The L-Space Web: Analysis

Terry Pratchett, the Watch and the Blurring of Genre

by Simon Dannell

One of the most successful writers of modern times is Terry Pratchett, his Discworld series is famous and he has a huge following across the globe. The series is onto its 30th book and counting. Along with this Pratchett has written many other stories and books in connection and separate to Discworld. His stories have been adapted into plays, television and have been translated into many different languages to be read across the world. Despite all of his success there has been very little critical analysis of his work. It is not on the literary cannon and therefore not considered as literature worthy of study. His work is considered in this way for a number of reasons. Firstly it is his style of writing; it is quite straightforward and relatively easy to understand. Also he is a humorous writer, which immediately means that he will be taken less seriously as other writers. Secondly, the genre that he is writing in is not considered to be high culture. Fantasy books are more often than not, considered to be nothing more than pure escapism with no literary merit.

'The Fantastic has constantly been dismissed by critics as being an embrace of madness, irrationality, or barbarism and it has been opposed to the humane and more civilized practices of 'realistic' literature.'[1]

However this thesis will not only argue that fantasy literature should be considered a worthy form of literature, but Pratchett's books go beyond fantasy and can be read in a number of other different ways.

Pratchett himself says:

'I now know that almost all fiction is, at some level, fantasy. What Agatha Christie wrote was fantasy. What Tom Clancy writes is fantasy. What Jilly Cooper writes is fantasy--at least, I hope for her sake it is. But what people generally have in mind when they hear the word fantasy is swords, talking animals, vampires, rockets (science fiction is fantasy with bolts on), and around the edges it can indeed be pretty silly. Yet fantasy also speculates about the future, rewrites the past and reconsiders the present. It plays games with the universe.' [2]

This study will be concentrating on the Guards series of books, firstly because they give a good representation of Pratchett's style and technique he uses in the Discworld novels and also because they deal with a specific set of characters. The books this study will be focusing on will be 'Guards, Guards', 'Men at Arms', 'Feet of Clay' 'Jingo' and 'The Fifth Elephant'. The books chart the rise from the gutter of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, led by the alcoholic Captain Vimes, after the arrival of Carrot Ironfounderson, a 6foot tall man who thinks he is a dwarf. In the first novel 'Guards, Guards', the Watch consists of just four men, to police a city of one million people. So for the most part they just stand round and try to keep out of trouble. But as the series progresses it grows in size and becomes more effective, this mirrors the progress of Captain Vimes who is continually promoted through out the series.

When studying Terry Pratchett the most obvious route to explore is his use of the fantasy genre. Tzugtan Todorov in his book the 'The Fantastic - A Structualist Approach to a Literary Genre' states that it is important to identify fantasy as a genre as it helps when studying a text. Todorov made one of the first studies into the fantastic in this book and comes up with a number of criteria that a novel should possess in order for it to be classified as a fantasy novel. Firstly he states that '(fantasy) is the moment one feels, when confronted with the unfamiliar, is it real or is it imagined?'[3] However this aspect of fantasy is not seen within the Discworld novels, in fact in 'Guards, Guards' there is a dedication stating exactly what Pratchett is intending to do with the novel.

'They may be called the Palace Guard, the City Guard, are the patrol. ... their purpose in any work of heroic fantasy is identical: it is about Chapter Three... to rush into the room, attack the hero one at a time, and be slaughtered. No-one ever asks them if the wanted to.

This book is dedicated to those fine men'[4]

The story then begins immediately with the description of sleeping dragons, although this is a typical fantasy convention, the way in which they are described is not. The tone of the language is conversational 'the word we're looking for' also the narrator is not omniscient 'Presumably, somewhere, there's a key' suggesting that although it is all seeing it is not all knowing. Rosemary Jackson explains that this type of writing is typical of fantastic narratives.

'They pull the reader from the apparent familiarity and security of the known and everyday world into something more strange the narrator is no clearer than the protagonist about what is going on' [5]

This is continued in the other books in the series, in 'The Fifth Elephant for example, begins with the recounting of the legends of how the Disc World was formed, although the narrator is aware of the stories, it does not offer any explanations as to whether they are true or false, but merely states that some believe them. The events that Pratchett deals with are also not going to be if not unfamiliar, then unsurprising to the reader, because it is assumed that the reader will have some prior knowledge of the Discworld having read previous books about it. For example, 'Guards, Guards' is the first book to contain a dragon, but many of the characters we see in the story are not surprised to know they exist, in fact the main plot of the story is a group of men trying to summon one. The main feeling of uncertainty that a reader will see in the novels is that many of their previous conceptions of the type characters they encounter are wrong. Although the majority of beings that we would associate with fantasy literature are present, e.g. trolls, dwarfs, werewolves and vampires are present; Pratchett implies that they have been unfairly represented. A good example of this is a group of Vampires who have renounced blood.

'"One bite would be one too many?' said Vimes. He recognized the mangled mantra. 'You're a ... a teetotaller?"'[6]

Vimes is the character that would most represent a reader's view point, and his distrust of Vampires is therefore unsurprising. However in this analogy, Pratchett is showing us that their dependence on blood is not unlike Vimes' dependence on alcohol that we see in the earlier books in the series. A further example of this is the character of Angua. She is a werewolf who joins the watch but cant admit it being one, as she is afraid of what people will think. Even Carrot, the most liberal character, says 'But... undead...I just wish they'd go back to where they came from, that's all.' Not all the fantastic creatures that we meet in the series are like this, in Fifth Elephant, the Werewolves are cruel and hunt humans for sport. But the fact remains; the majority of unpleasant characters in the books are not in fact these creatures, but are human. By doing this Pratchett is adding another area of uncertainty. The established fantasy convention is that the Humans are the good characters, whilst the fantastic characters are the bad. This is seen in many famous fantasy stories from Lord of the Rings to a modern day tale such as the Aliens films. Pratchett is subverting the traditional conceptions of fantasy literature whilst at the same time retaining all the elements that make the story fantastic.

Todorov explains that fantasy can be described as a 'beautiful intrusion of mystery into the context of real life.' In the watch series Pratchett has taken this idea and adapted it for the stories. The 'real life' in this case is the everyday lives of the guardsmen and the people in the city of Ankh-Morpork. He goes to a great length to describe the city and make it as real as possible. It is not described in fantastical hyperbolic terms, but in more pragmatic and realist adjectives, in order to create that the impression the city is just another functional place not unlike one that we would find here. 'Ankh-Morpork, oldest and greatest and grubbiest of cities.' (The reader learns later on in the series that by greatest, Pratchett does in fact mean largest.) The city is recognisable in a number of other ways. The Shades is a representation of the more run down and violent area that is found in any city.

'"Sweetheart Lane's not on the way home." Slurred Nobby "We wouldn't wanta go down Sweetheart Lane, its in the Shades. Catch us goin' down Sweetheart Lane--"'[7]

Whilst its buildings and inhabitants are just like you would find anywhere. This all gives the impression that the 'real life' is not that of the reader, but that of the character. The mystery element of fantasy is related in a variety of different ways. In the Watch series the reader will be confronted with traditional forms of 'beautiful mystery' such as the Dragon in 'Guards, Guards' and the Golems in 'Feet of Clay'. But whilst this mysterious to the reader, it is not to the characters. The encounter between the Golem and the factory owner in 'Feet of Clay' illustrates this point.

'"Well? What do you want at this time of night?"

The golem handed him a slate, on which was written:


Of course, golems couldn't speak could they?'[8]

Pratchett introduces the mystery from the type of characters that he uses. In the case of the Watch books, the characters are policemen so the mystery comes from the crime: the who, where, why and how. As is the case in fantasy writing, he keeps the reader in suspense until the end of the story, to find out how the hero will 'save the day', or in this case solve the crime. In a sense, Vimes' quest is for justice rather than glory. The idea of a quest and mystery are inextricably linked in fantasy novels. The characters and their struggle to come to terms with the challenge that faces them bring about the mystery. One man succeeding against the odds. Pratchett recognises this type of fantasy narrative in his books and even explains how it occurs. On the Discworld this is known as narrativum. Narrativum is when something happens because it is supposed to. The Watch realise this when talking about how to kill the dragon.

'"I mean, it's a good job we've got a last desperate million-to-one chance to rely on, or we'd really be in trouble!"' [9]

As a genre it is argued that fantasy literature's job is to cast aside the world of logic and order and instead create a place where emotion and imagination can rule. T.E Apter study on the Fantasy writer Vladimir Nabokov: 'Nabokov uses fantasy to emphasis the fragmentation of normal perception, to deny the sense of order, to insist that logic and order are themselves fantasies.'[10]

When applying this theory to Pratchett things become problematic. Whilst a great many things in his books can be seen as a move away from logic and order (such as the very Discworld itself). There are many aspects that are logical. This is the main problem that is faced when trying to directly classify Pratchett as a fantasy writer. The very nature of Vimes, the main protagonist is of that of a very logical man. The twist that Pratchett brings to his books is of an illogical place, filled with illogical beings, all being very logical! Ann Swiften in her book 'In Defence of Fantasy' sums up this point.

'What may at first sight seem to be a paradox lies in fact at the heart of fantasy: that is, that to create an imaginative and imaginary world it is necessary to observe faithfully the rules of logic and inner consistency which, although they may differ from those operating in our own world, must nevertheless be as true to themselves as their parallel operations are in the normal world.'[11]

Even the characters that appear to driven by madness by have some logic behind their thinking. Edward d'Eath in 'Men at Arms' is driven to commit murder in the notion that he will be doing the city a great favour by installing the rightful king on the throne. (The clue to the nature of the characters is often in their names.) However when he tries to get the other noblemen on his side, they tell him that they are happy with the way things are: "does Ankh-Morpork, at this point in time, require a king?" Despite this he is driven onwards confident in the notion that he is doing the right thing. He is methodical in his research and planning and does not give the impression he is impulsive and a slave to his emotions. The pragmatism shown by the characters is also represented in the city in which they live. Ankh-Morpork is by its nature a city that has adapted to the times. The current ruler, the Patrician, Havelock Vetinari, fits in with this theme. He has moulded the city so that it regulates itself and he does not have to get involved with the everyday running of it. He keeps his power not by being a desirable ruler, but by being a slightly better option than anyone else.

The Patrician in the Watch series is an interesting character to look at in terms of genre. In terms of traditional fantasy he does not seem to fit into a niche. The closest category that he fits into is that of a supernatural presence. He offers some guidance to Vimes as the series progresses, but does not get actively involved in any of the stories until 'Jingo'. Instead he seems to toy with Vimes and continually push him and challenge him. In Feet of Clay, Vetinari has already figured out how he was being poisoned but still lets Vimes carry on his investigation.

'"I couldn't let our gallant policeman know I'd worked it out for myself, could I? Not when he was making such an effort, and having so much fun being ... well, being Vimes'". [12]

It can be argued that Vetinari takes this approach, because fantasy writing is about the self-discovery, the journey is not always physical, but mental as well. What he is doing is allowing Vimes to develop his character unmolested.

'In its broadest sense, fantastic literature has always been concerned with the revealing and exploring the interrelations of the 'I' and the 'not-I', of self and other.' [13]

Jingo is a good example of the exploration of the 'self and other' theme. It appears in numerous different guises through-out the story. The main plot of the novel is an impending war between Ankh-Morpork and Klatch. We see the 'other' from the citizens as they become increasing racist and bigoted against Klatchians who live in the city.

'"I was just wondering about the meaning of a word shouted at me as we were on our way down here... I believe it was... towelhead."'[14]

Citizens that have lived peacefully in the city are suddenly thrust into an, 'us or them' situation and a sense of collective identity is forged rather than an individual one. The journey that Vimes takes in this book is more of a discovery of the 'I'. He is not comfortable with his position of power and status at the beginning of the book, as he has a rigid viewpoint on the social classes. However he soon realises that he is able to use his new social position to aid him in his quest to fight crime. In Jingo, Vimes remarks that he can see no bigger crime than war, but he is unable to do anything about it. This is until he realises that as a knight he is able to form his own army, which he does (although it consist entirely of watchmen) and he heads off to fight the crime that way. At the start he is only concentrating on the relatively small crime of the attempt on the Klatchian Prince's life, but he soon realises that with his new position, he has additional responsibilities and must see the bigger picture or the bigger crime. Jingo does also offer on other exploration of the self, in the form of the character Nobby. Due to the nature of the character, his journey of sexual exploration is treated in a light hearted way but nevertheless he is still exploring the 'I'. Pratchett also allows Nobby to explore the 'other' as well, by having him come to believe he is a woman, thus allowing him to see things from a female perspective. "Yessir! Doing the dirty work as per the woman's role in life sir"

Todorov's third criterion for a fantastic novel is that it should reject allegorical and poetic interpretation. In a sense he is saying that there is no hidden agenda behind what is written and it just literature for literatures sake. However this is clearly not the case for Pratchett. Ann Swiften clearly disagrees with Todorov:

'Fantasy, being of its very nature a form of multivalent writing, naturally makes considerable use of allegory and symbolism.'[15]

In his books Pratchett is clearly making a critique of modern culture through out his stories, Men at Arms for example is a look at guns and how they kill. Pratchett says;

'I had to say guns kill, that's what happens. That's the thing about guns, that's what they're there for.' [16]

On top of the three established criteria that Todorov puts down to define the genre of fantasy, he also states that there has to be an elements of fear and terror in the story. In Pratchett's work this element is quite easy to miss. Due to the nature of his writing, it is easy to assume that because of the large element of humour in his books that Pratchett has neglected this area of fantasy writing. However although it is true that the reader is more often than not laughing at the situation this is not generally true of the characters. The million to one shot in Guards, Guards is a good case of this. Pratchett does not however let the light-hearted approach get in the way of the plot. The issue of death is repeatedly dealt with, however it is not seen as a definite ending, Cuddy in 'Men at Arms' for example. Fear and terror are often approached in other ways too: the racial fear in Jingo, Angua's fear of losing Carrot and Vimes' fear of betraying his roots when he marries Sybil. It is not just the physical peril that Pratchett deals with, but also the mental fear as well.

When defining Fantasy as a genre it is very easy to encounter problems. Many of the critics who have written on the subject disagree on the fundamental principles. However from this it is possible that the fantasy genre can be broken down into subcategories. Swiften talks of Modern Fantasy, which seems to fit in with the style of Pratchett's writing much more consistently than that of Todorov's traditional view. According to Swiften, modern fantasy, made famous by Tolkien can be traced back to as early as 1910 and Walter de la Mare's 'The Three Mulla-Mulgars'. She talks of how modern fantasy is much more to do with discovering morality and defying the hierarchies, which is very much connected to the Watch series and to Vimes in particular. As mentioned earlier Vimes is very critical of the upper classes in fact, his ancestor was the man beheaded the last King after an uprising (Old Stone face is a direct reference to Oliver Cromwell). It is often said of Vimes that he is the champion of the underdog. This can be seen in Jingo when he is conversation with Lord Rust and is openly mocking him before losing his temper "you inbred streak of piss". The morality issue is best shown with Carrot. He has a very definite view of right and wrong and this seems to radiate off him onto those around him. In a sense other characters in the book seem to become more moral if they are around him.

'It was a kind of magic. He told people they were good chaps, and they knew they weren't good chaps, but the way he told them made them believe it for a while.'[17]

This seems to work on all of the characters apart from the most evil ones, but this is where Pratchett brings in the morality of good versus evil, (although he makes it clear it is not always as simple as that).

Swiften cites Tolkien as one of the major influences of modern fantasy, so it is appropriate to look at his views on the genre. He states that:

'Most good "fairy-stories" (fantasy stories) are about the adventures of men in the perilous realm or upon its shadowy marches' [18]

He goes on to say that fantasy should recognise the real world but not be a slave to it. Once again we are able to translate this view into Pratchett's Watch series. It is important not forget that the stories we encounter in the books are adventure based, this is fundamental point is easily forgotten with in-depth analysis. However when looked at in terms of modern fantasy, we must be aware of allegorical interpretations. The perilous realm that Tolkien talks of is not just the one seen in the story. When he speaks of not being a slave to the real world, Tolkien is implying that Fantasy must recognize the fact that the real world and its problems are there, but do this within the confines of something different and interesting. If this does not happen then the story will be a realist rather than a fantasy. Although Pratchett brings in many different themes from the real world he still does not forget that he is writing a fantasy novel.

'The thieves have taken a Watchman hostage, a big no-no. Coppers the world over find their normally sunny dispositions cloud over when faced with this sort of thing, and with people aiming things at them, and perpetrators later tend to fall down cell stairs a lot.'[19]

This explanation of a scene in Fifth Elephant illustrates this well, as he is including a real world reaction into a situation that could only occur on the Discworld i.e. taking a Werewolf hostage.

A further reading of Pratchett is that he is not a writer of fantasy at all but goes beyond into the realm of the marvellous. C.N. Manlove in his essay On the Nature of Fantasy states that the fantastic as genre cannot exist. He cites Todorov's work, who states that

'The fantastic... lasts only as long as a certain hesitation to decide whether or not what they perceive derives from "reality"...If he (the character or reader) decides the laws of reality remain intact and permit an explanation... we say the work belongs to another genre: the uncanny. If, on the contrary, he decides that new laws of nature must be entertained to account for the phenomena, we enter the genre of the marvellous.' [20]

When reading Pratchett's work it is obvious that the reader has to follow the story not according to the rules of our world but to that of the Discworld. We are expected to believe in fanciful creatures and magic as if it was the norm. The Librarian at the Unseen University for example is an ape, but this only passes for minor comment. All elements are there to imply that these books are from the marvellous genre. However there is a problem with this classification. Although there is a suspension of belief in normal laws of nature from the reader, there is no such thing from the characters in the book. As mentioned earlier the characters are rarely surprised by the events in the stories, this implies that the stories are better classified as uncanny. Vimes in particular demonstrates this point of view. Whenever there is an unlikely event, he looks for a way to solve it and provide an explanation that way. In Guards, Guards for instance:

'...he pointed out exhibit A, to whit...

"Footprints" he said "Which is stretching it a bit, sir. They're more like what you'd call claws. One might go so far as to say talons.' [21]

When further investigated it becomes even more difficult to fit these books into either the uncanny or the marvellous genre.

The characters themselves offer many difficulties. Whilst many are very distant and unfamiliar, (Vetinari), some are disturbingly accurate portrayals of people and personalities that we come into contact with everyday. The characteristics of Fred Colon as a lazy, bigoted middle aged male are often seen in the modern world.

The settings once again offer this same problem. The city of Ankh-Morpork is recognisable as a city but the Dwarf mines in Fifth Elephant however, are completly unfamiliar to us.

The language used is the same. It is a mixture of everyday speech mixed with 'in-language' that is exclusive to the Discworld.

'Now it was night again and beyond the dread portal:

"Are the Wheels of Torment duly spun?" said the Supreme Grand Master.

The Elucidated Brethren shuffled around their circle.

"Brother Watchtower?" said the Supreme Grand Master

"Not my job to spin the Wheels of Torment" muttered Brother Watchtower' [22]

This apparent jumping between genres is what makes Terry Pratchett so hard to pin down just as a writer of fantasy. His work switches between traditional fantasy, modern fantasy, marvellous and the uncanny with ease. With such a wide range of interpretations within the fantasy genre it is important to branch out and see if Pratchett goes beyond into other genres.

The hard boiled detective novel is one that has many similarities to a Watch story. Although this type of story is seen as a relatively modern genre, literature and crime have roots that date much further back. Ian Bell in his book, 'Literature and Crime in Augustan England' observes that many literary writers and critics were very critical of the police.

'A central perception of Augustan satire was; the idea that the law regularly fails in its duty to identify and apprehend the worst criminals of the day, who remain at large in their positions of power and influence.' [23]

This is a theme that we see throughout the series, especially at the start of the first book, 'Guards, Guards'. Because the Watch has allowed itself to become so diminished over recent times, they are unable to pursue any type of criminals, and are more often than not on the receiving end of the crime.

'It had been a bad day for the Watch. There had been the funeral of Herbert Gaskin for one thing.' [24]

The theme about the worst criminals being left in their positions of power is also one that is quite prevalent. The Guild system that operates in the city has made most crime legal. Vetinari says that 'If you must have crime, it might as well be organised crime.' As the guilds regulate themselves, this leaves the watch very little to do. Beggars, assassins and even thieves have their own guilds, which in relation to the quote imply that, the biggest criminals are the guild leaders. This is certainly the position that Vimes adopts, but he realises that he is unable to do anything about it. In time he just accepts it, as do all the other characters that have trouble with it. Carrot for example, laughs in 'Men at Arms' about how he once tried to arrest the President of the Thieves Guild for stealing.

Ian Bell goes on to talk about how:

'the law was enfeebled by preferring to content itself with the arraigning of relatively insignificant and petty offenders, whose excessive punishment severed no useful function.'[25]

In 'Guards, Guards' we defiantly get the impression that this is the only function left for the guards. They are content to let a fight take its course and then as Nobby does, 'put the boot in a bit'. Bell proposes the idea that:

'One informative way of investigating the priories, the internal tensions and the hidden politics of any culture is to look at its grammar of punishment, to atomise what offences it recognises and punishment, how it punishes them, the ways it attempts to justify punishment, the legitimising philosophies with which it surrounds punishment, and the complex rules governing who is allowed to punish who.'[26]

If we use this format of analysis, we should be able to get a better view of the type of society that Pratchett was trying to create.

The offences that Ankh-Morpork would recognise obviously differ from the ones that we would find in an Augustan city.

'"It's Carrot sir. He's arrested the dragon"'[27]

However we are still able to get a feeling of the society and then in turn are able to try to relate that to our own society. The type of crimes that we see occurring, especially as the series progresses, are all ones that we see in modern day society, such as theft and murder. However due to the nature of the stories the way in which the punishment of the crime is dealt with is often unclear. This is because the criminals are usually killed or die before they can be apprehended. Pratchett does not go into details of those that the Watch do catch, although it is hinted that it much more preferable than being caught by the Guilds. 'If they catch an unlicensed thief, the Thieves Guild start at hanging and work upwards.' Therefore the attempts to justify the punishment are also unclear in the earlier books. The characters of Vimes and Carrot offer the best analysis when looking for the justification of punishment. Carrot it seems, has unbending sense of right and wrong, with no grey area in the middle. He follows the rules of policing to the letter, probably owing to his seeming imperviousness to be corrupted by the city and its citizens. Vimes on the other hand is well aware of what the city can do but by his own admission is a copper through and through. He feels he has a duty to his badge to enact the letter of the law where ever he can. Terry Pratchett noted the following about Vimes

'Vimes is fundamentally a person. He fears he may be a bad person because he knows what he thinks rather than just what he says and does. He chokes off those little reactions and impulses, but he knows what they are. So he tries to act like a good person, often in situations where the map is unclear.' [28]

In this respect he is much more in the mould of detectives that we find in more modern fiction. Vimes is very similar in many respects to the character of Sherlock Holmes. He is never happier than when he has a mystery or crime to solve. We see that even after he has been promoted beyond Captain to Commander, he still insists on taking a 'hands on' approach to policing, despite the fact that this is not his job. He insists that this is not because he likes it; it is just that it is what he has always done. His alcoholism at the start can be explained in the same way as Holmes drug abuse.

'Deprived of the opportunity to detect, Holmes resorts to obsessive behaviour, taking cocaine as a substitute.'[29]

The detectives are defined by their habits not by their relationships. For example if they are a hard drinker then particular attention should be paid to what they drink. Vimes' choice is called Bearhuggers whiskey. This shows that Vimes is every bit the modern detective.

Todorov, who we saw earlier, has also done a study of detective fiction. He states that there are two types of story;

  1. Whodunit - and is finished before the story begins (looks back)
  2. Investigation - this is the story the novel relates (forward)[30]

All five of the watch books fit into either one of these categories.

The study in McCracken's book also states that the detectives identity cannot be disentangled from the world in which he/she lives. This is especially true of Vimes. To him the city is a way of life, the only one he knows. In the 'Fifth Elephant' and 'Jingo' the bulk of the story takes place outside of Ankh-Morpork and we can see how uncomfortable it makes him.

'Maybe there were... country eyes. Forest eyes. Vimes saw trees, mounds, snow and not much else.' [31]

When he is back in the city he is able to tell where he is just by the feel of the cobbles on his feet.

The detective code is also found in one form or another in modern detective fiction.

'Most versions of the "code" share these common points. The detective/private eye is 1) dedicated to the client, 2) economical, if not thrifty, in his expenses and personal habits, 3) loyal to his profession, 4) cooperative, to some degree, with the police, 5) concerned with self-survival, and 6) unwilling to be duped by anyone.' [32]

When this code is deconstructed it adds further weight to the argument as a modern detective. His client can be seen as the city and residents of Ankh-Morpork. Throughout the books we get an unerring sense of loyalty to the city and also to the duty he has of being its most senior policeman. He is very economical with his money. Even when he marries Lady Sybil and becomes the richest man in the city, he still insists on having the cheapest boots (although this may be a protest at his elevation to the upper classes). We also learn in 'Men at Arms' that Vimes, when he was still a Captain, donated half his wages to the widows and children of policeman who had been killed in the line of duty. This links to point three about the loyalty to the profession. He is so dedicated to his job, that it takes precedent over all other things in his life. His wife for example complains that he is rarely home for meals; he spends all his time in the police station (the Yard as it is pointedly known as). In 'Fifth Elephant' he is sent as a diplomat to negotiate on behalf on the city, but ends up investigating a crime. Point number four does not really apply to Vimes as he is part of the police; however number five is very prevalent through out the series. It is especially noticeable in 'Guards, Guards' when him along with Nobby and Colon are very reluctant to put themselves in harms way. As Vimes' character progresses he seems to be more willing to do this, although he never does so without exhausting all the other options first. Point six is aptly demonstrated in 'Jingo' when he thinks somebody is trying to fool the watch. He goes out of his way to get to the bottom of the crime, even chasing the suspect to another continent.

Many of the characteristics that we see with Vimes can be traced back to detective films. The first time that we meet him, he is a down and out, a sceptic and a drunk. There is even an equivalent of a neon sign.

'Overhead the lighted letters fizzed and flicked in the rain.'[33]

The weather adds to this image, with him standing soaking wet in the rain, cursing the city. Pratchett describes Vimes as 'dogged' rather than intelligent, and it is this characteristic that sets him apart from characters like Sherlock Holmes. Instead he reminds us more of an American Cop as opposed to a British Detective. Pratchett cites Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry as a major influence on his writing of Vimes. 'Men at Arms' shows this comparison quite clearly when Vimes is chasing Dr Cruses, gun in hand.

"Who are you, pray?"

"The law you sons of bitches".[34]

He even shoots a lock off a door and does a parody of the 'are you feelin lucky' speech.

'"Now I know what your thinking," said Vimes (holding a dragon) "You're wondering, after all this excitement, has it got enough flame left? And y'know, I aint so sure myself...'" [35]

The progression of the Watch can be seen in terms of the post-modern condition. McCracken in his book says

'One version of the post modern condition sees it as a more pluralist world, where feminist, gay, and non-white voices are now heard'.'[36]

Pratchett addresses these issues in his books, but uses the different species to represent the increasing diversity in the city.

In any detective fiction the story must be constructed in relation to the law. We can definitely see this in the watch series, however there are some additional considerations. For example the issues that we encounter in the stories are often just black and white. The cases have clear moral standpoints i.e. murder is wrong and the murderer must be brought to justice. It is important to remember that the traditional detective novel often clouds these issues. A detective must be both logical and rational and whilst Vimes is both these, the situations in which he encounters them are not. The conventions that we find in detective literature differ greatly from those we find in Pratchett's Discworld. False trails for example, are found a great deal in detective novels, and whilst they are found in the watch series, they have a werewolf on hand to separate the correct one. Whilst the watch clearly incorporates detective fiction into its stories, there are obviously other elements that make up the whole.

It is also possible to read the books just as a critique on modern policing. In 'Guards, Guards' it is hugely understaffed. In 'Men at Arms' there are issues of gun crime, and the representation of ethnic minorities within the police. 'Feet of Clay' carries on this theme and also brings in the issue of sexism. Whilst 'Jingo' gives rise to issues of racial hatred, both in and out of the police. There are also recurring themes throughout the books, such as the huge piles of paper work that they need to get through. Also there are other references such as the establishment of a forensics department and a plain clothes department. Although it is important to note these references it is clear that they are not the driving force behind the stories.

There are many other minor themes that Pratchett includes in his work. A great many of his books he broaches the subject of religion. 'Small Gods' and 'Carpe Jugulum' are two of the most obvious examples of this. In the watch series he does address these issues although not to the same extent. Pratchett takes the unusual approach of both parodying and arguing against the existence of religion, whilst at the same time ensuring that the Gods to which people pray are very real. To ensure that religion is not at the forefront of the watch novels, Pratchett spends very little time on it, and any time he does spend is used by the minor characters. Constable Visit, who first appears in 'Feet of Clay', is very similar to a modern day perception of a Jehovah's Witness. He spends all of his free time handing out leaflets of his religion and tries to get into a religious discussions and debates at every opportunity. The Golem Dorfl is also used to carry the religious angle. Because he is not made out of flesh and blood, he is considered an abomination. Pratchett pointedly makes Dorfl an atheist, as he is a very lateral thinker and can't see how any God would stand up to rational debate. The confrontation with the priests seems to demonstrate an anti-religious feeling. Dorfl exposes the weakness of the priest's religious arguments, but then he is then struck but lighting from one of the gods.

'"I Don't Call That Much Of An Argument," said Dorfl calmly, from somewhere in the clouds of smoke.' [37]

It seems that Pratchett is taking a neutral view on the religious aspect in these books and that it is merely an aside from the main story and themes.

As I have mentioned previously the issue of social status is one the frequently arises in the Watch series. The focus of this based primarily around Vimes and his relationship with the other city leaders. He is very hostile towards them and their attitudes. This could be interpreted as an extension of the authors own hostility towards the class system. The Monarchy is another institution that comes under scrutiny in the books. The previous kings and queens are all described in negative terms. Even Carrot, who is believed to be heir to the throne, is not seen by Vimes as a good candidate. He just believes he would be corrupted by the people around him. [38] The anti-establishment feeling of the books could also be linked to the popular culture debate. At the start of this thesis I mentioned the fact that despite his success Pratchett's work is not taken as a serious form of literature. This is because he seen as a populist writer and not of serious literature. This is in part due to the genre he writes in and the humour but it also goes beyond into the high low culture debate.

'Popular culture, the everyday experience of a late twentieth century involves mobile orders of sense, taste and desire.'[39]

What Pratchett is being acuused of by not being accepted as a high culture writer is producing a popular but ultimately disposable, and worthless form of literature. A definition of high culture is:

'Official culture, persevered in art galleries, museums and university courses, demands cultivated tastes and a formally imparted knowledge. It demands moments of attention that are separated from the run of daily life.'[40]

This definition however allows Pratchett to be classed as 'high culture'. Whilst it is true that anyone can just pick up a Pratchett book and read it, to get the most out of it, it is a good idea to have some idea of the style he uses. This knowledge can only be gained by reading other books by the author, but the more one reads by him, the more you are able to takeaway from the experience. For example there are many 'in jokes' that can be seen in many of his stories, but if the reader did not know this then their experience would not be as complete as it could have been. Cultivated tastes are another area of Pratchett's work that gets over looked. He has many references to Latin in his work, and a couple of his earlier books, 'Wyrde Sisters' and 'Lords and Ladies' owe their basic plots to Shakespeare plays. Apart from this there are many dedicated fans of the Discworld series who do not just read the books and put them down. There are many websites dedicated to Pratchett, where fans of the series are able to debate or discuss any aspect of stories.

Once again it is difficult to place Pratchett in one niche. Any one of his books can be picked up, read and put down again without any knowledge or special education required. However someone with a higher level of education can take away a totally different experience.

It is clear to see that Terry Pratchett is a very difficult man to pin down in terms of genre. His books are clearly very close to fantasy writing, but as we have seen the fantasy genre itself is difficult to define. Fantasy is often described as just escapism and therefore not really relevant to the real world. It is apparent that many critics feel this way, as no fantasy writer has been nominated let alone win one of the major serious literature prizes. In America the Pulitzer Prize for fiction is awarded:

'For distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life'[41]

It does not even hint that a novel that deals with life that reflects America would be considered. We have seen that Pratchett is very clever in his references to the real world. He uses a variety of vehicles that relay the message that he is saying in the fantasy world to our one. The characters, the settings and the plot must all be examined to find meanings that many critics dismiss as not being there at all. It also appears that his commercial success has got in the way of him being taken seriously by the literary elite. Pratchett is now Britain's best selling living author. But it seems that this counts against him as his work is viewed as popular culture rather than high culture. Despite this Pratchett has continued to put fantasy literature on the map. Last year fantasy and science fiction accounted for nearly 10% of all books sold in the UK, and this is largely down to him.

Not only has shown himself to be an excellent fantasy writer, Pratchett has been able to cross over into other genres as well. The detective fiction that we see in the watch series is just one example of this. He is able to be satirical, humorous and dark at the same time, and has even crossed over in to children's literature.

He deals with a huge range of issues in his novel, not only the ones seen here in the Watch series, such as acceptance, justice etc but also ones from the other Discworld novels. Death is a particularly important aspect of the Discworld. It is addressed not only in the dying sense but also in the personification of Death. Although he is not central to the watch stories, he does make appearances throughout the book whenever there is a death, implying that death does indeed come to us all.

I have found a great deal of discussion has been merited on just one set of characters with just five books. The Discworld spans over 30 books at present and he is turning out a new one with new characters every year. It is due to these reasons, coupled with his general appeal that I felt Terry Pratchett was worthy of further study.


Primary Texts

Pratchett. T, (1990), Guards, Guards, Transworld Publishers, London

Pratchett. T, (1993), Men at Arms, Transworld Publishers, London

Pratchett. T, (1996), Feet of Clay, Transworld Publishers, London

Pratchett. T, (1997), Jingo, Transworld Publishers, London

Pratchett. T, (1999), Fifth Elephant, Transworld Publishers, London

Secondary Texts

Apter. T, (1982) Fantasy Literature, The Macmillan Press LTD, London

Bell. I, (1991) Literature and Crime in Augustan England, Routledge, London

Binyon. T, (1989) The Detective in Fiction, Oxford University Press, Oxford

Dove. G, (1997) The Reader and the Detective Story, Bowling Green State University Popular Press, Bowling Green

Hume. K, (1984) Fantasy and Mimesis, Methuen, London

Kelly. T, (1997) Reinventing Allegory, University Press, Cambridge

Manlove. C, (1975) Modern Fantasy, University Press, Cambridge

Mulhern. F, (2000) Culture/Metaculture, Routledge, London

Jackson. R, (1981) Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion, Methuen, London

Rabkin. E, (1976) The Fantastic in Literature, Princeton University Press, Surrey

McCracken. S, (1998) 'Pulp, Reading Popular Fiction' Manchester University Press, Manchester

Schlodin. R (1982) The Aesthetics of Fantasy Literature and Art, John Spiers, Sussex

Swiften. A, (1984) In Defence of Fantasy, Routledge, London

Tzugtan. T, (1990) The Fantastic - A Structualist Approach to a Literary Genre, Cornell Paperbacks, London


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