Book:Night Watch/Annotations

From Discworld & Terry Pratchett Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Night Watch annotation: When Vimes fights Findthee Swing in the Cable Street torture cell, Swing says, "History needs its butchers as well as its shepherds, Sergeant." (HarperCollins edition, hardback, pp. 238); this echoes a statement Vimes thinks of in The Fifth Elephant, after Vimes interrogates Inigo Skimmer, "Didn't some philosophical bastard once say that a government needed butchers as well as shepherds?" (Doubleday edition, hardback, pp. 121). And Vimes' younger self has followed him into the torture chambers, perhaps over-hearing this discourse between Swing and "John Keel".

The "philosophical bastard" was Voltaire. It was a favorite quote of Robespierre.Solicitr 22:10, 6 March 2010 (UTC)

There are superficial similarities between Swing and Skimmer; both have quirks of speech, both are clerkish in appearance but lethal Assassins, and both are given rather broad laissez faire by their Patrician to conduct their duties (for wildly different reasons, of course).

The name of the Cable Street Particulars, who appear in both Night Watch and Maskerade, is a reference to the Baker Street Irregulars from the Sherlock Holmes stories. However they may also be a reference to 'The Untouchables' from the film of the same name, as they also get referred to as The Unmentionables. The "Unmentionables", in genteel British English, is a euphemism for the male genitalia. So what were people really calling Swing and his Particulars?

More Here about Cable Street and its significance on Roundworld.

Carcer (the name) may be related to Carter in the movie 'Get Carter'- a lovable rogue, who goes to a far less sophisticated city (Newcastle) from a bustling metropolis (London), although he is there to get revenge. It is possible therefore, that Nightwatch could be subtitled 'Get Carcer' (although see the Carcer page for other possibilities).

Dr. J. "Mossy" Lawn is probably a reference to Bartholomew Mosse founder of Britain's first purpose-built maternity hospital.

Night Watch The title is a clear reference to Rembrandt's Night Watch, and the art work on the cover illustrates this connection, parodying the famous painting.

"The Revolution will not be civilised" - Vimes is quoting the famous (and equally darkly cynical) song of almost the same name, "The Revolution will not be televised".

Doubleday hardback p267:-

Ref. the conversation between Captain Tom Wrangle and Major Clive Mountjoy-Standish concerning how the situation in the city is gradually slipping away from the ability of the Army to do anything about it. Clive opines that well-trained heavily armed soldiers should be able to fight their way out of anything: Tom, who is more realistic, believes that all the expensive military kit, at the end of those narrow, winding, twisty-turny Ankh-Morpork alleys, is nothing more than rather expensive loot.

"But I thought the City Watch took care of the gangs-"

Tom looked over the top of his paperwork.

"Are you suggesting that we ask for police protection?"

This parallels the way the British Army, called into Northern Ireland in 1969 to "provide Military Aid to the Civil Power" , was for a regrettably long time vulnerable to being lured into dark alleys, twisty-turny back streets, etc., for ambush purposes, organised by an enemy who intimately knew the local area, in a way the British Army didn't.

It took a surprisingly long time for military and civil authority to grasp the point that the Army and Royal Ulster Constabulary (police force) should work together - co-ordinating actions to play to each other's strengths, so that the RUC's local knowledge and the British Army's greater firepower should work together best. Effectively, this was the British Army asking for police protection... so everything became somewhat recursive. The Army had been called into Northern Ireland to "support the civil power" - ie, as the last resort when normal law and order were crumbling, in order to support the police force. Then the Army discovered it needed the police force to support it...as an aside, in the years following 1969, and especially after Bloody Sunday in 1972, recruitment in Ireland fell to an all-time low. There were also a significant number of desertions from men recruited from Northern Ireland prior to 1969, who couldn't face fighting a war on their own hometown streets.

It has also been suggested that when the Miners' Strike was at its bitterest in the middle 1980's, and causing a great amount of strife and division, a big consideration for the government in deciding whether or not to use the Army to support the police was the willingness of soldiers to obey orders to go in and beat up British civilians. A question mark was placed against the willingness of soldiers recruited in mining and steelworking areas to obey such orders, were they ever given. Especially in the case of Welsh and Scottish troops, the risk of refusal to obey orders, even mutiny, was held to be unacceptably high. This was held to be exponentially so in the case of Territorials (part-time reservists) whose day jobs were actually in coal, steel, and heavy industry.

Even further back in time, Winston Churchill sent armed militia in to shoot at striking miners in Tonypandy, South Wales, in 1912. (He very carefully chose to use an upscale cavalry militia containing Ronnie Rusts, with no love for the Bolshevist trade unionists). In 1942, ships' companies of the Royal Navy, drawn from South Wales, refused to go on parade for the wartime prime minister, despite all sanctions applied by their officers, citing "Tonypandy" as the reason. Churchill was either heckled off the parade stand by a barrage of jeers, or faced the sight of hundreds of sailors symbolically turning their backs to him. "Tonypandy" was still a rallying cry in the strike of 1984-5. Welsh people have very long memories, and just putting somebody in uniform does not mean they become an automaton who is incapable of questioning bad orders, nor remembering deeper loyalties from outside the Army.

The original Captain Swing was the fictional leader of the Swing Riots, a period of rural unrest that occurred in southern England in 1830, they lead to the events surrounding the Tolpuddle Martyrs and the formation of the TUC. Although Findthee Swing is on the opposing side, being part of the establishment rather than the revolutionaries, the fact that many of the riots occurred near Salisbury and the Swing rioters were tried at Salisbury Assizes, gives a pretty big clue as to where Pterry found the name.

Doubleday hardback p299:- Every day, forty thousand eggs were laid for the city. Even though Vimes states that the city thirty years before the present had perhaps half the human population, forty thousand eggs still seems like too small a number for half a million people. Hmm. Where might Terry have plucked this idea from? Songwriter Donald Roeser said he wanted a metaphor for the ongoing process of life and death to use in a certain song, and said he plucked the figure of forty thousand out of the air to illustrate his point, whilst accepting it was far too small;

40,000 men and women every day; (Like Romeo and Juliet) 40,000 men and women go every day; (Redefine happiness) Another 40,000 coming in every day; (We can be like they are)

Sam Vimes/John Keel redefines his happiness as a hard-boiled egg with a slightly runny yolk. And hell's bells, the text a few lines down even mentions oysters... and every egg laid is potentially a new life but becomes a little Death, once consumed.

Doubleday hardback p312 -315:-

Given the original trigger point for the Glorious Revolution (as in the French Revolution) was the price of bread, it is amusing that as with Marie Antoinette, Winder's downfall is cake-related. As Death points out, "let them eat cake" is not applicable, as no time remains in which cake may be consumed.

Doubleday hardback p322:-

"Are we to be hostage to every whim of a mere sergeant?"

Coups d'Etat in the old days used to be carried out by generals. (Franco in Spain, Pinochet in Chile). Then a sort of inflationary effect set in: Greece was taken over by a military regime composed of colonels. In Sierra Leone, a mere air force Flight Lieutenant took over. This effect reached its apogee in Liberia, where a sergeant managed it. It is also worth bearing in mind that Ugandan dictator Idi Amin had been a sergeant when in the Army, although he was long since demobbed when he went on to a unique career in politics. And Adolf Hitler rose no higher than Corporal, although this probably doesn't count as he was long out of uniform in 1933 and in any case was legitimately elected. Military juntas ain't what they used to be...

Doubleday hardback p323:-

  • Avé! Duci novo, similis duci seneci!
  • Avé! Bossa nova! Similis bossa seneca! - both are variants on a theme of Meet the new boss! Same as the old boss! cited by Mr. Slant in Night Watch, as the awful realisation slips in that they've only changed the Patrician - not the underlying corrupt, cynical and paranoic mind-set that goes with the office. Of course, on Roundworld, the bossa nova is also a vigorous Latin American dance style (ie, from a continent where despotic rulers and corrupt dictators are often forcibly changed and nothing seems to get better)... so Slant might also be saying that while the dancers have changed, the orchestra is still playing the same theme as before... Roundworld rock group The Who[1] wrote a very cynical hit song called We Won't Get Fooled Again[[2]]which explores these themes[3]. It tends to get played a lot during British general elections.

Doubleday hardback p324:-

Snapcase is trying out the office chair and asks if it swivels. His secretary assures him a skilled swiveller can be here within the hour.

This echoes the first meeting between British civil service Machiavelli Sir Humphrey Appleby and newly-minted government minister James Hacker. Hacker asks for a chair that swivels, and Appleby assures him, with perfect and misleading honesty, that the minister has absolute control over his office furniture and we, the Civil Service, will be happy to ensure his every comfort... (see TV satire Yes Minister)

And in some parts of the world, sit on it and swivel! is a lethal insult. (Even though generally, the "it" refers to the insulter's extended middle finger, upon which the insultee is incited to sit and swivel)

See here for other associations.