Mark Reads ‘Going Postal’: Chapter 4, Part II

In the second half of the fourth chapter of Going Postal, Moist tries to get answers. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld. 

Vetinari, unsurprisingly, thought this through. It’s what he does! And he stuck a man who has been a life-long criminal and con man in a situation where running would end in his certain death and where staying would… well, pique his interests. Almost perfectly. Because this situation, as Moist details, is so perfectly suited to his notions of money-making. It’s a massive government job that is going to require tons of work and help, and it’s so easy in a context like that to devise a means of distraction, to set up red herrings and sleight of hand to get people to look one way while Moist takes everything that he can. So, he’s already making plans to leave, but THIS ISN’T GOING TO HAPPEN, IS IT. I don’t think Moist is going to abandon this at the end, but I’m not sure how he’ll reach that point. The journey is as much a mystery to me as are… well, all the ridiculous mystery shit going on.

And OF COURSE there’s another one. I did like that there was an immediate ramification for Moist’s involvement, which comes in Mr. Parker, whose letter Moist delivered after a forty-year delay. He helped reunite a couple who never knew how the other felt, and now, they’re getting married. It’s a pretty spectacular, heartwarming twist, but Moist isn’t exactly a heartwarming person. And it’s so fitting that Pratchett doesn’t write him that way. He isn’t overjoyed that he did a good thing, and in fact, as the Parker’s approach Moist, he has to resist the urge to RUN AWAY FROM THEM. Instead, he views this all through his old habits: he lets these people see him as a “good” person because that’s social currency. It’s a means by which Moist can get more things that he wants. 

But then there’s the curse, the new mystery that might actually just be a mystery I’ve already seen. A random woman whose grandfather used to work at the post office reveals that there’s an alleged curse that surrounds the place. Initially, I assumed she was referring to the curse of the postmaster general, but nOPE:

“It lives under the floor and drives you maaad!” she went on, enjoying the syllable so much that she seemed loath to let it go. “Maaad!”

So… is that the whispers? Is there something else in the post office? IS THAT WHAT CAUSED THE INDUSTRIAL ACCIDENT??? Oh god, there’s so much going on here, but I feel both super close to the truth and EPICALLY FAR FROM IT. 

But I am much more certain about the incredible scene between Moist and Mr. Pump. I had mentioned in a previous review that I suspected Moist’s likability was due to the fact that we never really got a sense of what his crimes were. Because of that, it’s hard to determine the impact of them. Well, imagine no more, because Mr. Pump lays it all out in a brutally honest monologue about how Moist’s actions have demonstrably led to the collective hastening of the deaths of many people. And I adored that Mr. Pump spelled it out that way: Moist may have thought that the people he targeted were fools, and maybe some of them were trying to swindle him. But can he truthfully say that he harmed no one? That his schemes and cons did not cause people to suffer? Yeah, he’s not exactly willing to hear this, either, and he becomes extremely defensive about it all, but Mr. Pump is spot-on. Yes, he was nearly hung to death, but did he learn his lesson? Not yet, I’d say!

This chapter ends with something that had confused me for a long, long time. Thankfully, no one in this community ever explained what GNU stood for, but I’ve been seeing it for YEARS. I believe it was always followed by a name, and I assumed it was an acronym. But here, Pratchett reveals that a complex culture has sprung up around the clacks system, complete with its own terminology. The death of John Dearheart has affected this community, and I imagine that none of these people truly believe he just fell from a tower. But what sprung up in reaction to that is bittersweet. GNU is a code that comes with instructions. G means you send the message on. N means that the message is not to be logged. And U means that it must be turned around at the end of the clacks line and run back. So why would they send a name back and forth forever on the line?

“He’d never have wanted to go home. He was a real linesman. His name is in the code, in the wind, in the rigging, and the shutters. Haven’t you ever heard the saying, ‘Man’s not dead while his name is still spoken’?”




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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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