In the twenty-sixth and final part of Snuff, Vimes finds closure in Vetinari. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of slavery
Vimes arrests people.
It’s what he’s done in the Watch since we first met him, though I have to admit that it took Carrot showing up for Vimes to begin to change his idea of what the Watch should do. Even then, Vimes’s formula has been relatively simple: a crime happens, the criminal is pursued after evidence confirms who they are, and then they are brought to justice. Rinse, repeat, you get it. And no matter how complicated things have gotten—I’m thinking of Thud! in particular—Vimes has always trusted his cuffs, his instincts, and this very pattern.
So how do you arrest someone for a crime when hundreds, if not thousands of people let it happen? How do you arrest someone for having the idea for a crime? How can you bring justice to a people when a whole system wronged them?
I understand deeply why Vimes cannot understand Vetinari’s refusal to pursue Gravid Rust. This is what Vimes does, and Gravid did perhaps the most heinous and evil thing that Vimes has ever come across in his career. (Not to deny that people like Carcer or Dr. Cruces were evil, as they were both REALLY fucked up.) But I don’t know that Vimes has ever been this angry before. And he has to be for this story to work! Vimes’s rage over the injustice of the goblins has to reach a point where he begins to question his own innate goodness. Was he willing to break his own moral code in one way to avoid breaking it in another? Would he commit murder in order to stop the grave injustice unfolding around him?
After everything that happened here, though, Gravid Rust doesn’t actually appear in the book. Now that I’m thinking of Snuff as a whole, that has to be intentional. Because this is about the person at the center of this, and it’s also not about him at all, which is more in line with Vetinari’s point. Vimes found someone who did something wrong, but unfortunately, it wasn’t illegal, at least not until all of this was over. Which is something to celebrate! Vimes and Sybil changed a huge portion of the world in the matter of a few WEEKS. Goblins will have full autonomy within the law from now on. So Vetinari can’t retroactively punish someone for something that wasn’t illegal.
But the greater issue here is that Gravid is just a part of the whole. He is not THE whole of the problem. Yes, he thought of it, and yes, he was immensely instrumental in the enslavement of the goblins. Countless goblins died because of him, and the same goes for the trolls who died because of the drugs that he helped to smuggle in. Vimes, however, can’t just arrest him like he can other criminals he has come across. No, there are other means here that allow justice to be obtained. Gravid’s life as an aristocrat is functionally over; his father his disinherited him, and he’ll most likely be shipped off to Fourecks. All his prestige and privilege and power is gone, and for someone as greedy and self-centered and vicious as Gravid, this social death sentence is a nightmare.
Vetinari’s point reveals itself in this: there is no perfection.
“None exists. All we can do is strive.”
In a perfect world, Gravid would be jailed. He’d be hung. He’d be brought before the goblins and they would get to do whatever they want to him. But none of this can happen, and none of it is going to happen. At the same time, the system is changing. Not just the immediate circumstances for the goblins! The whole damn system!!! Vimes couldn’t arrest the systemic issue of slavery; he couldn’t get justice for the goblins from every single person who harmed them because one person did and a hundred people did and a whole GOVERNMENT did, and how do you get justice for that?
Which is not to say that justice is impossible or that the goblins don’t deserve it. It is possible, and the goblins do deserve it. I love the suggestion here that even if, on the surface, Vetinari has his hands tied, there’s still something he can make happen to Gravid in Fourecks. That suggestion comes with the wonderful moment where Vetinari states that not everything is forgiven, and perhaps this is as perfect of an example of someone who has done something unforgivable. Perhaps this really is something that is irredeemable forever.
I personally think that Gravid is irredeemable and unforgivable, and I’m glad Pratchett put a notion of that in the text. This book was a WILD ride, and I repeatedly did not know where it was going. At the end of this, we got to see a permanent change come to the Discworld, and there’s now a new species who gets to be part of the story. (I hope? I still don’t know what these last three books will contain.) I feel satisfied by this journey, too! This was a deeply disturbing book that still managed to be ridiculously funny. (I can’t get over the name of the boat and how many times Pratchett couldn’t resist making jokes out of it.) And to me, it fits in the spirit of what Discworld became in the second half of the series. Pratchett was clearly angry; he was clearly wanting to write not just a reaction to the world, but to write from a place of hope and a desire for justice. And to talk about how messy that hope is!!! This book does not pull punches, but it doesn’t feel dire. I mean… none of the Discworld books really felt that way, but yo, this book was about a REAL fucked up thing. Does Pratchett handle it well? I can only speak to parts of it, and as a whole, it works in the context of the book. As a real-world issue… not as sure. Pratchett had to simplify slavery to fit this story, so it isn’t a real-world parallel all the time.
Anyway, I’m excited to see what y’all have to say now that there are NO SPOILERS for the whole book. In the meantime: onwards to The Science of Discworld IV!
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