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221WOSSNAME -- FEBRARY 2005 -- PART 4 OF 5

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  • JSCHAUM111@aol.com
    Feb 28, 2005
      WOSSNAME -- FEBRARY 2005 -- PART 4 OF 5

      12) SIMILARITIES: VIMES vs. PEEL: Part I

      How Terry Pratchett Created Vimes and The Watch
      -- Parallels with Sir Robert Peel and the Metropolitan
      Police Force

      by Lucy Smith

      The Creation of Vimes:

      In our first encounter with the character of Vimes,
      Pratchett portrays him as a stereotypical down and
      out copper, a drunken useless part of a law enforcement
      agency that is considered to be of no use to the city,
      which it is supposed to serve.

      This is in fact ironic as he is portrayed as loving the city
      still even though it seems to regard him as of no use.
      This is shown in his drunken ramblings on page 10 of
      "Guards Guards", "The city wasa, wasa, wasa, wosname.
      Thing. Woman...let you fall in thingy, love, with her, then
      kicked you inna, inna, thingy. Thingy, in your mouth.
      Tongue. Tonsils. Teeth. That's what it, she, did...
      Only thing you were sure of, you couldn't let her go.
      Because, because she was yours, all you had, even in
      her gutters...".

      This strategy of introducing the character immediately
      creates reader empathy with the character as it shows
      that this character does indeed have a softer side, even
      though it seems at the moment to be hidden under vast
      quantities of alcohol.

      The development of Vimes' character seems to progress
      slightly with the entrance of Carrot Ironfoundersson, technically
      a dwarf, who takes the laws of Ankh-Morpork somewhat too
      literally, arresting the head of the guild of thieves on his first day
      as a watch member. It is the introduction of this character that
      seems to bring out the real policeman in Vimes, the two seem
      initially to be almost complete opposites. Carrot, a naive new
      recruit trying to uphold what he sees as a "fine tradition" of watchmen.
      While Vimes is a disillusioned long time copper, who is just trying
      to get through the night without having to sober up too much.

      The contrast of these two characters make for much deeper reader
      engagement in the plot of the story, as Vimes' stereotypical character
      seems to develop on many levels. To coin a phrase from the author
      himself, "Vimes starts out as a typical noir copper (although they're
      usually private detectives): fighting the bottle, no real personal life,
      a basically good man who has got a bit tarnished over the years.".

      The evidence after that point seems to suggest that the introduction
      of new characters forces Vimes' character to sober up, and allow
      the good policing instincts underneath to shine through. Allowing
      the reader to relate to the man's personal struggle, and his heartfelt
      desire to be a good copper and put things right.

      After the adventures in the book "Guards Guards" the profile
      of the watch is raised and more people are willing to join.
      This elevates Vimes' personal status, against his will, and also
      the status of the watch as a functioning part of the city. Whereas
      before events in this book the guilds of the city were left to police
      themselves, now Vimes' watch are considered to be a neutral
      law enforcement agency, capable of policing the city and routing
      out any corruption they may find, including within various guilds.

      By the time we get to the book "The Fifth Elephant" Vimes'
      character has progressed a great deal. Although his social status
      is now that of a duke, and he appears to be being groomed for a
      more political role in the inter-country relations, his character is
      still portrayed as a cynical if somewhat more diplomatic policeman.
      The reader can still empathise with the man being somewhat
      attached to his social roots.

      It is in this story the reader is introduced in more detail to the
      side of Vimes' character that he refers to as "The Beast". This, quite
      simply, is the part that every one has inside them and that we all try
      to control. These are the raw, negative emotions that well up inside
      us all from time to time.

      "Make them stay wolves, said a little inner voice. The more time
      they spent on four legs the less bright they'd become. A deeper voice,
      ed and raw, from much, much further inside said, Kill 'em all!".

      The description of this "beast" is given in a first person narrative by
      Vimes himself. This narrative style outlines to the reader exactly
      how Vimes feels about this part of his personality, from a personal
      perspective. Pratchett also uses this technique to covey to the reader
      how Vimes uses his "beast" to his advantage when in dangerous
      situations. Yet he still fears what could happen if it took over and
      controlled him.

      Pratchett also shows Vimes' wife's view of his personality, and how
      it differs greatly from Vimes' own and the views of other characters.
      She perceives him as much gentler, yet she too ponders on his true
      capabilities if the part of him he refers to as the beast ever gets out.

      "Most of her would not have considered Sam Vimes guilty of murder,...
      But stories did get back to her...There'd been that bad business with
      that little girl and those men over at the Dolly sisters, and when Sam
      had broken into the men's lodging he found one of them had stolen one
      of her shoes, and she'd heard Detritus say that if he hadn't been there
      only Sam would have walked out of the room alive.".

      This device of bringing in other characters views of Vimes, and using
      stories to deepen his character, increases reader empathy to an even
      greater extent. The majority of readers will relate to this story of Vimes,
      and his desire to let the "beast" loose on these men. Therefore they feel
      that they have a greater understanding of his personality and how he thinks.

      The final instalment so far of the development of Vimes' character
      is seen in the book "Night Watch". This is where Pratchett uses the
      comparative tool of showing the reader Vimes, not only in his current
      stage of development, but also as young "wet behind the ears" new
      recruit thirty years in his past. This literary tool Pratchett uses of
      the two developmental stages of Vimes at a parallel to each other is
      extremely effective in increasing the reader empathy that has already
      been formed. This perspective of Vimes, before his lapse into alcoholism
      and disillusionment at the effectiveness of the watch as an institution,
      is seen from his own future self and told to the reader in the first person
      perspective. This style helps to illustrate the extent to which Pratchett
      has allowed Vimes' character to develop, and also explains to the reader
      how Vimes became the man he is.

      Vimes encounters his younger self and the reader hears his thoughts
      on how he perceives himself back then, "Gods, was I ever that skinny?
      He thought. Did I ever have that much Adam's apple? Did I really try
      to polish rust?". This extract illustrates how Vimes' memory of himself
      differs greatly from his real perception of himself, upon this initial
      encounter in his own past. This is something a reader can relate to,
      as they are able to identify with the concept that personal memories
      of past events can often be misleading of the actual event.

      Another example of the development of Vimes' character by Pratchett
      is apparent in Vimes' realisation that his policing instincts, as he
      perceives them in his older self, were indeed present in him when
      he was younger. Pratchett illustrates this to the reader in the
      following extract, "Do you recognise Ned? Said Sam...Only before
      you came he said he thought he remembered you from Pseudopolis...
      Can't say I recall him, Vimes said, with care....Well, Ned was
      probably shorter in those days, said Vimes while his thoughts
      shouted: shut up kid! But the kid was ... well, him. Niggling at
      little details. Tugging at things that didn't seem to fit right.
      Being a copper, in fact. Probably he ought to feel proud of his
      younger self, but he didn't." Pratchett uses this self-assessment,
      by Vimes, of his younger self to show the reader that Vimes'
      instincts as a copper were always there, and that he is a
      natural copper from the outset.

      This is the final instalment so far in the development of Vimes'
      character. Pratchett uses many different narrative tools and
      strategies, to great effect in the creation and development of
      Vimes. These devices all help to create greater reader empathy
      with Vimes, and help the reader gain greater understanding of how
      and why Pratchett chooses to develop Vimes' character in this way.
      This particular tool is very interesting as Pratchett is using the
      story of Vimes' initial experiences in the watch, seen from his
      own perspective in his later life, to show the reader how his
      own memories of his progression through life are somewhat
      misconstrued. The reader will relate to this experience personally,
      and see how this process is apparent in everyone's life, and that
      personal memories are deceptive. Pratchett skilfully uses Vimes'
      character in its past and present states to highlight that Vimes
      was always a good copper, and it was just society's perception
      of the usefulness of this role that created his disillusionment
      with his position, and his resulting problems. This is indeed
      effective as it provides a kind of send up of the history of the
      civilised world, and its changing perceptions of the need for law
      enforcement. It also provides multiple views on the effects this
      change has, on those who work for this part of society and their lives.

      The Creation of The Watch

      As with the creation of Vimes' character, Pratchett first introduces
      us to the concept of The Watch as a unit by using stereotypical
      portrayal. This portrayal is of a dysfunctional law enforcement
      agency, with low public confidence and even lower team morale.
      The first narrative strategy Pratchett uses to achieve this is through
      the narrated thoughts of recollection from the previous day, as
      perceived from Vimes' own memory. "It had been a bad day for
      The Watch. There had been the funeral of Herbert Gaskin, for one
      thing. Poor old Gaskin. He had broken one of the fundamental rules
      of being a guard. It wasn't the sort of rule that someone like Gaskin
      could break twice. And so he'd been lowered into the sodden ground
      with the rain drumming on his coffin and no-one present to mourn him
      but the three surviving members of the Night Watch, the most
      despised group of men in the entire city." Through this example of
      the reminiscing of Vimes' character, Pratchett initially draws the
      readers' attention to the societies view of The Watch and its men,
      and how this has affected the men's opinions of themselves.

      Pratchett also cleverly uses this section of narration to describe
      to the reader the smallness of the group, and its effectiveness as a
      law enforcement agency. The fact that there are only three remaining
      Watchmen with no apparent family or friends illustrates clearly the
      loneliness and poor status of the job. The point that, the very men
      intended to be enforcing the laws of the city, and who risk their lives
      for doing so with any enthusiasm, receive no thanks from society
      as a whole is designed to engage the readers empathy with the Watch.
      The concept that these men only gain resentment and hatred from
      the people, instead of the praise they deserve, is yet another method
      used by Pratchett to add to the readers' empathy. This causes the
      reader to feel sorry for the men of the Watch, and encourages them
      in wanting to learn more of their plight.

      Pratchett then progresses the development of The Watch in their
      first story, in a similar way to the way in which Vimes' character is
      developed. The two develop alongside each other with the same
      apparent catalyst to initiate the progression. Pratchett presents
      this catalyst in the form of the character Carrot Ironfoundersson.
      As with Vimes, it is upon the introduction of Carrott to the plot,
      by Pratchett, that the changes begin. Pratchett uses Carrott's
      seemingly naïve character, to contrast with the already tarnished
      characters of Sergeant Fred Colon and Corporal Nobby Nobbs.
      (continued on Part II)

      If you did not get all 5 parts, write: jschaum111@...
      End of Part 4, says my computer -- continued on Part 5 of 5

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