Newsgroup Discussions: Carrot and Vimes

Carrot and Vimes

alt.books.pratchett

This discussion grew out of the thread entitled Fog and FoC but as it deals mainly with the character of Carrot, it has been placed in its own section. The first post, from Victoria Martin, was part of the Fog and FoC thread, and sets the mood nicely.


Subject: Fog and FoC
Date: 29 Dec 2000
From: Victoria Martin

It's really hard to know how to take Carrot sometimes. I note that the only time suspicions are raised in the reader's mind it's either via Vimes or via Angua, and neither of them can ever decide if he's 'for real' or not. For what it's worth, my own take on it is this: Carrot in G!G! is 'for real'. He's as simple and straightforward as he seems and as literal-minded as any other dwarf. Truly impartial, he tries to book the Patrician for having a wonky carriage wheel, he arrests the dragon and reads her rights, and he literally throws the book at Wonse. He's extremely idealistic and completely unafraid, he delights Vimes by beating up the scum in the Mended Drum and by arresting the head of the Thieves' Guild, and he really isn't very bright. Very kingly, in fact.

Between G!G! and MAA he undergoes some rapid character development, which can only be explained as the impact of the experience of living in the big city, although he also has his IQ raised by several notches. He figures out that arresting thieves isn't the sensible way of doing things, and he learns a tremendous amount from Vimes, most importantly that monarchy is a Bad Thing. In fact, in MAA we come to the rather curious position that Carrot is pretty much the perfect leader figure, kind-hearted, noble, brave and with a legitimate claim to the throne, yet he is so far from being tempted to ascend to that throne that the gonne itself has no power over him. And because he doesn't want to be king, that makes him even more perfect.

It's not surprising therefore that in FoC Pterry, whose thoughts on the monarchy seem not so different from those of Sam Vimes, does a little back-pedaling and cracks begin to appear in Carrot's image. First of all we learn that even though he knows everyone by name, he's actually distanced from who they really are because he always sees good in them. People try to live up to this idealised image Carrot has of them, and so for as long as he's around the magic works and they do behave as he expects - but they aren't really like that, and forcing people to be something they're not is a big Pratchett moral no-no.

Secondly, it begins to be suggested that there is more to Carrot than meets the eye, that his innocence may be a front for something more devious. This is done, as I said, by Vimes and Angua, but in both cases what they are really wondering is whether Carrot knows about the effect he has on people around him. T5E strongly suggests that he does, that he has become consciously aware that the good he sees in people isn't necessarily there, but that he can get them to behave as if they were good by the way he treats them.

I think it's interesting that as the Watch books progress, Vetinari becomes more sympathetic and Carrot less so - the former ceases to be the villain of the piece (at least in the world according to Vimes) and becomes the unambiguously legitimate ruler, whilst Carrot moves from being the perfect prince-in-waiting, to someone much more ambiguous. In G!G! Vimes can't understand why he saved Vetinari; in J he protests that he can't arrest him. In MAA Carrot appears to save Vimes from his own Stoneface side, in J and T5E a certain strain has appeared in their relationship and there are hints that Carrot wants more autonomous control over the Watch and is critical of certain aspects of Vimes' approach to policing (primarily those involving paperwork, I concede).

The following quote is from Vampyre - see Fog and FoC for context.

carrot can be a scheming bastard when he needs to be, but he's also an innocent young man who wouldn't intentionally harm a fly... or at least as long as it's a law abiding fly....

I don't think you can have your cake and eat it in quite so blatant a fashion. You'll have to find a way of defusing the negative vibes emanated by the word 'scheming bastard'. Personally, I don't think it's such a bad thing to have reached the level of self-awareness Carrot has, not least because it makes him potentially a far more interesting character. Equally, I don't see that one then has to go back and read 'scheming Carrot' into everything he ever did or does. I don't think his basic character has changed, he's just had his consciousness raised a bit.

By the time they reach the factory, they all know that there's a connection between the golem and the poisoning. They know that Meshugah has been working with arsenic (because Cheery tested the grease found under Father Tubelcek's fingers) and they know that the arsenic has been put into the candles. The two plot lines have converged to the point where they can't be disentangled.


Subject: Re: [R] Carrot and Vimes, (was Fog and FoC)
Date: 30 Dec 2000
From: Kelvix

It's really hard to know how to take Carrot sometimes.

I agree. Most of the time we see Carrot through the eyes of another character. In J, (p49) Vimes thinks (referring to Carrot encouraging Mr Shoe joining the watch,1)

Good gods, thought Vimes, that's just what I would have done. But I'd have done it because I'm not a nice person. Carrot is a nice person, he's practically got medals for it, surely he wouldn't have...

And he knew that he would never know. Somewhere behind Carrot's innocent stare was a steel door

The use of the statement about Carrot's authenticated niceness, combined with the doubt displays Vimes's essentially suspicious nature. Vimes is a character who cannot take anything at face value. As soon as Pratchett shows Vimes doubting Carrot's niceness, he allows the reader also to become suspicious, and to look for cracks in the niceness of Carrot.

The fact that Vimes can never know, can never satisfy his curiosity, leaves the reader with a feeling that they cannot also know "the truth" about Carrot. The image of Carrot's innocent expression being a mask for the public reinforces the idea that Carrot is not innocent - a naive person would never put up barriers. These images are used to show not only Vimes's view of Carrot, but also to show the reader that Carrot is not entirely naive, nor entirely nice. The reader is being invited to look more critically at Carrot as a character, and to allow him to be more than a stereotype. After all, there must be very few people IRL who can be classified as nice, naive, charismatic and successful.

Again, (p59), when carrot says "delegation is the key to successful command", Vimes is filled with the same sort of thoughts:

"Really? Is it?" said Vimes sourly, "My word we live and learn, don't we" And you certainly learn, he added in the privacy of his head. And he was almost sure he was being mean and stupid.

Here again, we are shown Vimes's suspicion and his bitterness. But by showing Vimes's own bitterness, the reader is encouraged to take the comment and mull it over in his/her own mind to see whether it is warranted or not.

I don't think [Carrot's] basic character has changed, he's just had his consciousness raised a bit.

Again, Carrot is not necessarily a scheming bastard. He is very literal - this could be down to his dwarf upbringing, and also, to a certain extent to his gender. He is sometimes tactful, and sometimes forthright. As for his attitude to Vimes, and his assumption of more duties - with effective delegation, it might be said that this can also be justified.

Vimes cannot see it, but we are made aware all through J and also in T5E that Carrot is now the Captain of the Watch. Vimes is still there, trying to be a one-man police force, rarely returning home for meals, or to sleep, who sees the Watchhouse as his home. Vimes has a compulsion to hold on to power at the grass roots level, to be effective, to save all the innocents. He doesn't like seniority and diplomacy, which he associates with "toffs" and insincerity. Even though he is no longer effective as a Watch Captain (it is clear that Carrot is obviously in control of the situation) he resents having to leave it and accept promotion. As we see this through Vimes's eyes, it is easy to see how Carrot is the usurper, doing things he should not be doing. But as Vetinari and Lady Sybil also comment on Vimes' new role in society and how he is now expected to behave, we can be fairly sure that Vimes's view is biased. Carrot has not changed significantly, but he has grown up a bit - he has been in A-M for several years now and is not so wet behind the ears, whilst still retaining his ideals

I think Carrot genuinely is slow on the uptake about some things, just as he is genuinely embarrassed by the thought of a packet of Sonkies.

I also do not think that Carrot is keeping up a mask - although on occasion one can affect not to understand, I don't read the books thinking that Carrot is Machiavellian, and consciously setting up situations so that he can appear innocent. Carrot is genuinely embarrassed by the packet of Sonkies - Dwarf culture keeps very quiet about whether an individual dwarf is male or female. The idea of Sonkies ever being discussed out loud (and not in the privacy of the bedroom) is shocking. Similarly, the embarrassment of a dog being called "arsehole" (p150 T5E), where Carrot blushes.


Date: 01 Jan 2001
From: Richard Eney [Tamar]

It's not surprising therefore that in FoC Pterry, whose thoughts on the monarchy seem not so different from those of Sam Vimes, does a little back-pedaling and cracks begin to appear in Carrot's image. First of all we learn that even though he knows everyone by name, he's actually distanced from who they really are because he always sees good in them.

It's in FoC we learn that there are people even Carrot doesn't know, the people in Cockbill (?) Street. Possibly he doesn't know them because they aren't out in the streets enough for him to meet them; they're too busy working hard.

As soon as Pratchett shows Vimes doubting Carrot's niceness, he allows the reader also to become suspicious, and to look for cracks in the niceness of Carrot.

Just earlier in Jingo that we see a scene in which no one else doubts Carrot, but which can be read two ways depending on the meaning you attach to Carrot's words. When Angua comes out of the warehouse, trying to adjust her torn shirt and complaining about the wear and tear on clothes that her job causes, Carrot's responses in that scene can be read either as oblivious good humour or as deliberate double talk, including the point where Angua says "Sometimes I might suspect that you don't listen to anything I say" and Carrot says "Glad to hear it". (p.43 Harper pg)

In this brief scene, Angua is not doubting Carrot's sincerity, but the careful reader can doubt it without any hints from the minds of other characters. IMO, here Carrot is practicing double talk in a relatively harmless situation: if Angua catches on, he can claim that he's being complimentary, and if she's still angry and breaks up with him, he's only lost a girlfriend, not a city.

Immediately after that is the scene (pg44 Harper p/b) in which Vimes learns that Reg Shoe is now in the Watch. He learns that Carrot has recruited quite a few Watchmen; Carrot says "only one or two" but he's getting around that by saying that Vimes enrolled them, since Vimes signed the paperwork (without reading it closely enough to know what it said). Carrot admits to having recruited Reg Shoe and Buggy Swires, the "two" he'll admit to.

A few pages later, Carrot and Vimes are out at 3:00 AM and both of them run to the attempted fire bombing of Mundane Meals. Vimes rushes in and puts out the fire; Carrot chases the perpetrators. Perhaps Carrot would have put out the fire if Vimes hadn't been there; I don't know. Vimes doesn't know the people except as a source of food; Carrot knows them as individuals. Does this diminish Vimes? I don't think so. It emphasizes that Vimes rescues people as a matter of course, because they are people, not because they are friends or acquaintances.

Again, Carrot is not necessarily a scheming bastard. He is very literal - this could be down to his dwarf upbringing

It's that very literalness that may have led to his learning to speak double-talk so quickly. Unlike humans who are trained from birth to understand metaphor, Carrot pays attention to what the words actually mean, and what they can be made to mean by changing your thinking without changing the words themselves.


Date: 02 Jan 2001
From: Victoria Martin

With all due respect, that's pretty slim evidence. Yes, you can choose to interpret it the way you do, but it is equally legitimate to read it as Carrot just not paying any real attention to what Angua is saying (much as Sam doesn't listen to Sybil all the time). Annoying, yes. Not perfect behaviour, certainly. But a long way from being a devious bastard. Given all the evidence in favour of Carrot's finding overt mention of sexual matters very embarrassing, it requires something of a suspension of disbelief to accept your interpretation.

Vimes rescues people as a matter of course...

Carrot doesn't rescue people just because they're friends or acquaintances either. Indeed, one of the most telling criticisms of him is Angua's observation in FoC that Carrot cares for everybody, but his caring is all general and never particular. He doesn't care about Mr Goriff any more - or, to look at it more positively - any less than anyone else in A-M. Of course Vimes rescues the Goriffs - they're the kind of underdog he cares most passionately about - and of course Carrot would have put out the fire if Vimes hadn't been there.

It's that very literalness that may have led to his learning to speak double-talk so quickly...

This sounds more like the Patrician than like Carrot (who, you will recall, is very bad at making speeches - but it doesn't matter because people respond to him and not to his words anyway. Carrot doesn't need to be silver-tongued, because people's response to him is not rational and not result of weighing up his arguments and deciding that he's right).

I think it's worth comparing how Carrot changes to how Brutha changes in SG. Both of them go from being excessively simple, well-meaning adolescents, entirely willing to live their lives by the Book (albeit a different one in each case) and both progress to being much more complex figures, able to make decisions on their own without reference to external value systems. This includes, incidentally, the ability to practice deception where necessary (just look at how Brutha handles Vorbis in Ephebe), but I have yet to hear anyone accusing Brutha of being a manipulative bastard. Interestingly enough, Brutha ends up adopting a style of rulership which has some fascinating similarities with Vetinari's, once you look beyond the superficial - I wonder if that tells us anything about Carrot as well?


From: Miq

Interesting, considering that Vimes himself, towards the end of FoC, told Colon to recruit some zombies. Though Reg wasn't mentioned by name there.

Vimes rescues people as a matter of course...

Absolutely. Vimes is the one who behaves more heroically on that occasion - and, I feel, throughout the book. He really sees the Watch as an agency of protection, rather than enforcement. He doesn't greatly care what citizens get up to so long as they don't hurt one another, whereas Carrot seems to have an agenda for obedience, or loyalty, of some sort.

Again, Carrot is not necessarily a scheming bastard. He is very literal - this could be down to his dwarf upbringing

That's the excuse that Vimes keeps coming up with for him, but it's just not true. He's only literal when it suits him - he understands subtlety and metaphor well enough when he chooses. Consider this line from 'Jingo' (p.27 h/b)

I said I'd like to start a club for the street kids and he said it was fine provided I took them camping on the edge of some really sheer cliff in a high wind. But he always says things like that. And I'm sure we wouldn't have him any other way.

This is just a few pages before he cheerfully fits up some relatively blameless thieves with every unsolved crime on the books - although, even on the most charitable reading, it's abundantly clear that he doesn't really think they're guilty.


Date: 02 Jan 2000
From: Miq

I have yet to hear anyone accusing Brutha of being a manipulative bastard.

Throughout SG, Brutha is the underdog - he never has any real power or authority until the very end. Power corrupts, and freedom gives it the scope to do so; Carrot has a lot more of both, in Ankh-Morpork, than Brutha has in Ephebe. By the time Brutha gains any power, he's already reached the summit of his career - there is no way he can advance any further. So there's nothing to tempt him.

More importantly, we're invited to sympathise, even identify, with him - we get to see what goes on in his mind, whereas with Carrot we have to guess almost solely from his outward signs. With Brutha in Ephebe, we know how he's come to the conclusion that he has to deceive people for sheer self-preservation - we're not left to grope for any other motive.

Interestingly enough, Brutha ends up adopting a style of rulership which has some fascinating similarities with Vetinari's, once you look beyond the superficial...

Do we really know that much about Brutha's leadership style? We can reasonably conclude that he encourages people to argue things out for themselves, rather than putting his foot down all the time - hence all the schisms. But that seems a rather slender basis for likening him to Vetinari.


Date: 03 Jan 2000
From: Victoria Martin

Most of the evidence for "evil" Carrot, as far as I can see, comes from T5E, where he's away from the source of his authority and is acting alone. I'll concede that the fitting up the thieves scene ought to be a clear indication of corruption, but it's SO out of character (this is the kind of thing we expect Nobby and Colon to do - and, indeed, they do it with Dorfl) and it's impossible to imagine Vimes would accept those confessions, or that scheming Carrot wouldn't worry that this was rather damaging to his carefully constructed innocent image, that I think we just have to accept this scene as one of those instances where Terry sacrifices consistency for the sake of a good gag.

It's not an argument I like making, but if Carrot really were devious and corrupt and stringing everyone else along, why on earth would he allow the mask to slip so obviously in this one scene? It's not as if he even stands to gain from it - he isn't going to be promoted for single-handedly solving all those crimes, especially as it's manifestly obvious to everyone that these guys can't possibly have committed all the crimes they confess to (none of them is female, for a start).

More importantly, we're invited to sympathise, even identify, with [Brutha] - we get to see what goes on in his mind, whereas with Carrot we have to guess almost solely from his outward signs.

That's very true, although what goes on in his mind isn't necessarily straightforward, not least because he changes so much in the course of the book.

Do we really know that much about Brutha's leadership style?

Given what the Omnian tradition of leadership has been so far, the move to a very hands-off approach is an enormous step in a different ethical direction. And it seems to me that, in the context of DW morality, which is all about thinking for yourself and not surrendering the responsibility for thinking to a story (including stories about gods or kings or any other external value system), Vetinari's great contribution is not just social stability.

He has managed to institute a regime which doesn't try to force people into moulds. Yes, he manipulates people, yes, he makes use of them, yes, he believes that most people are fundamentally evil, but he doesn't try to change them. He allows them the freedom to work things out for themselves (even if he expresses distaste for the conclusions they come to) and provides a political structure in which the various competing forces hold each other in check, so that no one group has the power to impose itself on the others.

That, in a curious way, seems to be echoed by the saintly Brutha's reforms in Omnia - given that he refuses to allow Om to issue even obviously reasonable commandments, it seems likely that he, too, is not going to impose upon his society a "right" way of doing things, but rather will develop a structure in which the citizens have to "work things out" for themselves - hence all the theological schisms (presumably the various religious groups hold each other in check, not unlike the Guilds, the Watch and the Press in A-M). I think what I'm ultimately getting at is that underlying two characters as different as Brutha and Vetinari is some kind of ethic which finds expression in their systems of government.


From: Terry Pratchett

Most of the evidence for 'evil' Carrot, as far as I can see, comes from T5E, where he's away from the source of his authority and is acting alone. I'll concede that the fitting up the thieves scene ought to be a clear indication of corruption

I assume when I wrote this that everyone concerned would know what was going on. The thieves have taken a Watchman hostage, a big no-no. Coppers the world over find their normally sunny dispositions cloud over when faced with this sort of thing, and with people aiming things at them, and perpetrators later tend to fall down cell stairs a lot. So Carrot is going to make them suffer. They're going to admit to all kinds of things, including things that everyone knows they could not possibly have done.

What'll happen next? Vetinari won't mind. Vimes will throw out half of the charges at least, and the rest will become TICs

(Taken Into Consideration - whereby a criminal will confess to past crimes but be given a lighter sentence because the police can then class the crimes as "solved")

and probably will not hugely affect the sentencing The thieves will be glad to get out of it alive. Other thieves will be warned. By the rough and ready local standards, justice will have been served.


From: Keith Ray

One thing we haven't seen is the sentencing. Does Vetinari do it, delegate it, or does the Guild of Lawyers have provide judges (for a fee)?


Date: 04 Jan 2001
From: Victoria Martin

In FoC Lord Rust's son is hauled up before the Patrician on a murder charge, but I can't imagine he'd have time to look at every instance of petty non-licensed thieving. Theoretically theft ought to be dealt with by the Thieves' Guild (whose sentences appear to begin with death and work upwards).


Date: 10 Jan 2000
From: Richard Eney [Tamar]

What'll happen next? Vetinari won't mind. Vimes will throw out half of the charges at least, and the rest will become TICs and probably will not hugely affect the sentencing...

Yes, but... Sure, I understood that Carrot was annoyed with them for taking a Watchman hostage. But this isn't just any Watchman acting like a sadistic bastard^W^Wannoyed human being under stress, this is Carrot, who for the most part has been very much "by-the-book", not just in G!G! but also in most of MaA and FoC. His development in politics and manipulation in those books has been quite subtle. [1] The warehouse scene in J is the first and very strong clue that Carrot will be openly showing flaws/humanity in Jingo.

I still maintain that his statements in the end of that scene can be read both ways. It goes along with the "nature of the beast" element. Carrot wears a mask that Vimes hasn't yet penetrated but his behaviour can still be revealing.

[1] His unconscious behaviour is less subtle. In MaA, when he casually drags an unconscious man so that the man's head bumps on the cobbles, it is written so that it seems more like a standard cartoon, but it is still an indication of a level of casual A-M-ian brutality that he has adopted. Or possibly he didn't realize yet that human heads are not as hard as dwarf heads.


Date: 11 Jan 2001
From: Morgan Lewis

The warehouse scene in J is the first and very strong clue that Carrot will be openly showing flaws/humanity in Jingo.

Read just a touch closer -- he asks Reg Shoe if this is all right. He doesn't sound sure of it, but Reg convinces him (or at least, enough to continue.) He still seems to be doing what he thinks is the right thing, not the vindictive thing. In fact, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if it was Reg's idea in the first place; this doesn't sound like something Carrot would think up, especially taking into consideration that he seeks confirmation from Reg. Reg, on the other hand, would think up something exactly> like this, for exactly the reasons stated. He sticks with his group, and now that the Watch is his group, he's as loyal to them as he was to the Dead Rights Campaign. I don't think this is an instance of Carrot being a sadistic ba*d, I think this is an instance of Carrot being led by a competent (if technically subordinate) watchmen with an understated mean streak.


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