Mark Reads ‘I Shall Wear Midnight’: Chapter 9, Part I

In the first part of the ninth chapter of I Shall Wear Midnight, Tiffany heads home, only to discover something terrible there. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld. 

Trigger Warning: For discussion of abuse

Ah, the comforts and annoyances of the big city. It’s interesting to me that I grew up in a place with a lot of space. I lived right next to a wildlife preserve in Riverside, and my school’s cross country course was alongside that. I hiked a ton, and our backyard was a quarter of an acre. I’m used to one story homes, so much so that I thought all the homes with stairs on TV and in movies were fake. (My school also didn’t have lockers, so there’s that, too.) Yet I craved the culture and the experience of big cities. The first “big” city I ever got to see was downtown Los Angeles on a school trip, and this was in the early 90s, back when downtown LA was not the hipster-controlled, gentrified nightmare it is today. Or, for that matter, when I lived there in the 2000s near Skid Row! I was transfixed by how all the tall buildings were jammed together and enamored with how many people there were everywhere. There were people with my skin color and darker selling food from carts on the sidewalks, which we had in Riverside, too, but not at the same frequency. I wanted to be there, to make friends with the street punks and get music recommendations from them, to discover what kind of life you could live with so many others in close proximity. 

Every so often, like Tiffany does here, I crave the empty sky and open space. (I find myself craving the desert a lot these days, which is weird as hell given how damn hot it is all the time, but I find dry heat more tolerable than humidity.) So, I come at this from a completely different place as Tiffany, who needs the open sky, but I still understood her in the opening scene of chapter nine. She was not of the city, and she needed to return home. There’s another reason for that, too, that comes up later: she wanted to fight the Cunning Man on her home ground, not in a place like Ankh-Morpork. 

That battle, by the way, is one that Mrs. Proust is well-equipped to handle, which wasn’t surprising. She’s a city witch, and she uses the city itself to her advantage in a way that Tiffany wouldn’t think of instinctually. That doesn’t mean I should discount how scary this is, because HOLY SHIT, it’s terrifying how willing these men are to threaten Mrs. Proust. They fully intended to harm her! And so, in self defense, she uses the city: she pulls up a stone in the pavement to trip one man. For the other, she brings the “equestrian statue of Lord Alfred Rust” to life, which kicks the man’s legs out from under him and knocks him out, and then RIDES OFF ON IT. Actually, that’s not quite that accurate because she also tries some unconscious advertising on one of the dudes. Who knows? It might work.

But honestly, the most important part of the whole exchange isn’t her self defense or the pigeon thing (also glorious), but the fact that Pratchett keeps repeatedly reminding us through these characters that yes, the Cunning Man is actually influencing people, but that isn’t a true excuse for what they do. Again: poison goes where poison is welcome, and there is something in the heart of these men that is helping them turn against women who are old and ugly. (It’s misogyny.) And even on that point, I think Pratchett is being specific on purpose. It’s not every woman that is targeted, but specifically those that aren’t as objectified or don’t serve some gross purpose for men. We aren’t seeing them go after young women who are conventionally attractive, are we? That’s not the traditional perception of a witch, is it?

Anyway, let’s get back to Tiffany! It was a real delight to get to experience her geeking out over meeting the actual Eskarina. And god, this is making me reflect on what Equal Rites established. Not just Granny Weatherwax, but the notion of NOT using magic when you can. It’s a huge part of what it means to be a witch!!! It’s something Tiffany herself had to learn, too, and she’s gotten rather good at it. Granted, the application of it is different in Tiffany’s steading than what Simon and Esk came up with all those years ago. (THAT WAS THE THIRD BOOK I EVER READ IN THIS SERIES, oh my god????) Look, this all made me wish we could have a whole novel from Esk’s point of view, and I do hope there’s more of her in the book.

I am not sure that will be the case, given that Tiffany heads back to the Chalk and immediately discovers a DISASTER. I think Eskarina would need to come to the Chalk to appear again, but also??? She can walk through time so maybe not? Anyway, WHAT HAS ROLAND DONE? Look, I assume that either the Cunning Man affected him worse than I anticipated (which worries me, given that poison goes where it is welcome), OR the Cunning Man FOLLOWED HIM HOME. Either way, it explains his overreaction to Amber. Digging up the Feegle mound??? Surely he’s not that foolish, right? He’s got to know that fucking with the Feegles is almost certainly death! 

But after what happened in Ankh-Morpork, I suppose anything is believable. His wife or the duchess could have influenced him, too, or he didn’t need their presence to come to the conclusion that Tiffany was someone to be feared. 

It’s interesting, too, that we don’t get any of this through Roland in the beginning; it’s all through his messenger, Sergeant Brian, who only became a messenger because Tiffany just happened to show up before the first dig of the mound. The poor guy is torn between his duty to the Baron and the very real threat of his life, which is not something Roland probably warned him about either. At least he doesn’t go through with it and takes his men away, but then matters are even more complicated by Amber’s (very understandable!) refusal to go back home. Amber feels safe and loved and respected with Jeannie and the Feegles. Why would she ever go back? And Pratchett writes this so that Tiffany is very honest in her thoughts about how bullshit it is for her to ask Amber to go back to the man who abused her. It’s a clever way to address it, too, since Tiffany feels stuck in such complicated situation. Roland is most likely going to be stubborn about this, but maybe he’ll listen to Amber herself? And if not… well, he’s gonna have to face down Jeannie, too, who is damn protective of Amber as well.


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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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