What Was Pratchett's Central Theme?

SPoots

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Hi all,

I am currently planning a these based upon Pratchett's Discworld and I was wondering what do people think the central theme of the series is?
 

The Big Peat

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A central theme running through 40-odd books? That's a big ask, particularly when Pratchett mutated throughout his career. But if there was one, I think it can be summed up thus -

“All right," said Susan. "I'm not stupid. You're saying humans need... fantasies to make life bearable."

REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.

"Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—"

YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.

"So we can believe the big ones?"

YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

"They're not the same at all!"

YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME...SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.

"Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what's the point—"

MY POINT EXACTLY.”


Because when you came down to it, that's what he spent his career doing. He used Fantasy to explore the animal side of us, and the side of us driven to be better, and always came down on Be Better and always raged at injustice. I'd say Mort's where it first became an obvious theme but I reckon you can probably see echoes of it earlier. Rincewind's probably the character who least fits the theme, in that Rincewind's mostly looked at it and decided not to bother, possibly because he has the least nasty thoughts in his head, but it's really obviously there in Death, Weatherwax and Vimes.
 

Margaret Note Spelling

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I'm not sure I saw any evidence of Sir Terry having a central theme in mind as he wrote the series, apart from the obvious fact that they were all written by one man with one particular worldview and set of beliefs about reality. (He certainly blurred the line between ruthless realism and whimsical fantasy in a truly genius way, as far as I'm concerned.) But to me it seems more as if he had several recurring ideas and issues and even genres that kept cropping up throughout the series--ones that could each make up a thesis in themselves, probably! And like @The Big Peat said, ones that evolved with the author over time. The Discworld series was huge.

Sir Terry himself once referred to the Discworld as rather like a whiteboard for him, for the stories he felt like writing at any given time. It was in a recorded interview from sometime in the 2000s. And I guess if I were writing a thesis about the ideas behind Discworld, that's probably what I would turn to first--all the recorded interviews Sir Terry gave throughout his life, talking about Discworld and his own life's influences on it, and the reasons behind some of his creative decisions. There are tons of them on Youtube; I spent a couple of hours downloading a couple dozen of them a month or so ago, and I still haven't watched through them all. I don't think I even saw the majority of them.

Just a few ideas. At any rate, good luck on your thesis! Any chance of it ever showing up where we on Chrons can find it, once you're done?
 
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The Big Peat

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Actually, thinking more about this - and admittedly I am not a professor, so may be wrong - but if this is a formal academic thesis I'd urge you to narrow it down. The topic is huge and I think anyone would struggle to get this into an academic word count. Maybe geeking out on one particular series is the way to go.


Also, there's a quote from the foreword to Carpet People that goes something like how he realised Fantasy should actually be about not having Kings and not having battles - can't remember it exactly - but it is a very good window into his thinking. Particularly Vimes.
 

SPoots

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The approach I’m currently taking is the cross section between what I think are two themes that crop up repeatedly: the individual bs the collective and the concept of collective/communal care and responsibility. I’m still working on the pitch.
 

BAYLOR

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The only person that knew what Terry Pratchett's central theme was, was Terry Pratchett . It's up to us the readers to figure that one out.:sneaky:
 

The Big Peat

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The approach I’m currently taking is the cross section between what I think are two themes that crop up repeatedly: the individual bs the collective and the concept of collective/communal care and responsibility. I’m still working on the pitch.
Interesting - wasn't something I'd have thought of myself. Can see elements of it in the Witches books though at least.
 

olive

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Human condition. And that it wouldn't change in any culture, age or world; real or fantasy. Human existence, the tragicomedy of humanity. Only he made it that light and good. The best way was to make fun of it and nobody has done it better than him. I wish more people could see it. Their lives would be much better.

'Small people' is one of his best themes in my opinion. Ordinary people. Their development. His understanding of hero and superhero is unique. So down to earth, so rich, so witty... He is always standing behind you when you are reading, but you see him running a mile ahead when you catch up.

Does anyone know any other writer, who created 70 year old female 'superhero' who actually is a villain, but acts good by choice, whose super power is to be certain of herself and what is real?
 
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