Tear Jerker / Night Watch
For whatever reason, Night Watch
is a particularly dark entry in the series, and this is reflected in its extremely high ratio of Tear Jerker
- Night Watch deals with Time Travel, to a point in Ankh-Morpork's past that ain't exactly glorious. The tear-jerking starts when Vimes realizes he can't fix it. Not because it would create a paradox, but because it involves too many people being foolish or vengeful or self-absorbed. One man, even forewarned, can't fix it.
- A subtle other example of a problem being simply too much for one individual, no matter how cunning, intelligent or well-meaning you are, is with the characters of Major Clive Mountjoy-Standfast and Captain Tom Wrangle, who are the main officers charged with dealing with the rioting, even as they struggle with the logistical and moral futility of sending troops into their own city.
- Towards the end, when we realize what wearing the lilac flowers means.
- See all the little angels rise up high...
- Think about it. All the little angels, rising up... from where?
- You can buy T-shirts in Real Life with "How do they rise up?" written on them, just as you can for any number of revolutionary or anti-war slogans. Pratchett managed to make the deaths of fictional characters so moving that Real Life feels the need to commemorate them.
- Vimes finally tracks down Carcer (if you didn't see that coming, then you don't know Vimes) and puts down his sword, bashes the knife out of his hand and arrests him. Because people like him need to know the system works. That it's not all just madness. That their kind is the outliers, not the norm, not the free. One of the few times that Pratchett doesn't break the mood for the sake of fun.
- Shortly thereafter when Vimes tells Vetinari what he thinks of the idea of a monument. NO-ONE has EVER spoken like that to Vetinari before and gotten away with it, but just this once Vetinari admits that he's wrong..
Vimes: Really? And perhaps some sort of inspiring slogan?
Vetinari: Yes, indeed. Something like, perhaps, 'They Did the Job they Had to Do'?
Vimes: No. How dare you? How dare you! At this time! In this place! They did the job they didn't have to do, and they died doing it, and you can't give them anything.
- Be aware that until this point Vetinari has always been able to "bribe" Sam at the end of each book for being able to do his job, making Vimes feel a bit like a dog being thrown a bone. But not this time. Not even Vetinari can bribe history.
- Sam's existence in that book in general is very sad. Matching the idealistic young man with the hardened cynic of Guards! Guards! is just... depressing, especially imagining exactly what he went through to become like that.
- To say nothing of what we learned about Nobby. Yes, we'd already known Sconner yelled at him, but brrrr...
- The realization that Sam has been caring for Nobby his whole life. Nobby's been under his wing since the beginning. Is it any wonder that when the Night Watch was just three it was Colon and Nobby, who refused to leave Sam Vimes and move on? It speaks volumes about their character as well as his.
- Reg's death was sad even though we knew it was coming from the beginning of the book and we knew he was going to be right back. That takes some skill.
- While zombie!Reg is something of comic relief in earlier books, living!Reg was an Enjolras expy who gets run through the Pratchett ringer to both hilarious and horrific effect. In this case, he doesn't have any school friends to rally around him. Instead, he's a lone revolutionary who doesn't get taken seriously at all by anyone and at most gets a kind of careful pity from Vimes. And in this timeline, he ends up sliding right into Heroic B.S.O.D. after the barricade comes down, first from how short-lived the People's Republic of Treacle Mine Road was and shoved right into it with the realization that the revolution he had been fighting for had been for absolutely nothing as Carcer, the Unmentionables and the Palace Guard come to kill him and the Night Watch. His subsequent Unstoppable Rage driven attack is not only awesome but heartbreaking in its lead up.
- There's probably something wrong with starting to feel all teary-eyed over the sentence "Carcer's going to bloody swing for this."
- Vimes is squaring off with Carcer in the cemetery:
The gods knew the man deserved it... but young Sam
was watching him, across thirty years. When we break down, it all breaks down. That's just how it works. You can bend it, and if you make it hot enough you can bend it in a circle, but you can't break it. When you break it, it all breaks down until there's nothing unbroken. It starts here and now. He lowered the sword.
- It gets better when you realize that you don't know which Sam he's talking about. Himself in the past, or his newborn son, named for him.
- "Across thirty years" implies the former.
- Makes perfect sense for him to be considering how his son will remember him, too.
- "Just in case, and without any feeling of guilt, Vimes removed his knife, and... gave what help he could."
- Oh gods yes, that entire sequence in the torture chambers. The descriptions are so vague and murky you can only begin to imagine the horrors down there. There's two scenes in particular that always get me — first, when Vimes finds his younger self in tears, because Sam found a woman who had had something horrible happen to her that we never find out, thankfully. Then, later on, when "Keel" stops Sam from killing one of the torturers and gives him a speech that pretty much defines who Vimes is and why he fights the monsters inside...
- Not to mention, the sight of that woman is something that has apparently stayed with Vimes. He considers going into that room, but quickly decides that once in his life was once too many to see that.
- Vimes's "What if we actually won?" dilemma, his consequent Heroic B.S.O.D. and his recovery. Doubled as a Moment of Awesome.
"He wanted to go home. He wanted it so much that he trembled at the thought. But if the price of that was selling good men to the night, if the price was filling those graves, if the price was not fighting with every trick he knew....Then it was too high. "
- I just read that and I actually teared up in remembrance. That one paragraph tells you pretty much everything you need to know about a) what kind of stuff Sam Vimes is made of and b) how brilliant an author Pterry truly is.
- At the end when Vimes lists off the names of the dead watchmen.
- The part where Vimes wonders if any of the wonderful things he took somewhat for granted at the beginning of the book, in his longing for the "good old days" are actually true anywhere.
Well, why ... But now…what about Sybil? Are my memories real? What I know is she's a girl living with her dad. Is there somewhere where she's my wife, having my child?
- It's comparatively minor, but when the other Watchmen attempt to frame Vimes for the theft of Captain Tilden's beloved silver inkstand (a retirement present from his old regiment), while Vimes turning the tables on them is indeed awesome, much less so is the fact that, rather than dropping the inkstand into the locker of one of the other Watchmen (his plan had been Ned Coates, but after discovering incriminating evidence in Coates' locker implying his revolutionary leanings, he doesn't go through with it) he instead hides it in the safe in Tilden's office. Then after a complete search of all of the lockers (And Vimes' turning the tables on the other Watchmen) he then plays upon Tilden's advanced age and the spotty memory that comes with it to make Tilden think he locked the inkstand up in the safe and simply forgot about it, causing Tilden no small amount of (completely undeserved) embarrassment. In-universe, Vimes knows he's doing a bad thing and inwardly feels awful about it, since Tilden is a good man, if an incompetent Watch captain, but isn't left with any other recourse.
- Poor old Tilden doesn't have a good story. He has a Heroic B.S.O.D. when he hears that his old regiment was responsible for the Dolly Sisters Massacre and is then "given the push" and replaced by Lord Rust. When Snouty protests that "He was a good captain!", Vimes agrees out loud but mentally corrects him: "No. He wasn't. He was a decent man and he did his best, that's all. He's well out of it now."
- It's very small, easy to miss, and we know what will happen, but when young Nobby says he wants to be a Watchman, he adds "But I'm thinking of going for a soldier if I grow up." If I grow up.
- Night Watch shows that Nobby's childhood was far from hilarious. Of special heartbreak is this line.
Nobby: I don't want to go to the Tanty, sir. Sconner'snote in there.
Vimes, to himself: And he used to break your arms.
- Vimes having to hear Young Sam talk about his long-gone mother; he recalls that he would rather be tortured by Swing than return to the street where he was raised.
- Madame and the Seamstresses, seeing to it for thirty years that there's always a wreath and a hard-boiled egg at the gravesite. Vimes and his battle-comrades aren't the only ones with long memories or loyalty.
- The end of first story in "Night Watch", when Anton, made by witch Alisa, reveals to Egor that he was just a pawn not only of Zavulon, but also of Gesar, in order to initiate Svetlana as Light Other. This leads to Anton's and Egor's Cynicism Catalyst, and the latter's refusal to be an Other.
- The end of the second story is even worse. Anton finds the killer of Dark Others, Maxim, and is happy to know that Zavulon's plans are ruined... only to learn that the whole event was organized by Gesar to increase Svetlana's level.
- It's hard not feel some pity for Alisa, who was recovering in summer camp and fell in love in one of its workers, Igor... and learnt that he's a Light Other of Night Watch, who was recovering just as she, and also felt in love, knowing nothing about her being a Dark witch. It gets even worse, when Zavulon reveals that the whole situation was staged by him to make Igor kill Alisa... which exactly what happens.
- In The Sixth Watch, when Anton is about to be killed by the Two-In-One, he looks at Svetlana and Nadya and tries to smile for them.
- Even if he doesn't actually die, he considers being Brought Down to Normal a Fate Worse Than Death. If you think about it, he has to adjust to living without magic, which he was absolutely dependent on, he can no longer work in the Night Watch.... and his wife and daughter have to watch him grow old and die.
- Also in The Sixth Watch, the Tiger's Heroic Sacrifice.
- In The Sixth Watch, Anton's helplessness and despair as he watches Nadya prepare to become the Grandmother of Grandmothers, the leader of the witches' Conclave, sacrificing her youth in the process. Luckily, it's averted.