Mark Reads ‘Going Postal’: Chapter 3, Part I

In the first half of the third chapter of Going Postal, Moist tries to settle into his new life, and Groat makes a plea. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld. 

So who is Moist von Lipwig? 

This chapter is certainly focused on that very question, and the truth is that I don’t know the answer. Obviously, that’s mostly because I just met this character. But I don’t even think Moist knows quite who he is either. Pratchett has given us a character who has, for his entire life, been a fraud. It means that he has always surrounded himself with the identity of someone else. Moist even runs through a few of those identities here, but none of them really shed light on who he is without them. What does he enjoy? What sort of personality or disposition does he have? And now that he’s been forced into this new position, one which does not require him to grift or pretend or defraud, who exactly is he going to be?

That doesn’t mean that Moist sheds everything about his old lives away, and there’s still a huge element here that is familiar to him. As he notes:

Ultimately, everything was all about people. If he was going to be staying here for a while, he’d make himself comfortable.

So there’s that part of him that’s still working, and he sets out to at least make the people around him like him. It’s manipulative, sure, but at least the end result isn’t him stealing from them. No, Moist recognizes that to Stanley and Groat, he is an outsider, and the longer that perception continues, the harder it will be to get anything done. Thus, Pratchett has Moist seek out a way to connect with Groat: PINS. Which… look, I’ll repeat what I said on camera. THIS IS SO WEIRD and yet COMPLETELY RECOGNIZABLE. I get all of this behavior! I used to collect sports card (very casually, as I never had enough money to be a serious collector). I have a friend who collects LEGOs, and lord, I was alive during the Reign of POGS, so trust me: what Pratchett puts into this book is so real, it hurts. But pins? That’s it? I can’t fathom how they are this interesting, but that’s part of the absurd humor in Groat’s character. His hobby/obsession is so mundane, and yet it’s given a terrible intensity. Seriously, this bit was my favorite:

“A serious student,” said Moist. “Most of the stuff here, well…”

“I don’t touch nails,” said Dave sharply. “Won’t have ‘em in the shop! I’ve got a reputation to think about! Little kids come in here, you know!”

WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS BOOK! Oh my god. So… is there a power in letters unsent? I don’t mean that in reference to the possible theory that the whispers are letters, which still might be true. I’m curious if the unsent love letter from Agnathea means that Antimony Parker’s life went down a different path I suppose if a letter was that significant, it could have derailed someone’s life. And just speaking of sheer odds, there have got to be some pretty intense letters in those piles of undelivered mail. So where does that potential go? Has Moist knocked over the first domino by actually delivering a letter? I’m fascinated by that! What else is Moist unknowingly walking into or causing? He has no real idea of what actually happened with the previous Postmasters, but I’m hoping that Adora tells him the truth.

More on that in a second, because I want to talk about those people on the roof of the post office. Y’all, I DON’T GET IT. I mean, I do understand that Groat found a way to make money while not being paid for being an employee of the post office. He did what he could… to an extent. Obviously, there was a better plan here: talk to Vetinari and tell him the truth about the post office. (I’m selfish and also want to know.) But I also get the sense that Groat doesn’t have a grasp of the truth himself. He honestly believes that the men on the roof just “fancy” birds and are studying them! Rather, they’re far more interested in that little clacks tower up there, and I don’t know why. Apparently, they’ve taken it apart? I assume that’s what the “big metal drum full of… very complicated clockwork” was. Woodpeckers is BULLSHIT. They’re doing something with the clacks machine… I think? Maybe trying to see how they work? Granted, they’ve been up there a long time, so maybe they’re stripping it for parts and selling it? Either way, they’re lying, Groat is gullible, and this is so much bigger of a mess than I thought it was.

So, let’s talk about Adora!!! I love that there are acknowledgements within the Discworld books that make it clear that while progress is happening in Ankh-Morpork, that progress is often very, very difficult. Multiple books, particularly the Watch books, have dealt with the friction that exists between the various communities and cultures that have taken root in the city. The last time we got a study of the golems—an in-depth one, that is—was in Feet of Clay, and this book provides us with another update. More and more golems have “bought” themselves and become independent and free, but while that’s demonstrably good, it doesn’t mean that everyone feels positively about their presence. When we meet Adora, she’s convinced that Moist is yet another person come to commit what amounts to a hate crime against the Golem Trust. So, there’s still a violent pushback against these people, and Adora is one of the humans who is determined to help the golems find their place in the world. So… she’s like a golem rights activist, I’d say? It’s pretty similar to that. She cares about what they feel, how they’re adjusting to a world that wasn’t designed for their freedom, and she’s helping them find jobs that make them feel both satisfied and like they’ve been taken care of. But she takes it a step further, and one thing I respect about her is that she tries to understand golem thinking without making it about herself or humanity. There’s that whole bit where she angrily talks about how patronizing campaigns can be for marginalized members of Ankh-Morpork society, and LORD IT IS SO REAL. That’s a real thing that happens all the time, and it’s often because the folks who it is meant to help are not actually consulted in the process.

Adora, as far as I can tell, is in the trenches with the golems, and her work to help them feels about as genuine as you can get. Part of that involves respecting their motto, which is a direct statement about heir independence. In they end, they have to get their freedom by their own hand or none at all. So how are they going to achieve that? How will golems prove important to the narrative of Going Postal? I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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