SOCIAL JUSTICE IN TERRY PRATCHETT’S FEET OF CLAY
Book title: Feet of Clay
Author: Sir Terry Pratchett, OBE
Feet of Clay is the 21st Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett (pub. 1996) and the third novel to feature the Ankh-Morpork City Watch crew.
The City Watch is developing under the messy leadership of Commander Sir Samuel Vimes. New Watch Houses are being opened all over the city. There is a steady stream of recruits and a new forensic department is being established. It seems that the multispecies-tolerant policing body is gaining the “respect of the community”, even if reluctantly.
But where there are policemen, there will always be crime. Two murders of mysterious pathology were perpetrated. The Patrician, tyrant ruler of Ankh-Morpork is being poisoned, and it seems there are other crimes being committed in the dark and silent corners of the city.
It is time once again for the ragtag crew of Ankh-Morpork’s City Watch to shake the social ladder if it is to become it’s finest.
It is always easy to read Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, and sometimes most fans take this for granted. He can juggle multiple plots and not lose momentum. But after several re-readings, you start to see a complexity that seems so effortless. This is particularly apparent in Feet of Clay, a multilayered plotting that is worthy of its multilayered subject matter- social justice.
In Feet of Clay, we see at least three obvious subplots, the two murders with odd crime scenes, the poisoning of the Patrician which caused an uproar, and the Golem suicides that have been happening all throughout the city. At first they seem disconnected jigsaw puzzles until Vimes and co treated it not as a puzzle, but more of ‘snakes and ladder’.
Feet of Clay evolved from crime genre satire into a poignant exposition of social injustice. The crime is not just murder, it is also snobbery. From the top of the ladder- Exhibit A. the absurd disconnect of Ankh-Morpork’s high society who’s reaction to the Patrician’s impending doom is to re-establish the monarchy. Exhibit B. the silent grinding of the working class, fearful and law-abiding citizens whom Sam Vimes is acquainted. Exhibit C. the middle class dreaming of rising up the social ladder at the expense of those below. Exhibit C. the Golems, mindless but feared silent workers of the city who also dreams for a better class of slavery.
As Sam Vimes and Co. investigate, they find themselves descending into the darkest corners of the city. Sam Vimes finds himself in the streets of his deprived childhood where nothing changed. Captain Carrot, Constable Angua, Constable Detritus and new recruit forensic expert Corporal Littlebottom find themselves in the city’s smoky factories. Sergeant Colon finds himself in the city’s sewers. As for Corporal Nobby Nobbs finds himself hobnobbing with the upper crust unaware of the laughable plot to thrust him into the throne of Ankh-Morpork!
And all this happening one on top of the other, winding up and down the social ladder!
FINEST SOCIAL COMMENTARY
The City of Ankh-Morpork has never had this much shading and character as the previous and subsequent novels featuring the City Watch. While a highly recommended read, it pays if the reader will start from Guards! Guards! or at least Men At Arm.
It is also rewarding for future re-reads!