Mark Reads ‘Unseen Academicals’: Part 15

In the fifteenth part of Unseen Academicals, Glenda changes, and the team prepares for its match under the guidance of Mr. Nutt. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld. 



Pepe’s comment came at the right time for Glenda to hear it, and I’m so happy with the way this metaphor of a crab bucket has been woven through the text. There’s no mistaking that Glenda cares about the people in her own life. (And I’m thinking of how she’s been mistaken for Juliet’s mother.) But her type of caring has a side effect that she did not consider prior to this: Is she keeping people down? Is she another crab in the bucket, desperate to prevent anyone else from leaving? Pratchett has written Glenda’s arc so that we can see her begin to change in subtle and not so subtle ways. Sometimes, it’s just a change in perception, such as how she felt about Juliet’s venture into modeling, or even how she views Juliet as a person. There’s also a stunning moment in the opening of this split that I love: Glenda stops caring about what Mrs. Whitlow thinks of the Night Kitchen staff:

Something was still bubbling inside Glenda. It had started in Shatta and lasted all day yesterday and there was still some left today. ‘I don’t care,’ she said.

Juliet giggled and looked around in case Mrs. Whitlow was hiding near the bus stop.

And I really don’t care, Glenda thought. I don’t care. It was like drawing a sword. 

For as long as Glenda has worked in the Night Kitchen, she’s followed the rules and traditions that Whitlow has enforced. The Night Kitchen staff aren’t allowed to be at the fancier functions at the university! And yet, Glenda wants to go to the banquet, and she wants Juliet to be there with her. Why should she not be allowed to be there? Because she works a different shift? That’s it? Again, I can’t ignore how cool it is that the title of this book is probably an intentional reference to the fact that much of the cast is the “unseen” part of the university’s staff! This presents another interpretation: the Night Kitchen staff has previously been “unseen” at certain functions, BUT THAT SHALL BE NO LONGER. 

The Growth of Football

Simultaneous with this, Pratchett has done a splendid job at addressing how characters like Ridcully and Mr. Nutt have also grown over the course of the novel. (Seriously, I’m so pleased with the character arcs in Unseen Academicals.) I love that Ridcully was prepared to fight Henry, but once he showed up and they actually spoke? Well, it wasn’t so easy to hate him anymore. I find that it’s too easy to build a narrative in your head about another person when that person isn’t around. Ridcully was hurt by Henry leaving, and I don’t think that’s irrational at all. There has certainly been animosity and friction between them, too! But Ridcully easily imagined insults and antagonism in everything that Henry did. I’m sure that Henry did the same! And yet, that narrative crumbles once the two start communicating. COMMUNICATION IS SO POWERFUL, Y’ALL.

Meanwhile, I also learned in this split just how much work Mr. Nutt has been doing to whip the UU team into shape. It’s not just important to the plot, though. Mr. Nutt craves a feeling of worth in everything that he does. He wants to be useful, he wants to be appreciated, and he doesn’t ever want to do anything to harm another person. He’s found something that allows him to channel this desire, though, and in his direction of the football team, we get to see an outlet for his attention to detail. He brought the team to watch a ballet troupe, then had them practice poise and balance back at the University. He had them play a game blindfolded; he showed them the importance of being a team by taking them to see dogs hunt. Y’all, he’s FUCKING INCREDIBLE. And that’s the point! Mr. Nutt has such an incredible way of taking in information and then—and this is the real challenge—passing it back to other people. Teaching is REALLY HARD, friends!!! How do you make things concise? Understandable? Easier to memorize? It seems that Mr. Nutt teaches by example! He doesn’t just tell people what they should know; it’s all through demonstration. Dancing, ballet, hunting, playing while blindfolded. 

He’s doing all this while being appreciated. Granted, we still get lines like this:

‘Really. Really,” said Ridcully, as though filing this away and trying not to think How many of them were alive before you murdered them?

Like I said on video, I’ve kinda given up on figuring this out because I feel like I’m close, but not close enough yet. What’s important to me, though, is seeing this transformation happen. Even if other characters in-the-know are wary around Mr. Nutt, their perception of him is changing, and the text makes that very clear. From Glenda to Ridcully to Trev, each of these people don’t see Mr. Nutt the same way they did at the start of the novel.

So, all that being said: I am nervous that something is about to happen at the banquet. I couldn’t figure out how Mr. Nutt is going to light the chandelier, and I don’t know if that’s going to cause some big moment. Or maybe it’s the display that Mr. Nutt has prepared of the team? SOMETHING IS GOING TO GO WRONG, I AM REAL WORRIED.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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