Mark Re-Reads ‘Monstrous Regiment’: Part 5

Hello once more, Discworld friends! Well, we’ve reached the last one of these posts. I know the last one was shorter, but the book is fresher on my mind than the early parts, some of which I’d read two months ago. Still, I’m so excited for the final three sections WHAT HORRIBLE PUNS AWAIT ME.

Part 21

  • I actually felt more nervous about Jackrum’s last stand knowing what was about to happen than I did the first time around. It’s still a complicated scene, and based on what little canon information we have in the text on some of these characters, I think they read differently than Jackrum, though that’s largely because we get to spend so much more time with him than anyone else. Froc pretty much confirms it after Wazzer collapses, saying that it’s perhaps “not yet the time.” Another thing I got out of the comments was that I shouldn’t presume to know what these characters are going through. The biggest thing I missed was the notion of how Borogravia specifically targeted women through its policies and its culture, and thus, each of these generals could have escaped that life as well. And there didn’t need to be a complicated backstory for that, either! If you had the means to escape the world of Borogravia, wouldn’t you take it?
  • “I don’t know what passes or what stays, sir.” That is… right there. Indeed.
  • THE DUCHESS POSSESSION SCENE IS STILL ELECTRIFYING, HOLY SHIT. It’s so good! I also believe it’s one reason I was perplexed by the ending. The Duchess spoke! She wanted Borogravia to save itself! Certainly, that would change things, right? But there really is a motif throughout the last third of this novel about how the world changes much slower than we may like it at times. It’s still sad to think that Borogravia hasn’t totally learned when it comes to war, but at least they appear to have done so when it comes to Nuggan. 
  • Did Jackrum know, deep down, that this was it for him? That this was his real last stand? He’s so joyous after the Duchess’s appearance. Granted, the Duchess just PROMOTED him, so it’s understandable. Perhaps he was happy to go out in a blaze of glory.

Part 22

  • Ugh, I just have so many feelings about Angua’s presence in this book. I know we have all talked about the power of representation over and over again, but there truly is a magic in getting to see yourself in someone, fictional or real. I didn’t know brown folks could write books that other people would read until I found out about Sandra Cisneros. That seems absurd, but it’s reality. And sure, it’s gotten better, but not in every context and not in every place. Angua gets to live as herself in the Watch, and that’s why Mal has such a visceral reaction to her presence. She’s never seen someone so openly true to themselves without the fear and terror. And I did pick up on this in my original read, at least in terms of understanding Mal telling the truth about themselves, too. 
  • There’s a brief moment here that I think serves as a commentary on what we here in America have: a military-industrial complex. It’s certainly present in other countries and throughout history, and there’s mention of it in the context of Borogravia. How much of what Borogravia produces goes directly to the military? How many people are starving or living by meager means because their nation requires that everything be sent to the battlefield? It’s unsustainable! And I say that while living in a country where our bloated budget is going overwhelmingly towards a military state. How many other things would the US be able to fund if we stopped being an imperial force? How much infrastructure could we build if we stopped giving money to a system that bullies and destroys around the world?
  • There’s further complication of the Borogravian-Zlobenian conflict, too. Vimes gets involved because he doesn’t want Heinrich to combine countries and make one BIG country that Heinrich will inevitably want to expand. Makes sense. But isn’t Borogravia technically Heinrich’s anyway? Thus, I believe Vimes wanted Polly to make sure that as peace was made, Borogravia was kept separate. 

Part 23

  • I really think this moment is more important that I thought it was the first time around: “I killed five poor devils when we attacked today, and afterwards I found meself wonderin’ why.” As much as Jackrum influenced Polly, I’d like to think this is the same thing in reverse. Polly was the one to confront Jackrum over the murder of Towering, and I wonder if it got under his skin just enough that he finally, finally started doubting his whole outlook.
  • I read this section, and it feels right that Jackrum is a trans man, even with some of the pronoun usage. Again, it’s all through Polly’s eyes, and she lacks terms we have to describe or explain a lot of this. That being said, what’s the take on the whole “Upon my oath, I am not a dishonest man” joke that Jackrum kept making? Wouldn’t that joke rely on Jackrum not being a man? I suppose it could also be that Jackrum is just very comfortable talking about this, that he has no problem being sly, cunning, and humorous about his own past. But part of the point of this book is that the world is slowly, slowly changing. Borogravia is not Ankh-Morpork. Even the more “enlightened” members of this nation still struggled with a LOT of things. So, here’s how Jackrum talks about himself, and that’s his story. It’s his comfort level. It doesn’t need to be neat and easily categorizable. 
  • Anyway, this backstory still makes me so sad. You know, when Jackrum starts talking about how he’s had a good life, it’s… it’s all battles. It’s all death. It’s not until he starts talking about all the women he has helped along the way that I then felt like he was speaking of his good life. That is the good that he did in the world, right alongside all the sins of a soldier that the Duchess referenced. 
  • Jackrum thanking Polly breaks me. It’s just so… pure? There is no pretension, no persona, no grand act… it’s just one man thanking one of the only people who has ever spoken truly to them. IT HURTS. 
  • You know what other sentence still destroys me? “Wazzer had joined the general’s household, and had a room of her own and quietness, and made herself useful, and was never beaten.” Followed up by: “…a world without beatings was heaven.” True, real, and heart-shattering. 
  • THE ICONOGRAPH. DON’T DO THIS TO ME. 
  • I do feel different about this ending. It’s not that Polly is going to make war better by being a part of it. It’s that she really is trying to undo all the harm that used to pass as normalcy. What tools can she now utilize to get things done? To provide other options? To view the upcoming conflict with Prince Heinrich in a way that doesn’t always rely on violence and seeing someone as the “other”? Polly could change so much, and she does right at the end of the book: she gives people a choice, a choice they never had before. 
  • And I’m finishing this up while also still checking in on the comments (and doing Patreon videos), and even this re-read can’t address everything. There’s a pervasive thread/motif/theme about how Borogravia is designed to bring down women, to target them, to make them feel as many of the characters in this book feel. So, thinking about Polly’s choice at the end of the novel AND putting it in light of what many of you said on the final review, it’s clear that there was a huge segment of this that I didn’t get. Not just the metaphorical nature of Monstrous Regiment, but how her choice and the choice she presents others IS the world changing around her. In this re-read, you can see the cyclical nature of the story, yes, but the cycle, as it begins at the end of the book, is not the same. If you compare Polly’s recruitment scene with this one at the end of the book, look how vastly different they are. Polly is open; honest; eager. She encourages others to be honest about themselves. And with that, she introduces them to a world she and the others had to fight for. LITERALLY. My initial interpretation, though, was only on the literal reading of that scene. 

It is weird going back through this because I thought it seemed like I was enjoying this book, but what I was convinced I had communicated… did not really make it to the page. Which I understand now not just because this book is different than I thought it was, but because I approached it from a negative place. As a whole, I actually do believe it’s better a second time around? It’s hard to talk about what you “know” or “get” on a cold read because even if I hadn’t had a bunch of shit going on, I wouldn’t have been able to “get” this book on a first run ANYWAY. It is such a dense book, first of all, and Jackrum is written so well that unless you’re really, really looking or sensitive to certain clues, it’s one hell of a secret. And he’s a primary character, one who affects almost every part of this book, and his interactions have a totally different context once you know the truth. But it goes beyond that, and it’s why I am doing my best—not just with this book!—to approach a text… well, not like this. Is it possible to always get everything “right”? No, but there are other things I can do to be more careful, caring, and respectful about the process.

Anyway, I’m glad I did this, and I hope y’all have enjoyed this, too. I think it would be fun to revisit some key books later on down the line. I would need to be able to devote my time to a closer read, so it would have to be another down period in my schedule. (I am curious which Discworld books are particularly good re-reads. I definitely couldn’t do them all.) 

But I also want to make sure that I’m doing a couple things so I’m not repeating this shit over again. I really am trying to give my all while reading and participating in the comments. It does help. However, on a larger note, I have to forgive myself more when it comes to my mental health. If I am feeling like it is difficult to work, I may have to take some time off, and I will always let y’all know before that happens. And I am definitely going to take time off around the release of Book #2 because NEVER AGAIN. I’m also happy to say I have an honest-to-gods vacation coming up in September. I really need it.

Thank you, friends. For joining me on this journey, for your patience and understanding, and for your support. 

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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