Going Postal

Going Postal: A Novel of Discworld

Going Postal is one of Terry Pratchett’s works marketed to the teen/YA audience. He writes for each age, having a children’s book, some YA, and some “adult.”  However, the YA and adult are both appropriate for teens and YA readers.

Moist Von Lipwig is a conman. Unfortunately, he’s a caught conman. Instead of prison, the Patrician sends him to be Postmaster General- and it’s worse than prison. Moist encounters the completely insane system and staff of the post office. Undelivered mail threatens to end their lives. Moreover, the villain Reacher threatens to end post and change communication forever with his “Clacks” system, despite mysterious and disturbing deaths on the Clacks towers.

This novel is brilliant, as usual. It’s witty and full of delightful irony. The fact that it took my mind off of post-op pain gives it extra points. What impresses me even more is how this funny and entertaining novel could easily be used in the classroom. Let’s look at the themes for details, shall we?

Social and civil rights: Once again we meet the golems, creatures made of clay that serve a purpose. In Going Postal, we discuss their role in society, which is to be a living tool. Specifically we meet a centuries old golem who had worked as a pump, and maintains the name “Mr. Pump” despite working in the post office. One of the most open themes in the book is the nature of the golems’ enslavement. We have the activist who insists on freeing the golems. We have golems who don’t know what to do with themselves if they aren’t the tool as instructed. How does a social role impact an identity? How does this impact every civil rights movement in history? Golems are literally created for their work and have few needs… is such creation ethical if they don’t experience pain? Do they feel pain? How can individual relationships affect their senses of self (being respected vs. being regarded as an object)? Social sciences can have a field day here.

Change: Moist is a criminal by nature. Unlike the typical story of redemption, Moist “fails” to redeem himself, insisting even in the end that he is a criminal and could easily break the law if he wanted to… but he doesn’t feel like it. Did he fail to redeem himself or did he actually change? What exactly is a change of personality or nature? Is it possible? Is it necessary? Psychology and philosophy abound, and sociology and criminology could jump in, too. For you creative writers, did the protagonist fail or succeed? What was the goal? Did the Patrician succeed? Does the Patrician deserve the title of “major character”?

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Technology: Clacks are clearly a jab at the movement of technology (Terry Pratchett loves this debate. Note the “disorganizer” in Thud, for example.) What is the goal of technology and it’s role in progress.

Which brings us to…

Progress: When is progress good? Bad? Helpful? What is an appropriate cost of progress? Is progress altruistic or capitalistic? Does that matter? Will it alter the benefit to society? Is new always better? How do you determine “better”? Define “progress.”

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And finally

Adjustment: Do people change and adjust to an environment? Are behaviors simply the product of the environment or the personality (refer back to “did Moist actually change?”) of a person? As a teen, do you want to be different? The same as everyone else? In what respect? Do you want to try a new environment? Most importantly, how will you determine your own value?

Let's Get Students Reading!

Going Postal won prestige because it was well-deserved. It’s a fun read, so you should read it regardless. A great move would be for schools to add it to their curriculum; it has great themes for many classes, and the tone of the book is positive. We can use some fun and positivity these days, and we can certainly benefit from more books that encourage youth to read more- not less!

Going Postal film version

Some information on the film/ TV series created for Going Postal: http://www.comedy.co.uk/guide/tv/terry_pratchett_going_postal/characters/

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