In the first half of the thirteenth chapter of Making Money, we all learn the truth about Mr. Bent. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For extensive discussion of trauma and PTSD
I wanna save my thoughts about the entire book for the next post, but suffice to say that I’ve had an absolute blast reading Making Money. I’ve found this to be a very funny, chaotic book, but, like many Discworld novels, there’s an undercurrent of truth that adds a more meaningful aspect to the experience. I’ll talk about what that is in the second half of this. To start with: I’m so happy for Gladys! Particularly, I’m happy that this book ends up in a place where Gladys gets to be who she wants, no matter how strange that is, no matter how misguided she might be. In the end, she has to figure out who she is! And don’t we all go through some sort of journey like this one? I was influenced by books and music, and I definitely imitated many of the things I consumed in order to present a version of myself to the world. It’s a very familiar process, so this is just what Gladys is doing, too. Moist recognizes not only this, but that words hold a special meaning to golems:
He stopped. They believe in words. Words give them life. I can’t tell her that we just throw them around like jugglers, we change their meaning to suit ourselves—
He patted Gladys on the shoulder. “Well, read them all and make up your own mind, eh?”
YES. Yes! And it’s not like Gladys is reading something nightmarish or horrifying; she’s trying to learn how to be who she wants to be, and this book is currently helping her. And ultimately, it’s not about Moist, is it? It doesn’t really matter how comfortable he is with who she is becoming, as long as she isn’t actively harming someone.
So, free from the threat of jail and the noose, Moist has to begin to recover. But even that doesn’t get to happen before another interruption arrives. First, it’s Adora Belle, who desperately wants to know how Moist was able to control the golems. LOOK: SAME!!! I needed to know, too! He claimed it wasn’t what he said, but how he said it. For a moment, I actually entertained the notion that Pratchett would never tell us. (I’m still trying to figure out that crossword clue. I DON’T GET IT.) We’d get enough hints to figure it out on our own, but Moist would probably keep it a secret because… well, he had to! Could he ever trust another person to have that sort of knowledge without using it? Or, as he says to Adora Belle, would that person keep it a secret themselves, no matter what?
Well, that is certainly not what happens, though the way in which the truth comes out was so damn entertaining. I said this on video, but I’ve enjoyed just how much more of Vetinari there’s been in the book. I wonder how planned that was from the beginning or if Pratchett found during the process that he needed to be on the page more than usual. Regardless, it made sense to me: Vetinari had to have a more obvious hand in events. He was up against the richest family (or at least one of the most rich) in all of Ankh-Morpork, one who would most definitely try to buy their way out of any repercussions. It’s a power struggle of sorts, and the story necessitated Vetinari’s greater presence.
Here, he’s more open with Moist than I’m used to, and I don’t know if it’s because he feels a strange kinship with him or what. But they have jokes with one another; they can speak about something openly without ever saying the thing they’re talking about. Vetinari even jokes about being a tyrant with Moist, and is that the sort of relationship we see between Vetinari and Vimes? Does Vetinari say stuff like this to anyone else?
“But, in fact, I already have all the golem horses,” said Moist.
Vetinari gave him a cool look, and then said, “Hah! And you also have all your ears. What exchange rate are we discussing?”
It’s interesting to view their conversation through this lens, that Vetinari respects Moist in a very unique way. Their negotiation is intense and fairly one-sided—Vetinari, unsurprisingly, gets exactly what he wants—but within it, I read something close to… I don’t know! I feel like I have to admit that Vetinari doesn’t really have friends, at least other than Drumknott. And is that even a friendship or just an incredibly effective working relationship? By the time they leave Mr. Bent’s side at the Fools’ Guild, the two are exchanging jabs in ways we don’t see with other characters. That whole sequence near the end of the split for this chapter felt so friendly to me. Vetinari toys with Moist not just because he can but perhaps he’s doing it for the entertainment value, too, something he knows that Moist can appreciate on some level. Why go through that whole threatening routine to have Moist tell the secret of the Umnian golems if Vetinari knew the truth the whole time? (HE LOOKED LIKE AN UMNIAN PRIEST IN THE GOLD SUIT. Oh my god, sometimes, it is all down to style.) Because it’s fun. Because it’s the only “tyrant” thing that he gets to do anymore. Because at the end of the day, Moist will get it.
So. Let’s talk about Mr. Bent. Y’all should know by know that I utterly HATE clowns and all that they represent, and so I’m surprised (maybe just as much as some of you!) that I don’t dislike that Mr. Bent was once a clown. This story should upset me on a visceral level, and while certain parts do, I still found myself deeply drawn to Mr. Bent. There’s a lot of metaphorical, layered storytelling going on here with this character, and I love that I can interpret him in a multitude of ways. The most obvious analogue here is that Mr. Bent has trauma. That trauma was triggered by the events of this novel, and his past was unearthed because of it all. And I feel comfortable with interpreting it this way because of the care and sympathy within the text for Mr. Bent. He’s not demonized; he isn’t spoken of like he’s an antagonist; and here, while in the care of the Fools’ Guild, he’s given love and respect and understanding. The Lavish family used Mr. Bent’s complicated identity against him. He didn’t want to be a clown, and so he buried himself within the certainty of the world of numbers. Does it work exactly as a metaphor for a repressed identity? Not quite, and I think things could get messy if making an exact comparison with our world.
Yet as it stands, Mr. Bent’s story resonated with me. It’s so powerful and strange and he feels like one of the most interesting secondary characters that Pratchett has ever crafted. Who will Bent become now that the truth is out? I don’t actually know! It’s clear that he wants to still work with numbers, and I’m glad that Moist offered him his job back. There’s undoubtedly a comfort there. But is that enough? Or will Mr. Bent give up his rigid rejection of being silly? Is there a life possible for him where he gets to do both? Ugh, I adore that this character makes me think these things! Mr. Bent has undoubtedly had a difficult life, and he coped with his trauma by adopting a very specific set of coping mechanisms. But Pratchett is perfectly content to show us the light in that darkness, to give hope to a character who probably feels like he’s lost everything.
He hasn’t, though. And maybe Mr. Bent’s new life has just begun.
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