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Presentation / Essay (Pre-University), 2000
4 Pages, Grade: 1 (A)
First of all: what is the Discworld?
The Discworld is - as the name might have hinted already - a flat planet, like a geological pizza. It offers sights far more impressive than found in universes built by Creators with less imagination and sense for humor.
The Disc is carried through space on the shoulders of four giant elephants who themselves perch upon the shell of the star turtle, Great A'Tuin. This turtle flaps onwards through endless space, pretty much minding his own business (or hers, according to another school of thought) and utterly unconcerned by all the endless nonsense happening on its back. While this seems to be a boring existence, Great A'Tuin would not agree to this, for of all the creatures in the universe, only A'Tuin actually knows where it is going.
Feet of Clay, the 19th novel in Terry Pratchett's long running Discworld series, is actually nearly a straight mystery. The book opens with a couple of deaths, Father Tubelcek, a priest who studies comparative religions, and Mr. Hopkinson, the curator of the Dwarf Bread Museum. On top of these crimes, it seems someone is trying to poison the Patrician.
Naturally, the Ankh-Morpork City Watch moves into action. Although originally only four men, the Watch is now much larger and includes Dwarves, Trolls and the occasional undead. They soon find clues that somehow link the mysterious murders with those occult creatures known as Golems. But they can't kill humans. The words in their heads won't let them. Or do they? Anyway, they may know something, but they've all started to commit suicide.
But eventually the business about the poisoning of the Patrician gets more pressing.
Apparently there is a movement within Ankh-Morporkian society that wishes to replace the Patrician with a monarch, especially now that he seems to be on the verge of dying. Although Pratchett constantly points out that Sir Samuel Vimes, the Commander of the Watch, doesn't like the Patrician, he shows that Vimes does respect the leader of Ankh-Morpork. Whatever the Patrician is, he is not a king, which may be the most important thing to Vimes, whose ancestor, "Old Stoneface" Vimes, killed the last king of Ankh-Morpork. Anti-monarchic sentiment is hereditary in Vimes's family.
As Pratchett has hinted in previous books, the rightful heir to the throne is Corporal Carrot, a member of Vimes's own City Watch. Although Carrot, a six and a half foot tall human raised as a dwarf, has shown no inclination to take the crown which many think should be his, the forces of history may be too strong for him to avoid his rightful position. Or, they may find a more willing and malleable candidate for the throne of Ankh-Morpork.
Feet of Clay moves reasonably well, providing the readers with several mysteries which can be solved with the clues provided. Pratchett's ability to weave clues, bizarre unnecessities and great jokes is brilliant, and hints he passes over early in the book come to play a role later in the book.
Some critics have made the comment that when Pratchett is "on", his books are fantastic, and when he is "off", his books are good. In Feet of Clay, Pratchett shows what it means when he is on. Although the book may not have quite as many laugh out loud moments as some of his earlier books, it has a good plot and story line, showing that Pratchett is a novelist as well as an humorist.
Sir Samuel Vimes:
Of all Pratchett's characters, Sir Samuel Vimes, the commander of the City Watch, is perhaps the most interesting one. He used to be a really heavy drinker but gave it up when he married Lady Sybil Ramkin and subsequently raised to the nobility of the city. Vimes is one of the most cynical characters in the whole Discworld series (outranked only by the patrician who uses his feared sarcasm like a weapon of terror). He is convinced that "everybody is guilty of something" and he therefore resembles the ideal policeman. He disagrees with Sherlock Holmes's famous dictum that when the impossible is removed, what remains, however improbable, must be true. Instead, he feels that what remains must answer to certain levels of probability.
It isn't always easy when you're different. Being six foot six and dwarfish (in fact he is a human that has been raised by dwarves; so you could say that he's psychologically dwarfish) is bound to leave its mark. Being the rightful heir to the throne of Ankh doesn't help either, even if you are quite happy with the job the Patrician is doing. But Carrot seems to get along quite well. There must be something about his personality so that everybody likes him. He seems to be the only man (dwarf) in the whole city who has actually read the Book of Law. And he strictly lives and acts according to it. Enter Carrot Ironfoundersson, determined to protect and to serve, to introduce honesty and efficiency to Ankh-Morpork and the Watch (whose original idea of crime prevention consisted in not being there when the crime happened; this attitude changed immediately after Carrot joined them) and above all, to come to terms with his rather ambiguous feelings towards the werewolf Angua.
Angua von Überwald:
Ankh-Morporkian low-life who described the Watch's first female recruit as a real fox were dead wrong. Or at least, undead wrong. Her obvious charms did attract a lot of wolf-whistles however... (She's a werewolf, mind you.). But she doesn't mind other people dreading her or making bad jokes about her because when you can turn into a beast with viciously sharp claws and fangs there are lots of things you don't mind. Her recent relationship with Carrot begins to cause trouble (as one should expect). A human and a werewolf?
The Patrician. Rather than suffering the autocratic, inflexible rule of a king, Ankh-Morpork allows itself to be ground under the genial heel of a dynasty of Patricians. They usually have been nothing more than kings except for the terminology. But Lord Vetinari is different. He practices the policy of "One Man - One Vote". He is the man - he's got the vote. He appears to have survived by being equally distrusted and disliked by all interest groups in the city but also by carefully not being as unpopular as every group is to all the others. But the most important thing is that he provides the one thing that people mostly seem to want: stability. He has only one minor fault: He has banned street theatre and hangs mime artists upside down in a scorpion pit opposite a sign that says "Learn The Words". But this might be considered as an excusable and possibly amusing character trait.
With the risk of sounding like a commercial, I'll have to say that with this one He's Done It Again. Once again, Pratchett has shown himself to be a master of the juxtaposed genres, writing what at first sight seems to be a mixture of a not so straight fantasy novel, and a parody of the standard police procedural, but which on further reading reveals itself to actually be an excellent example of the police procedural and "whodunnit" detective story, and besides being a book about the meaning of freedom and free will, and of course great fun anyway.
Readers who enjoy the detective stories, will be delighted with the way Pratchett appears to include every way of getting arsenic into a person that has ever been seen in books, on the screen and in history. It is also a Discworld novel, which means it's a mirror of our world, with all the imperfections and dumbnesses of the human condition shown in a revealing but always compassionate light.
And in the end I want to give you some quotes from the book (I'm sorry but the really funny ones can't go without the proper background).
"Today Is A Good Day For Someone Else To Die!"
The motto on Cmd. Vimes' desk - (T. Pratchett, Feet of Clay)
Rumor is information distilled so finely that it can filter through anything. It does not need doors and windows -- sometimes it does not need people. It can exist free and wild, running from ear to ear without ever touching lips.
(T. Pratchett, Feet of Clay)
You never ever volunteered. Not even if a sergeant stood there and said, "We need someone to drink alcohol, bottles of, and make love, passionate, to women, for the use of." There was *always* a snag. If a choir of angels asked for volunteers for Paradise to step forward, Nobby knew enough to take one smart pace to the rear.
The morale of Sgt. Nobby Nobbs - (T. Pratchett, Feet of Clay)
Slab: Jus' say "AarrghaarrghpleeassennononoUGH"
The Anti-Drugs-Campaign of Sgt. Detritus - (T. Pratchett, Feet of Clay)
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