In the twentieth part of Monstrous Regiment, the squad’s disguises catch up to them, and the Borogravian army stages a last-minute “trial” in order to punish them. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
THIS WAS NOT WHAT I WAS PREPARED FOR, Y’ALL. And it speaks to the insidious and vicious nature of what the Borogravian army does here. As Tonker so brilliantly puts it:
“This is stupid!” said Tonker. “They’re in the middle of a war and they’re going to take the time to hold a trial for a few women who haven’t even done anything wrong?”
Yep, that is exactly what they’re going to do. My initial worry, though, was that Major Clogston wasn’t there to provide fair representation for the group. Until it was revealed that he gets a little strange if he doesn’t eat, I thought he was sent to the squad as a joke, as if he was the army’s sign that they didn’t actually care about what these women had done for them. But once Clogston got the whole story, my perception of him and where this book was going changed drastically. I mean, it was easy to be cynical about this; the army wanted to save face. The propaganda that this country’s religion and its men have spread for ages is that women are incapable of performing certain jobs, that all skills and talents are split along a rigid gender binary, and thus it is impossible that women actually joined the military, successfully captured the leader of the other army, infiltrated the Keep, and then set most of the Borogravian top brass free.
Yeah, that definitely didn’t happen.
For the most part, Clogston is on the side of these women, and he rather cleverly questions the generals about what these women are apparently accused of, which is… not really anything? Well, it’s not until there’s a surprise appearance from CAPTAIN STRAPPI that this truly becomes chaotic, but right from the start, it’s clear that this “trial” is bogus. No one actually cares about rules potentially being broken. It’s about morality only in as much as its about maintaining the appearance of it. Clogston makes a fantastic point:
“I should say at this point, sir, that I intend to show that Abominations are routinely committed by all of us. We have got into the habit of ignoring them, in fact, which opens up an interesting debate.”
And that “interesting debate” is important and familiar! I grew up in the kind of religious household where our morals were selectively enforced. My parents, particularly my mother, were allowed to do certain things that were considered “abominations” by God. Swearing, violence, lying, manipulation… it was absolutely one of those Do As I Say, Not As I Do situations. We certainly see that as a greater social force, too, and not just when it comes to religion. Who do we excuse? Ignore? Forgive? Forget? Who is allowed redemption narratives? Who do we view as just being human, thereby they’ve earned a few slip-ups here and there?
In the context of Monstrous Regiment, it is certainly not these women. Strappi really hates them and wants to make sure that they’re punished for being Abominations Unto Nuggan, but every time Strappi pushes the trial in a new direction, Clogston or the women push it elsewhere. First, they try to turn the suspicion onto Strappi, who makes the mistake of hinting that he had some sort of sedition that he was investigating. Which we all know as Jackrum’s strange history that he seems to have inherited from someone else, but the military is always unwilling to actually do anything about Jackrum? Apparently he’s just that good?
No matter. Clogston was an absolute delight here, jumping from one contradiction to another. He nearly catches Strappi in an admission that he let the cavalrymen attack a group of girls; then the generals all admit that Wrigglesworth is perfectly fine, which hints at the contradiction in allowing Wrigglesworth to do “Abominable” things, but not others; and then, realizing they’re stuck, the generals instead suggest that Blouse take credit and simply say that women helped him, not soldiers.
I gotta respect Blouse on this, too, because not only does he hate this idea—he literally does not want to live a lie—but he doesn’t try to argue with his soldiers about what they want. I did appreciate that all the women didn’t initially agree with each other about what they wanted to do, and the situation is so precarious that I understand why that was the case. Where did they have to go back to? Or whom? And what future would they have if they were just sent home and expected to live a “normal” life again? It’s not realistic or fair, especially for Tonker or Lofty. Hell, or for Shufti!
And just when they all reject the terms offered to them, the mystery of Wazzer and the Duchess gets even weirder. I still don’t know who is speaking through Wazzer or if that’s even what’s happening. But someone encouraged Polly and Igorina to resist and then told them to duck.
WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON???
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