Mark Reads ‘I Shall Wear Midnight’: Chapter 10, Part I

In the first part of the tenth chapter of I Shall Wear Midnight, the ramifications of Tiffany’s actions leave her in a tough spot. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld. 

You know, I’m getting the sense from many of you that this was a tough read for a lot of Discworld folks, and I have a few fans who have emailed me to say that my read-through is actually the first time they’re managing to make it to the end of the book. Which is very flattering! I’m reminded of an experience from NINE YEARS AGO (how????) when I was shocked to discover that a whole lot of Harry Potter fans did not like The Order of the Phoenix, as they found it too difficult, upsetting, and frustrating to get through. (I especially imagine that reading about Dolores Umbridge in 2019 would be a… I don’t know. A real disturbing experience.) Yet I found that book to be the one I related to the most intimately, and I think it’ll always be my favorite of the series. I say all this while recognizing that I Shall Wear Midnight is an increasingly upsetting and frustrating book, and it is one I am deeply, deeply latching on to. I feel comfortable discussing how abuse and bullying has manifested in the book, as well as how Pratchett writes these things with empathy and nuance; the discussion of Tiffany’s and Roland’s derailed “relationship” has also come at a time when I’ve never thought about such issues this much ever. I recognize that all books can not be for everyone, and that’s an impossible notion to believe in. We each bring our own complicated lives to the experience of reading, and I totally get if this novel isn’t your thing. 

But right now? In this time? This is very extremely my thing. 

ALSO THIS IS SO FRUSTRATING!!! Like, the opening scene of this chapter made my blood boil. It is admittedly very challenging to read something with a character like the Duchess in it, namely because there are so many people like her in Roundworld who absolutely get away with their horrors. While I don’t believe that Pratchett is leading us into a bleak ending with this book, I do not that I haven’t felt this hopelessly angry since… maybe Night Watch? But even then, I mostly knew things would be okay because time travel? I HAVE NO POSSIBLE IDEA HOW TIFFANY IS GOING TO GET OUT OF THIS.

Actually, that’s not quite true. See, there’s a HUGE shocker in the midst of this chapter that makes me think that Tiffany’s plan is to beat the Duchess at her own game, to be aggressively law-abiding to prove a point. Maybe. But before I get to the hearing part (!!!!!), I wanted to discuss this gut-wrenching epiphany:

And where they had gone wrong was in believing, somewhere in their minds, that because two things were different, they must therefore be alike. Slowly finding out that this wasn’t true hadn’t been nice for either of them, and there had been a certain number of things that both of them wished hadn’t been said. 

I wouldn’t say this is necessarily applicable to what I’m going through, but it still struck a nerve. I’m believing more and more that it was clever as hell for Pratchett to draw these two apart between books rather giving it to us on the page. There’s a texture here that’s much more brutal since Tiffany has to deal with the fallout of her and Roland changing. Their feelings for one another have changed, too, but what I’m mostly referring to? I think Tiffany is realizing that Roland is becoming the Baron. He’s not just the kid she saved from the Queen of the Fairies anymore, and this is made all the more complicated because of the presence of the Duchess. Y’all, she is totally exploiting the fact that Roland is grieving his father in order to get what she wants, right??? She knows he’s vulnerable, and she’s using it to her advantage. She knows she can push Roland to ban Tiffany or have her arrested (AGAIN!!!), and with the right kind of pressure in the right place, he’ll do as she says. Because in the end, everyone does what the Duchess wants, right? That’s what she’s used to.

So Tiffany changes her technique. She follows the cultural standards set before her, and that includes ASKING FOR AN ACTUAL HEARING. She tells Roland that his accusations aren’t even strong enough to be accusations, and he can take this to trial if he’s serious. I don’t even think it was a bluff in the beginning, y’all. I think she knew the game had changed, and she had to treat Roland as if he was the Baron, not someone who used to be a friend. (Because he’s certainly not treating her like she was his friend.)

It doesn’t solve everything, of course, and it’s more of a temporary reprieve. Because, as Tiffany puts it:

How much poison can he seep into their heads? How much does he need to?

That was the problem with witchcraft: It was as if everybody needed the witches but hated the fact that they did, and somehow the hatred of the fact could become the hatred of the person.

The Cunning Man won’t have to work hard to turn these people against Tiffany, will he?

Except that all this does not seem to be working on Sergeant Brian, and I get why Tiffany ultimately decides to return the same decency that he shows her. Brian is terrified of a lot of things: Tiffany’s broom flying away while he touches it. The Duchess. Disobeying the Baron. The Duchess. Not doing his job. THE DUCHESS. And yet, he still refuses to dehumanize Tiffany; he won’t see her as a villain. Maybe he’s not as clever as Tiffany, but you know what? I respect him, and I respect that he doesn’t fall in with what everyone else is thinking of her. He’s trying, and that’s worth something, isn’t it?

Anyway, I’m eager to jump into the second half of this because I can’t wait to see what the Toad is going to say about Tiffany’s legal options. Y’all, is she really going to go through with this hearing??? What if the Cunning Man turns everyone against her at it? THIS IS TOO MUCH.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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