In the fifteenth part of Snuff, Vimes makes progress on a suspect and readies for an arrest. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
It’s clear that Vimes’s anger over what he’s discovered about the goblins and the complicity of folks in the Shires has spilled over into how he’s approaching this case. The confrontation he has in Jiminy’s cellar is so angry, y’all. And we’ll later see a form of that anger in Sybil, but for now, I want to focus on the fact that Vimes is impatient, but he’s still being clever about it. For instance: he doesn’t confront Jiminy in a public place, but rather in the man’s cellar. That way, he can put pressure on him without tipping off anyone else in town that he’s closer to the truth than ever before. But he certainly makes it clear to Jiminy that he IS close, that there’s a wave of momentum that he’s rising and Jiminy is currently on the wrong side of it. It’s not just that, either. There are appeals to the man’s morals, too, though I’m not sure that those works as well as the threats that Vimes issues. I say that because after Jiminy gives up two names—Stratford and Flutter, one of who works for Lord Rust, he says something very interesting about goblins:
“And since we understand one another so well, Mr. Vimes, I’ve been here for only three years. I know there was some stuff way back, maybe they did scrag a few goblins, I don’t know, not my business. Don’t know why, don’t know who, if you get my meaning?”
Except we know for a fact that it wasn’t “way back.” The timing is oddly coincidental, isn’t it? But let’s say it is, that Jiminy truly didn’t have anything to do with the mass kidnapping of the goblins. The man has a lot of tobacco in his cellar, right? So I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to assume that he’s benefitting heavily from the work the goblins are doing. So does he truly not know who or why? I bet that he, like everyone else who has lived in the Shires, knows EXACTLY what’s going on. But since he benefits from it, it’s easier for him to ignore it. To quietly justify what’s happening. To assume that it is someone else’s problem to solve it.
Well, that someone else has arrived, and Vimes isn’t going to stop until it’s all dismantled, including:
“…if this pub still has the head of a goblin hanging over the bar the next time I’m here there’ll be a mysterious fire, do you understand?”
Music to His Ears
I have a thought on why Pratchett included the scene where Vimes hears Tears of the Mushroom playing harp so transcendently that he immediately went to fetch Sybil and his son. First, there’s the context of Vimes’s experience with “classical” music. We had to know that the man simply doesn’t care at all about it, but he still knows it. Kinda through osmosis, right? So it wasn’t just that Tears of the Mushroom was good, but that she was impossibly good, performing at a level NO OTHER PERSON had ever played at in Sybil’s life or Vimes’s life. I suspect that this is just another crack in the facade, yet another moment in which these humans are forced to reckon with just how little they know about goblins. Even Sybil and Vimes, who are relatively way more “progressive” about goblins than nearly everyone, still pale in comparison to someone like Miss Beedle, who has allowed the goblins a space of freedom of expression that no one else has. And look what Tears of the Mushroom accomplishes within such a space! What else are the goblins capable of if they’re allowed to exist without threat of violence? When they are put in an environment where they are taught that they have inherent worth, that they aren’t sinful creations, that they deserve to live fully and wholly and happily?
So it was a very stark thing to see Sybil apologize to Vimes after this experience. On the one hand, she had every right to tell Vimes to make this holiday an actual holiday. He needed a true break, and she was trying to get him to focus on the family instead. But she now recognizes that Vimes’s suspicions have come to a horrible fruition, and it is much more important that Vimes eradicate this nightmare. That’s a huge moment, and I love that she tells him this:
“Nevertheless, Sam, I am certain of one thing and it’s this: the worst thing you can do is nothing. Go to it, Sam.”
I love it. I LOVE THIS SO MUCH. I love that she offers her support to Vimes in a substantial, meaningful way while also making it clear that she gets why he’s done what he’s done. Well, she also tells Willikins in much more explicit terms how angry she is at what’s happening around her in the country. These moments are important because of the metaphor that Pratchett spins through the story of Pelvic Williams. Pelvic played pool in a way that infuriated everyone because he constantly disobeyed the rules. Well, disobeyed them all but one: the ball still dropped on the table. And I feel like that’s what Vimes is announcing here. He is about to ricochet the ball off a million surfaces, or sending it rolling along the edge, because in the end, all that matters is him dropping the ball. It’s time for him to get this done, means be damned.
Chief Constable Upshot
I do respect that Vimes insists on involving Upshot in all of this. In the end, this is his jurisdictoon. So it’s not just that he’s trying to placate the man; I feel like he’s appreciative that Upshot is making an effort to do what he can, right? But it’s Feeney Upshot’s long, winding monologue, prompted by Vimes asking why Upshot is going along with him, that stuck out to me as the most important development for his character. And I love that Pratchett gives space for this growth, too. Upshot observed things that challenged his understanding of his colleagues, his fellow citizens and neighborhoods, and his perception of the goblins. And ultimately, instead of rejecting these things, he changed. He stopped thinking that the goblins were just animals; he considered how harshly he was judging them for things that humans do but are suspiciously acceptable. He accepted that maybe his superiors had gotten things wrong.
And now I can’t wait to see what Upshot does with that.
Mark Links Stuff
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