Mark Reads ‘Unseen Academicals’: Part 20

In the twentieth part of Unseen Academicals, Glenda, Trev, and Juliet go after Mr. Nutt. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld. 

Oh my GOD.

And Nutt had been killed, according to Trev, and then sort of became unkilled again before going back to Unseen University and eating all the pies.

THE ANSWER WAS RIGHT THERE THE WHOLE TIME. But this split takes this epiphany even further, and through the eyes of Glenda, we see a force for compassion. Because her reaction to all of this is to aggressively attempt to understand Mr. Nutt, to accept him, to help him, and to make sure he knows that whoever he is, she doesn’t believe he is inherently “wrong.” 

We get a great example of that right at the start, when Mr. Ottomy, one of the bledlows, tries to threaten that he’ll go to the Archchancellor about Nutt. Like, yes, it’s pointless because he already knows. But Glenda takes her defense a step further and flat-out threatens him if he goes through with making any sort of trouble for Mr. Nutt. I love this because her actions match her words! She puts her own body on the line to protect him. And it’s not like she hasn’t been outspoken before, but there’s a deliberate tone to it all now. This isn’t her filter failing her or blurting out something true but a little inappropriate. She is very intentional about how she feels about Nutt, and I respect it so much.

I’d say the same thing can be seen in the scene where she takes the crab that she’s kept in the Kitchen and sets it free. Pratchett is playing with the literal and the metaphorical here. The crab bucket metaphor was employed to help us understand Glenda’s feelings toward Juliet and how she had to learn to let her friend go. And now, it’s literal: the most knowledgeable crab in all of Ankh-Morpork is now free to pursue a life doing… whatever it is that crabs do. Hopefully not getting caught again! But the whole sequence is a reminder of where Glenda used to be and where she is now. You can’t help how you’re made, and Glenda tried to resist that very thought. She tried to keep Juliet in the crab bucket that was the Night Kitchen; she tried to shove Trev away because he wasn’t good enough for Juliet. And then Mr. Nutt walked into her life, and he wasn’t like anyone else she had ever met. Here’s someone that should have been in the crab bucket, who should have been killed years prior just for what he was. And yet, he showed that he absolutely belonged in the world. Who was she to let anyone put him back in that bucket? Mr. Nutt deserved to be where he was.

And so, Glenda, with Juliet and Trev in two, attempt to find Mr. Nutt, who they believe has most likely tried to head back to Uberwald to return to the Lady. I’m still reeling from the absurdity of the horse bus negotiation scene, and I admit I found it funny because I have a thing for funny scenes that go on way longer than they should? And this went on FOR SO LONG. The other passengers got involved!!! TREV KEPT OFFERING THE LEAD PIPE! Oh my god??? Look, i also think it’s cool that even this far along in the series, Pratchett can still drop in scenes that are just humor and not much else. I APPRECIATE THEM. 

Anyway, let’s talk about the reunion and the Sisters of Perpetual Velocity. Furies! They’re Furies, not harpies, which was my guess. And they’re pretty single-minded; they’re there to protect others from the danger of Nutt, and nothing can convince them otherwise. I mean, they’re not really convince-able, are they? I loved the contrast, though, between what the Furies said about Nutt and how quickly the total strangers in the horse bus accepted Mr. Nutt. That’s what so great about all this: Mr. Nutt’s behavior and demeanor reveals who he truly is, not what he was created to be. Look at how quickly these people are enamored with his candles! 

Of course, Glenda isn’t always a glowing optimist, and she makes a good point:

It was the crab bucket at its best. Sentimental and forgiving; but get it wrong—one wrong word, one wrong liaison, one wrong thought—and those nurturing arms could so easily end in fists. Nutt was right; at best, being an orc was to live under a threat. 

There’s another brilliant way that Pratchett demonstrates this: with the man who had nothing against dwarfs. It’s such a weird distinction, isn’t it? I’ve had people tell me to my face that they don’t have anything against queer people or gay people or Mexicans or whatever group they’ve assumed I am a part of. Like… do you want a cookie? A slice of cake? What does it even mean that a person “doesn’t have anything against (insert group here)”? Well, often, it’s just a way for a person to dodge accountability. It’s like loudly proclaiming yourself to be an ally. You wouldn’t say you were one if you were a bigot, right? Yet this very man says things that are kinda shitty about dwarfs, and dwarfs are much more “accepted” than orcs are in Ankh-Morpork society. So what’s the solution? How can Nutt live in a world that could turn against him in a moment?

I like what this section has to say about worth, then, because I feel like it’s part of the answer. The philosophy that the Lady has instilled in Mr. Nutt is complicated at times, but the core of it is that Mr. Nutt wants to leave the world a little better than it was when he arrived in it. That’s something that resonates with me a lot, particularly since it can seem so hard to change the big things. So Mr. Nutt does the small things: like the display at the banquet. Or writing poems for Trev. Or making the perfect dribbled candles. It is worthy because, in its own small way, it makes the world better. 

Still don’t know where this book is going, though!!!

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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