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WOSSNAME -- MARCH 2005 -- PART 4 OF 5

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  • JSCHAUM111@aol.com
    WOSSNAME -- MARCH 2005 -- PART 4 OF 5 ... oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo 12) SIMILARITIES: VIMES vs. PEEL: Part III How Terry Pratchett
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 31, 2005
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      WOSSNAME -- MARCH 2005 -- PART 4 OF 5
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      12) SIMILARITIES: VIMES vs. PEEL: Part III

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

      (continued from February 2005)

      by Lucy Smith

      As one of the many tools and strategies Pratchett
      uses to engage the readers' interest, the most
      effective and interesting is his use of diachronic and
      synchronic parallels. Nowhere is this more apparent
      than in his development of the Watch. For a first
      example of the parallels it is necessary to examine
      the initial state of the Watch, as a comparison to the
      state of the Metropolitan police force when it was first formed.

      Pratchett uses a brief exchange of dialogue in "Jingo"
      to convey to the reader the views that Vimes' technical
      social equals hold on his position in society. "But you are not
      required to have big ideas, commander. You are a thief-taker,
      nothing more." This extract shows the contempt Pratchett is
      trying to convey that the aristocratic portion of society feel
      towards Vimes.

      This is paralleled in an extract from a website on Peel, in a
      description given on the state of law enforcement in Britain
      before the introduction of the Metropolitan police. "As home
      secretary he (Peel) first tackled the organisation of London's
      weak police-force (known as the Bow Street Runners). These
      men were thief takers, and supplemented the activities of night
      watchmen who were made up of old men and were no deterrence
      to aggressive criminals."

      It has been pointed out to me during my investigation, that in
      "Night Watch" it appears Pratchett uses a diachronic parallel
      in his narrative structure. This is between the aforementioned
      "Bow Street Runners" and a particular branch of the "old" watch,
      known as the "Cable Street Particulars". This possible reference
      or tribute seems only to extend as far as the similarity between
      the names, as in contrast to the previous description of the "Bow
      Street Runners" the "Cable Street Particulars" are shown by
      Pratchett to consider themselves above the law engaging in torture
      and other immoral and illegal methods of obtaining their convictions.

      Another area of interest I examined in relation to the parallels
      between the Watch and the Metropolitan police force, was
      the gradual introduction of the more modern aspects of the
      police force, as the Watch themselves progressed in their
      development. For example, the introduction of the modern
      ideas such as ethnic representation within the force, as
      paralleled within the Watch. Pratchett tackles the potentially
      difficult area of race and racism in a clever way. The ethnic
      minorities of the Discworld are not as they are in the real world,
      being comprised of species such as dwarfs, trolls werewolves,
      vampires and other imaginary creatures. This enables him to
      tackle the concept of prejudice and discrimination without the
      risk of offending any of his readers. "A troll and a dwarf. And
      that ain't the worst of it."

      This is one way Pratchett uses to highlight the existence
      of prejudice within the Watch in an extract of the thoughts
      of an "average copper" Fred Colon.

      Another example of this is when Pratchett again uses, what
      appears to be a preferred tool of his, the thoughts of Vimes
      as a narrative perspective. During a conversation with the
      patrician, Vimes thinks to himself, "The ones you told me I
      had to have?... They weren't to go in the Day Watch, of
      course. And those bastards in the palace guard wouldn't
      take them, either. Oh, no. Put 'em in the Night Watch,
      because it's a joke anyway and no-one'll really see 'em.
      No-one important anyway."

      This is also shown in the strong language used by Vimes,
      as a heartfelt view on his part, the style of language bringing
      forward the feelings behind the statement. These are effective tools
      used by Pratchett, as they show the reader the bitterness Vimes
      feels towards the other sections of the law enforcement agencies,
      as well as showing the reader the reluctance of anyone, including
      the Night Watch, to accept these ethnic minorities.

      This was also true when the idea of cross-cultural representation
      was first introduced into the police force, and as it turned out into
      an institutionally racist area of government.

      Pratchett draws on the synchronic parallels between the Watch
      in its most recent state of development, and our modern police
      force as it currently stands. This parallel is best highlighted in the
      entry for the Watch in the "Discworld Companion". "Under Commander
      Vimes and Captain Carrot the Watch is now a modern, go-ahead
      police force consisting of some one hundred officers...Watch policy
      (that is to say, Sam Vimes's prejudice) is against undue specialisation.
      There is a small forensic and medical unit at the yard, and a recently
      formed intelligence department...Finally, there is the very recent
      Traffic Division..." This is undoubtedly a clear parallel with the modern
      police force, and as many of the participants in my questionnaires
      stated it creates a humorous link between reality and the story. This
      is a way of enabling the reader to relate to the events in the stories
      more easily.

      Among other parallels that have been perceived in Pratchett's work
      are the humorous parallels between modern technological advances
      in our world, and those made in the Discworld. Examples these
      include "the clacks", semaphore towers that communicate messages
      between the officers of the Watch, and bear a clear resemblance to
      the police hand-held radio system now in use. There are also the
      "iconographs" of speeding carts implemented by the Watch's Traffic
      Division. These are pictures painted by imps in boxes, on top of poles
      situated by the roadside. This again draws a synchronic parallel with
      the modern speed cameras, which are in frequent use by the police
      force. Pratchett effectively uses the fantasy creatures and magical
      content of the Discworld, as a replacement or simulation of the
      electronic and high-tech devices employed by the modern police
      force. This increases the readers' amount of understanding and
      empathy with the events, places and characters in his stories,
      as it allows them a clear area of comparison, and enables them
      to relate to this world of fantasy, while also being aware the fantasy
      has a basis in reality.

      One last comparison to be assessed is the comments made in a
      piece on Peel and his achievements I encountered. "Despite a great
      resistance at first to what was perceived as a breach or interference
      of civil rights, Peel's Bobbies soon became a common and respected
      sight in London and paved the way for the popular form of policing by
      consent throughout Great Britain, and also throughout the emerging
      'civilised' world." This is clearly, in respect to an accumulation of
      evidence previously discussed, the strongest and most apparent
      parallel encountered between the Watch and the Metropolitan
      police force. It appears that Pratchett has effectively used this
      direction and process of development of the Metropolitan police,
      as a grounding basis for the development of the Watch. This is a
      way of engaging the readers' attention to this process of development,
      and therefore holding their interest and empathy, as the Watch
      and its officers progress.

      CONCLUSION:

      In conclusion, and in respect to my initial hypothesis on the
      depth of the parallels between Vimes' character and Peel,
      there appears not to be as much evidence of this similarity
      as I first assumed. On the contrary, apart from the parallel
      between the nicknames that the men, who are trained by
      Vimes in Pratchett's work and the standards set by Peel
      in the modern world, are known by to the public, the
      evidence in fact indicated more differences and contrasts
      between the two.

      The more I researched into the two men the more evidence
      I encountered that highlighted the contrasts between them,
      in both social standing, and in their outlook on life. I can only
      speculate on the notion that possibly Pratchett uses these
      contrasting traits as a device to add texture and humour to
      the development of Vimes' character, and to aid in the creation
      of more opportunities for comedy by association. That is, that
      people notice the initial parallel, and upon recognising a familiar
      situation are amused when an unexpected aspect is introduced,
      as a way to ridicule or send up the real life subject.

      It is necessary to mention at this point that the opposite was in
      fact true for the Watch and the Metropolitan police, as I researched
      more into these parallels and as the development progressed,
      I noticed more parallels became clear. Pratchett uses a fine
      example of synchronic parallels, by allowing the development of
      new technologies and methods of law enforcement in the Watch
      to develop alongside and in sequence with the advances of the
      modern police force. This assists the reader in suspending their
      disbelief and becoming more empathetic toward the narrative as a whole.

      Although my investigation of this area contradicted my initial
      hypothesis I also discovered many other parallels that are used
      by Pratchett. Not just in his creation of the Watch and Vimes,
      but also in many other areas of his novels, from current events
      to famous film scenes.

      It would be most interesting, if I had enough time, to look in
      more detail at other books and characters in Pratchett's work,
      and to analyse the parallels he has created there also.
      Unfortunately, as I discovered, the deeper you research into
      these references the more of them you discover, as every reader
      has a different perception and reflection on each comparison
      depending on their own general knowledge and background.

      Pratchett is, as his email shows, aware of this factor and the
      effect it has on his work. There is strong evidence to show that
      devices like the ones Pratchett uses are known to create reader
      participation, which in turn increases the reader's enjoyment.

      Much of the interpretation of his work depends on the reader's
      subjective views and experiences. His effectiveness in using
      the involvement of the reader as a literary tool to assist his
      comical, and dramatic timing, is something I feel contributes
      to the richness of his work. This is one of the many reasons
      why he is seen as one of the most popular and respected
      authors of the genre.

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      End of Part 4, says my computer -- continued on Part 5 of 5



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