Mark Reads ‘Going Postal’: Chapter 6, Part II

In the second half of the sixth chapter of Going Postal, Moist makes important strides in bringing the post office back to life. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld. 

Trigger Warning: For brief discussion of hate crimes, xenophobia

Oh my gods, it’s all coming together??? Like, for real? It now feels more obvious than ever that Vetinari chose Moist because he knew that Moist would think about the post office with the mind of a con man. There’s still a risk in that, and that risk pops up again here when Stanley notes that Moist’s ingenious stamp idea is basically… well, printing money. You can already see the gears turning in that man’s head, and at this point in the story, I do believe he would take as much money as he could from the post office and run. 

At the same time, one thing that’s entertaining to watch is how this character, who once didn’t even really know the postal service existed, continues to get more and more involved in this industry. And he does so with care, even if that’s not how he’s thinking of it. His mind interprets the stamps as easily imitated; so he comes up with a solution using knowledge of HIS OWN FORGERIES that will make them very difficult to copy. Not just that, but he utilizes the older stamp as an extra layer of protection. It’s brilliant, and yes, he’s still considering defrauding everyone eventually, but I think I’m right in noting that this inevitable betrayal keeps getting pushed further and further away. He was thinking of immediate ways out before, and now? Well, it’ll happen soon. 

When that soon is… well, I am not so sure Moist is ready to leave. Each time he’s presented with a new problem, he doesn’t bail. He adapts. When all the senior postman are injured, he doesn’t give up. He seeks out another resource, one that is BRILLIANT. What better postman could you have than GOLEMS??? Of course, the reality of employing golems is so much more complicated than that. They have a skill set that’s perfect for this job, but the people of Ankh-Morpork aren’t ready to accept these beings in any meaningful way. Even Moist himself still thinks of them in harmful ways, like when he likens them to a tool without acknowledging that they’re sentient beings.

In this, Pratchett has employed a multi-faceted critique of xenophobia and hatred. I can read a layer of this as being anti-immigration, given how common it is in the UK (and around the world, really) to hear people spout the nonsense that another group is “taking everyone’s jobs.” It’s a terribly popular refrain, and there are so many insidious variations of it, all of them based on the perceived inferiority of the group that they’re aimed at. Part of the reason Moist seeks out the golems is because there is no one else lining up to be postmen. So the other postmen’s refrain that they’re worried about jobs being taken is bullshit; even if ALL the older postmen are working, Moist would still need more employees.

Then there’s matter of the firebombing. That’s how threatened people are by the golems, despite that golems are already a part of society. The problem, I’m guessing, is that golems want to be a full part of that society, rather than just beings who do what others want, and there are people in Ankh-Morpork who are not ready to treat them like people. Sounds terribly, terribly familiar, doesn’t it? It’s the kind of tolerance we see in our cultures in so many different contexts. Plus, these people are, for the moment, getting away with their attacks. I don’t feel like that is the Watch’s fault, though, as I imagine Vimes would not stand for this kind of bullshit. But these terrorists are emboldened enough by the culture in Ankh-Morpork to feel like they won’t be held accountable for what they’re doing. And it takes the work of someone like Miss Dearheart to contribute to the changing of that culture. Which isn’t to imply that she’s the savior of the golems because I think that could be messy. Rather, I feel like Miss Dearheart is doing what she can to be a genuine ally, to put herself in harm’s way, to advocate for the golems where they need it in places where they are… well, to put it in their own words, where they’re forgotten. Feet of Clay showed us how long golems have just been quiet, invisible forces in Ankh-Morpork, and they’re trying to break free of those perceptions. 

I don’t know that Moist’s work is identical or achieves the same end, but I do appreciate that he goes to bat for the golems when they’re challenged by the Order. They shouldn’t have had to prove their worth in the first place, but once Moist realizes these men aren’t going to budge on this point (or that they might put up a bigger fight than he wants), he helps make it clear that golems are actually way more qualified than these men ever realized or, frankly, could ever BE. 

I don’t have a theory, though, about Miss Dearheart’s warning at the end of the chapter. Why is it so important that she leaves Moist with that message? I’m sure he knows that golems are fearless, but does she think Moist might have something to fear?

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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