In the third part of the ninth chapter of I Shall Wear Midnight, Tiffany has a disturbing interactions with two different people in the castle. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For talk of abuse, bullying, and grief.
THIS BOOK IS SO INTENSE.
Even though this quote is in the section talking about the cook, I’m going to bring it up here. Throughout this book, one of the main things that Tiffany struggles with is whether or not these people are behaving as they do because of the Cunning Man or because they’re just actual awful people. Before the Cunning Man arrived, we had Mr. Petty, and now, there’s the Duchess. I feel safe in saying that the Cunning Man might utilize the Duchess, but she’s miserable and terrible through and through. She does not need the Cunning Man’s help at all. I sensed she was bad news before, but what we witness in the final third of this chapter? Oh, absolutely NOT. She is an abusive nightmare, one who openly fosters a culture of misery, fear, and pain, and she knows it! It’s the whole point of the arrangement! We need look no further than that ridiculous poem she makes Letitia recite, wherein workers and staff are analogous to NETTLES. Nettles!!! And the whole deal that is that, apparently, if you’re nice to nettles, they’ll sting you and then stage a rebellion.
It’s worth noting that Tiffany pretty much immediately counters this, since she thinks about how much kindness the old Baron exuded, and there were no rebellions, no stinging, nothing of the sort! But the Duchess has never been challenged; she’s never had to believe anything but her system of violence. And why would she? When you’re at the top, when you carry around that stick, when you are so used to doling out abuse and getting exactly what you want, there’s no need to examine what you’re putting out in the world.
It takes Tiffany dropping one HELL of a comeback on the Duchess for her to realize exactly what kind of a person the Duchess is, and I love this description so, so much:
The Duchess beat them all: She was a bully, the kind of bully who forces her victim into retaliation, which therefore becomes the justification for further and nastier bullying, with collateral damage to any innocent bystanders who would be invited by the bully to put the blame for their discomfiture onto the victim.
HOLY SHIT. IT’S SO ACCURATE??? And this is also a scathing and much-needed rejection of that refrain I grew up hearing in regards to bullying: “It doesn’t matter who started it.” YES. YES IT FUCKING DOES, especially when you’re dealing with someone like the Duchess! But that nuance gets lost, and people like the Duchess know that, and they use it to their advantage.
Fuck her. I know that there is probably going to be some sort of price Tiffany will have to pay, but I got a thrill out of her standing up to the Duchess.
HI, WHERE DID YOU COME FROM? Because I got perhaps even more of a thrill watching this character use his cleverness to perpetually frustrate the Duchess. HAPPY ASS CORP ASS. Look, I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that Preston and Tiffany are remarkably shippable, right? At the very least, she’s intrigued by his cleverness and sense of humor, and it was a huge surprise! I honestly didn’t think we’d see Preston again; my assumption was that he was just an extremely minor character. NOPE. HE’S AMAZING. Funny and nice and seems to genuinely enjoy Tiffany’s presence? And he’s obsessed with words! HE KNOWS TIFFANY’S FAVORITE WORD. I ship it, I don’t care.
I have to reference this again, since it’s so relevant to what Mrs. Coble shouts at Tiffany:
But all that foul stuff? Where had that come from? Was it something she’d always wanted to say, or had he put it into her mouth?
In this specific case? I don’t actually know. We’ve never met Mrs. Coble before (to my knowledge), and there’s no real context or history given to us in the book itself. It’s believable, of course, that Mrs. Coble is like many people in this part of the Disc who are highly suspicious of witches and witchcraft. So maybe this was always there. Tiffany does have a moment where she tries to remember what Mrs. Coble has been like to her before, how grief may have affected her and her reliance on alcohol, and I appreciate that. One thing that’s been interesting about this Cunning Man experience is that Tiffany has had to force herself to be more empathetic, to attempt understanding, even in situations where it would be understandable if she did not do so.
Still: FUCKED UP.
Mark Links Stuff
– The paperback edition of my debut, ANGER IS A GIFT, is now OUT! If you’d like to stay up-to-date on all announcements regarding my books, sign up for my newsletter! DO IT.