In the second half of the fifth chapter of Going Postal, I can’t. I just can’t. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Well, let’s just start with this: I know that I tried to brace myself for the fact that my theory on the Walk that Groat referenced might be wrong. Now I know definitively that this is the case, and yet??? Somehow the walk through the “past” was NOWHERE NEAR AS TERRIBLE AS THIS WALK. What transpires here isn’t just a test, though that’s how the members of the Loyal Order of the Post see it. They want to know if a potential postmaster is made of the right stuff, and so they run Moist through an obstacle course of sorts. Feels pretty typical for this kind of Order, right? Moist certainly thought so, and he went and had this unfortunate thought:
I’m in about as much danger as I would be in a class of five-year-olds. Less, probably. Unfranked Man… good grief.
That is.. that is a lot to take in, now that I know the truth. Because this is beyond just a hazing ritual, though at times it felt similar to that. This test LITERALLY COULD HAVE KILLED MOIST. As it stands, he was horribly injured from what transpired on the Walk. And I understood what it meant in a metaphorical sense! Even the hood sort of has its own logic. You can’t always see the things that will try to stop a True Postman from delivering their mail, and thus, this test was to throw as many possible hazards in front of Moist, each of them representing a real threat, to see if he could withstand them.
The issue, though, is that there’s virtually no humor in the way Pratchett writes this. Instead, he leans into the horror that Moist experiences as, shrouded in darkness and wearing lead boots, he is injured over and over again according to the three Oaths. The first: Holding a heavy mail bag, Moist must walk and avoid all the shit strewn on the ground, and if he falls, he cannot cry out. And I’m still reeling from the fact that he fell IMMEDIATELY and probably broke his chin??? I don’t even know what he hit, but at that point, I felt like my soul was going to leave my body. Yet Moist keeps going. He misses a roller skate and a beer bottle, but he doesn’t miss the puddle of “something slippery,” where he promptly falls again and cracks his skull, and y’all, I was ANGRY. It took longer for Moist to reach that point, but this seemed so needlessly cruel, especially just for acceptance by an Order. Like, what were they going to do if Moist failed? Fire him? Ignore him? What was their endgame? I DON’T KNOW!
But Moist persists, perhaps mostly out of spite. Or because he finishes what he starts. Or because there aren’t many options at this point because… well, he broke his chin, he cracked his head, and maybe the pain is all he can focus on. For what it’s worth, Pratchett does an incredible job conveying the chaos of all of this. There’s water AND a bucket thrown on Moist. Then ice cubes. THEN THE DELIVERY OF THE MAIL. What the fuck, I know this is all terrible, but that’s got to be the worst part. Who operated the mail slot??? Whose job was it to TRY TO CUT SOMEONE’S FINGERS OFF??? I mean, clearly, as long as you survived it, you could become a postman, since one of the members of the Order was missing part of their fingers. But what the hell!!!
At the very least, after Moist manages to survive this horrific gauntlet, there’s a break. Knowing what the Order says to Groat and Moist afterwards, I now feel like Order was desperate for Moist to fail. They did not want Groat to be right. To them, Groat’s belief in the Prophecy is more of a wish and a desire. He just wants the Post Office revived, and none of the rest of the Order believe it should be. They’ve got the clacks, right?
Of course, the reader knows that the clacks are a bit of a mess right now due to Reacher Gilt and his men, so there IS a need for the post office to return. So it felt beautifully fitting that the Order’s final absurd test involved dogs that were from the place where Moist grew up, so he knew that they had been trained to obey certain commands. (Well, they weren’t purebred, according to Groat, so maybe this was more luck than wisdom. WHOOPS.)
What does this all get Moist? Well, he won the approval of the Order, which is more or less meaningless. There’s also confirmation that the whispering IS the letters talking!!! (Who is “the wizard,” though?) So, after years of being ignored, they ARE collectively producing a magic that is compelling them to be delivered and read. But that one line leads to a much more important sequence, one that Pratchett writes like a fantastical Chosen One narrative, and I don’t care, IT’S REALLY FUCKING COOL. I love that the letters choose Moist, because I feel like of all the sources of validation he needed, that one is the most important of them all. There’s an almost Biblical power to this all, too, and I truly believe this is going to get Moist to change his perception of the post office and his job. He’ll still be Moist, but that would mean he’d also figure out who Moist is when he’s not conning other people.
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