed would get “answered” later, but the answer is right here. I kinda confused the zombies in the Keep that Vimes had sent Reg to deal with as the SAME soldier zombies that the Duchess raises. They’re two separate events, aren’t they? I get why I made this mistake, though, and I don’t think it’s that obvious the first time around, but holy shit, the Duchess really DID need Wazzer to be in the Keep. But oh my god, it’s so creepy because EVEN AFTER THEY HAVE DIED, they’re still committed to being anti-Zlobenian. I guess it’s in their blood?
  • Wait, they don’t have any of that. Their bones? That works better.
  • There are many flawed perspectives in this book, which… again, it feels like some weird cosmic coincidence that this would be the book I so grossly misinterpreted. It’s about how perspective can change the slightest thing into an entirely new story. So, Tonker fits into that super well. She is justifiably uninterested in all things involving the Duchess and Nuggan. Thus, I don’t question her rejection of Wazzer’s possession, despite that the evidence is right there, they all witnessed it, and it’s practically impossible to deny. But Tonker’s perspective—the lens she has to view the world—biases her in this regard. And it’s a bias that protects her! (And Lofty, by extension.) She is wary around Wazzer because nothing good ever came of the Duchess in Tonker’s life. Even knowing what really happened with the Duchess, I can’t bring myself to criticize Tonker’s take on all this. I can acknowledge that she doesn’t have all the information, but she also wants so badly to escape any more abuse and disappointment. So she rejects religion, and she rejects the state. They hold no meaning to her, and I imagine they probably never will.

Part 19

  • I actually got kinda sad reading the moment where Polly and Blouse apologized to one another for letting the other down. It’s a tough moment because there’s such a pervasive sense of defeat that hangs over the scene, as they all know that there’s probably no escape for any of them. 
  • So, there’s another Wrigglesworth comment! This one is a little more substantive but still confusing. What’s the “same thing” that happened to Wrigglesworth? That line about being “very good at choosing curtains” feels like confirmation that he is gay or queer, though, because it’s something associated with those of us who are gay or queer men. We’re supposed to be good decorators or exceed at fashion, which has deeply disappointed me most of my life because I WISH I WAS GOOD AT THESE THINGS. I’m not! And I would love to be stereotypical in that regard! (I am not one of those queer men who believe that “living up to stereotypes” actually harms us. THOSE PEOPLE ARE TERRIBLE.) Anyway, there was lots of conversation about this in the comments, so I just wanted to bring up these two details.
  • One of the most powerful lines in the book: “This war isn’t staying on battlefields.” There’s the literal interpretation, of course, as the affects of war are now bleeding back into all the towns and villages away from the war zone. But you could also read this as a something a bit more metaphorical. You might be able to build a case that these young women have been fighting a war this whole time, one to change the world around them. 
  • I just want to say: BOOOOO, LORD RUST. BOOOOOOOOOOO.
  • Rust’s intervening disaster here feels a lot like imperialism, doesn’t it? I get why Ankh-Morpork sided with Zlobenia, but it’s very fascinating to me how certain Rust is that he can make the orders that he does and expect them to be followed, despite that he is neither Zlobenian nor Borogravian. 
  • Blouse is so utterly fantastic and supportive from pretty much this point on, and it’s a delight again to read him saying, “I would not exchange them for any six men you could offer me.” MY HEART IS BURSTING WITH AFFECTION.
  • Bless Vimes for giving Polly the sign she needed to just royally fuck everything up. Well, Polly and the others. 
  • Lofty blew up the door, y’all, and I STILL DIDN’T REALIZE IT WAS HER SETTING FIRES. What the FUCK. It took Tonker saying that every place she worked at burned down for me to understand. LORD.
  • So, this went over my head, and I actually still don’t get it. What is meant by “middle gears”? (In reference to Tonker’s bit about the Gray House.)

Part 20

  • This re-read is illuminating because I can see moments that influenced me to interpret things that would come later a certain way. My review of the final part of Monstrous Regiment was affected in part by the dejected reaction that the lads give once they hear that they’re all “back in the war.” This book does a fine job explaining why war is terrible, but there’s an emotional component to it that Pratchett adds. It’s related to the war not being on the battlefields anymore. These young women have not been in the war itself for very long, and they’re exhausted. How do the other soldiers feel? The same or worse, I imagine. Yet Moldvitz speaks of war with a twinkle in his eye and a joy in his voice, and it’s kind of disturbing, isn’t it? These soldiers only know this life, and yes, they’ve made significant strides to take back the Keep, but do any of them want this conflict to just be over?
  • Jesus, I missed a pun, didn’t I? Igorina says, “But no, they’re afraid I might touch their privates.” THAT’S A FUCKING PUN, OH MY GOD.
  • I can’t remember, but who told de Worde that the Ins-and-Outs got captured? Vimes, right? 
  • Thing I Noticed #32: “That’s the trouble about the good guys and the bad guys! They’re all guys!” A SCREAM NEARLY ERUPTED FROM ME ON THIS FLIGHT. Oh god. 
  • Whew, that moment when the general tries to discount Clogston by suggesting that perhaps lunch was not had… WHEW IT MAKES ME HEATED. 
  • Strappi insists that the major asked him to investigate Jackrum. Only one major is ever named: Chloe. So why did she send Strappi after Jackrum? (If my guess is correct.)
  • Oh lord, Kzupi was the first major clue of what was going on: “To be frank, the problem here is not that you are women. As such, that is. But you persist in maintaining that you are. You see? We can’t have that.” WHICH IS LITERALLY DESCRIBING MOST OF THEM. I just!!!! IT WAS RIGHT THERE!!!
  • “I know, now, that I’m not a hero. I’m just someone who wanted to be one.” HELP ME, THIS IS TOO EMOTIONAL.


About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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