WOSSNAME -- FEBRUARY 2005 -- PART 5 OF 5 (continued)
- WOSSNAME -- FEBRUARY 2005 -- PART 5 OF 5 (continued)
13) SIMILARITIES: VIMES vs. PEEL: Part II
How Terry Pratchett Created Vimes and The Watch
-- Parallels with Sir Robert Peel and the Metropolitan
by Lucy Smith
Sergeant Colon is a stereotypical "overweight, plodding,
un-ambitious copper", who mistakenly believes that he is
knowledgeable in every area of life. Pratchett illustrates this
by his use of Vimes' personal thoughts and opinions as a
narrative structure. This gives an insight into Colon's
personality from the perspective of a work colleague and
friend, and shows the reader Colon's lack of knowledge.
When coupled with Colon's acute failure to recognise his
own ignorance, Pratchett creates many opportunities for
scenes of comedy. Vimes' narrative train of thought is used
to recount an incident of Colon displaying his ignorance, when
he has commented on the meaning of the Watch motto.
"It translated - according to Sergeant Colon, who had served
in foreign parts and considered himself an expert on languages -
as "to Protect and to Serve."". This approach is used by
Pratchett to outline to the reader the character's illusion of
self-importance. The technique also highlights to the reader,
the concept that Colon considers himself to be the definitive
knowledge on everything, and refuses to admit when he doubts
the accuracy of his information.
Another example of how Pratchett defines Colon's character
is in the way Vimes' narrative train of thought describes Colon's
relationship with his wife. "Sergeant Colon,...Now there was a
man who liked the dark. Sergeant Colon owed thirty years of
happy marriage to the fact that Mrs Colon worked all day and
Sergeant Colon worked all night." This description of the way
in which Colon's marriage is believed to have survived, shows
the low esteem the Watch members hold for themselves and
Pratchett's depiction of Nobby clearly defines the way The Watch
is made up of, what Pratchett refers to as the so-called "dregs of
society", or the outcasts. "...well, anyone like Nobby had
unlimited reasons for not wishing to be seen by other people."
Pratchett shows the reader here, that the members of the Night
Watch are perceived as unemployable by respectable society.
It is in this way that Pratchett informs the reader indirectly that
the position of Watchman is seen as a poor career choice, and
possibly as a way of hiding from the real world and the problems
encountered within it.
In contrast to these characters is Carrot, who was raised by dwarfs
and appears somewhat ignorant of the ways of city life. Pratchett
uses this innocence to illustrate to the reader the many problems
in the city. For instance when Carrot first joins the Watch, he follows
the book of laws as strictly as he can, not realising the main policing
of the city is done by the various guilds. Pratchett uses the contrast
between Carrot and Nobby to show the reader how different Carrot's
ideal of the Watch, and the reality of it really are. Pratchett uses the
third person narrative to describe a scene which occurs when Nobby
and Carrot are paired together on patrol, and enter the Drum, a
disreputable tavern. "If you are in charge, he intoned, then it is my
duty to inform you that you are under arrest...The silence that
followed held a rare quality of breathless anticipation as the
assembled company waited to see what would happen next."
This passage highlights the rarity of the enforcement of the laws
by the Watch, and the surprise this action generates.
Pratchett uses the success of the Watch after the joining of Carrot,
as a method of raising the profile of the Watch. Consequently the
controversy it produces is also increased. Indeed it is illustrated by
Pratchett in the novel "Men At Arms", by using Carrot's letter
home to his family as a narrative recap on the position of the Watch
in society. While at the same time, Pratchett highlights Carrot's
supposed innocence in his childish use of language and punctuation.
"Dearest Mume and Dad, Well here is another fine turnup for the Books,
for I have been made Corporal!! ...This is all because we have got
new recruits because the Patrician who, as I have formerly vouchsafed
is the ruler of the city, has agreed the Watch must reflect the ethnic
makeup of the City__" This effectively enlightens the reader to the
concept that the Watch's profile and status has been raised, and to
an extent that it is now recognised as a functional part of the city.
Therefore is now regarded as important enough to warrant it being
Indeed as Pratchett progresses the Watch and increases its numbers
he shows it becoming more highly regarded by society as a whole,
and even looked upon with respect from some sections of society.
Pratchett illustrates this perfectly in "Night Watch" by again using
Vimes' personal thoughts as a form of narration. "A file, he had to
refer to a damn file. But there were so many coppers these days...
But in truth Stronginthearm was just a decent dwarf who had been
paid to be a copper. He'd joined up because, these days, joining the
Watch was quite a good choice of career." This effectively compares
the way things are in the Watch in present times to the way things
were in the beginning. This clearly shows the reader just how much
things have progressed, and how the status of the Watch as a
profession, and as a functional part of society, has changed. The
language Pratchett chooses for Vimes to use is an effective
method of conveying to the reader the disappointment or regret
felt by Vimes, at not all his men personally.
Parallels Between Vimes' Character and Sir Robert Peel.
Beginning with the initial parallel that I noticed between Vimes
and Peel, it is relevant to add that many of the participants in
my questionnaire also noticed this similarity. The main
significant parallel here appears to be that Watchmen who
train in Ankh-Morpork, are known to the rest of the Disc as
"Sammies". This is in the same way as policemen trained by
the Metropolitan Police Force, which was founded by Peel,
were initially known as "Peelers" or "Bobbies". This fact was
only noticed by those who had some prior historical knowledge
of the way in which the police were formed. This alludes to the
conclusion that Pratchett may have used this parallel as a type
of "in joke", to provide a comical comparison between Vimes
and Peel, to those readers who possessed this insight.
Another parallel that was perceived by some who I consulted
was the possible similarity between the names "Peel" and "Keel".
Many thought this was a comical reference or tribute on the
part of Pratchett himself, to the achievements of Peel and his
police force. During my correspondence with the author however,
I learnt that this reference was actually, as far as he was aware,
coincidental. Pratchett said in his email, "The John Keel name
wasn't a deliberate reference, but feel free to assume that it was
done subconsciously." Another possibility that I have been
considering as a link between these names, relates to an old folk
song about hunting. The name of the man mentioned in this song
is "John Peel", and he is a hunter. This tenuously links to the role
of a policeman through the concept that a policeman is hunting
but for criminals not game. This could lead on to the name
John Keel, through a weak association between hunting and
law enforcement. This could explain the resemblance in a more
in-depth way, than purely through the similarity of the sound.
Although this is open to many different interpretations, which
are dependant on reader knowledge. This information actually
contradicts my initial hypothesis in this study, which leads me to
refer to the contrasts that are also apparent between Vimes and
Peel so as to maintain the neutral perspective of this investigation.
Among the many contrasts between Vimes and Peel are the
greatly differing social backgrounds of the two. Vimes is
portrayed as being from a lower working class background,
and as growing up in a poor home.
Pratchett illustrates this clearly in "Night Watch" by using
Vimes' memories of his childhood as a narrative tool. "You might
not have much, but you could have Standards...There might be
nothing behind the front door worth stealing but at least the doorstep
could be clean enough to eat your dinner off, if you could have afforded
dinner." Yet in contrast Peel came from an upper class background,
his father a "wealthy cotton manufacturer and a member of
parliament for Tamworth. Robert was trained as a child to become
a future politician."
As I learned in my research, and again in my correspondence
with Pratchett, my assumptions on the parallels between Vimes
and Peel did not run as deep as I first thought. In Pratchett's email
to me on the subject he stated, "The single similarity, I think,
lies in the fact that Vimes raises the profile and status of the Watch
to the extent that coppers trained in Ankh-Morpork are nicknamed
"Sammies", just as British policemen were "Peelers"." This seems
to be the only real similarity between the two. However there are
other parallels between the Metropolitan Police Force and The
Watch, and the subsequent development of them both.
(continued next month)
If you did not get all 5 parts, write: jschaum111@...
Copyright (c) 2005 by Klatchian Foreign Legion
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