In the eighteenth part of Monstrous Regiment, this further spirals out of control. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
YEAH, I FORGOT ABOUT THE ZOMBIES IN THE DUNGEON. Oh my god, that was called out like… 200 pages ago??? One scene now has INCREDIBLE RELEVANCE to the present time, and I am messed up. Oh, I love it so very much, though! Let’s talk.
One thing I admired about this section was how Pratchett used gossip and casual talk as a means of gleaning information. Particularly, Polly and Igorina become chatty because they know that snippets of the truth will seep out of their conversations with the other women who work below the Keep. “Truth” is a relative concept here because there’s so much misinformation, prejudice, and bias at work. Yet within it all, the Ins-and-Outs are able to figure out a lot of shit that was a mystery before. (Though I love that the rumor that Vimes eats raw meat persisted through all of this. Bravo, Pratchett.) Time and time again, this novel has shown us that non-violent means are often the best way to achieve goals within this war, which is so damn fascinating to me. Y’all, this is a book about a war that’s been going on FOREVER, and yet it has very few battle scenes within it??? AND IT’S NOT BORING AT ALL???
I also just want to quickly say that I admire that Polly gets revenge in all these quiet, petty ways, like having Igorina put red items of clothing in with the whites and adding lots of starch to the soldiers’ clothing. SHE’S THE BEST.
I don’t know how this didn’t occur to me until RIGHT THIS SECOND, but this character’s name is intentional, isn’t it? The fact that he’s named after an article of clothing most folks would associate with women has to be on purpose, right? Blouse continues to fascinate me because, like most of the characters in this book, he challenges what is expected of him and his gender. I don’t know that he does this consciously, of course; Blouse is just interested in certain things and enjoys them un-ironically. Plus, he has moments like this:
“Had to do my own laundry back at HQ,” said Blouse. “Couldn’t afford a gel and the batman was a strict Nugganite and said it was girl’s work. So I thought, well, it can’t be hard, otherwise we wouldn’t leave it to women.”
SIGH. So yeah, I don’t read Blouse’s non-traditional interests as some big middle finger to gender binaries and expectations; he still accepts this division of labor, importance and respect. So, even if he might exist outside the stereotypical idea of a soldier, does that make him revolutionary? Rather, I am beginning to see Blouse’s behavior as an explanation of why Jackrum dislikes Blouse so much. He doesn’t do soldiering “right,” so to speak, since Blouse enjoys being in disguise and fully commits to his character, despite that ALL THE WOMEN IN THE KEEP KNOW THAT HE IS JUST PRETENDING. And he’s so good at these traditionally “feminine” chores and jobs that the other women don’t even bother to stop Blouse from joyously completing his tasks. If Jackrum was around, I feel like he’d rat out Blouse just out of principle, you know?
With Polly leading the way—yet another example of her manipulating the rupert—the Ins-and-Outs head deep into the Keep, but in a roundabout, unplanned way. I think Polly’s growth as a leader is just as fascinating as any of the other developments in the cast of characters. It’s made me rethink her relationship to Jackrum, who I saw purely as antagonistic because I don’t really like them. But I think an argument could be made to paint Jackrum as, in a bizarre way, a mentor to Polly. He has helped teach her how to manipulate men to get what she wants. And who better to do that than a man who routinely portrays himself as a fool to his superiors so that he can get what he wants? It’s complicated, I admit, and I wouldn’t say that this gives me an affinity for Jackrum, but it’s still there in the text, you know? Seriously, it’s literally there:
“Yessir!” said Polly, well on the way to graduating from the Sergeant Jackrum School of Outright Rupert Management.
Anyway, the girls all come off as far more competent than Blouse throughout this, particularly sense Polly always knows just how to keep him thinking that he’s in charge and that she and the others are merely “anticipating” his guidance. Of which there is none, for the record. Half the time, he doesn’t even realize what they’re all up to. Yet this quickly turns into a disaster as Pratchett throws multiple wrenches into their plan. First, the guards monitoring the lift have to be taken out. (Which Igorina is apparently quite good at!) Then, the lift breaks and they have to climb out of it and into some abandoned tunnels in the cellars of the Keep, which is where the next problem presents itself. And it was one that was absolutely hinted at, yet I forgot it. There are zombies in the cellars! REMEMBER, REG WAS SENT DOWN THERE TO DEAL WITH IT. Oh my god, I love that this was revealed to me AGES ago, but I just forgot it!
Unfortunately, escaping the zombies puts the group right into the hands of some of the enemy soldiers. Obviously, it’s more complicated in the text itself, but the result is the same: their attempt to sneak about the Keep was immediately ruined because they couldn’t stop arguing.
I DON’T GET IT. I feel less close to the answer now that the Duchess has… what??? Possessed Wazzer? Used her as a medium? Intervened in a way that makes it seemlike possession is happening? I don’t know, but it is completely disturbing. I don’t have a reason anymore to doubt Wazzer, and clearly something is occurring here. The Duchess is real and guiding them to safety… but why? WHYI?! Who is she? WELP ME.
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