Themes

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Last Updated on May 10, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 418

Oppression of the masses leads into the larger theme of social values. The moral principles of the Agateans are compared to those of the Morporkians. Cohen and his Silver Horde—a group of sixty elderly barbarians and one elderly former teacher—make an excellent counterpoint to the Agateans. Saveloy's role is to...

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Oppression of the masses leads into the larger theme of social values. The moral principles of the Agateans are compared to those of the Morporkians. Cohen and his Silver Horde—a group of sixty elderly barbarians and one elderly former teacher—make an excellent counterpoint to the Agateans. Saveloy's role is to civilize the Horde so that they can overthrow the Empire in an Agatean fashion. The barbarians find good manners and politeness chaffing and difficult, not to mention incomprehensible.

As part of his training, Cohen is instructed by Saveloy to buy an apple from a merchant, a task that he performs grudgingly. When the merchant calls him "venerable," Cohen beats the cart owner and steals his money. Pratchett here is underlining the hypocrisy of barbarian ethics. Cohen pays for the apple with one hand, while robbing the merchant with the other hand. It is questionable whether Cohen's paying for the apple is an improvement over the Agatean's style of polite theft without payment.

Pratchett's comment on conflicting social ethics continues as the values of Ankh-Morpork are placed under scrutiny as well. Pratchett notes that the Thieves Guild makes a point of not killing its victims so they can be robbed again the following week. Much of Ankh-Morpork is as ruthless and independent. People are free to make their own decisions and never kowtow to anyone. Rincewind reflects that had he tried to demand that a person hand over her money in Ankh-Morpork, he would "be scrabbling in the gutter for his teeth." Rincewind notes, too, that "freedom did, of course, include man's age-old right to starve to death." Independence and freedom have their price.

In the end, a more humane and practical rule has come to the Empire through Ghenghiz Cohen, but it is not a perfect one. Saveloy illustrates a point that the Silver Horde, and many people of Ankh- Morpork, never seem to grasp: "It is possible sometimes for money to legitimately belong to other people." The inconsistencies of the Horde's morals are worth it, however. Defending yourself and your friends, fighting for what you believe in, and giving everyone a fair chance to succeed or fail are welcome changes in the Empire.

Returning to the underlying comparison of Britain and China, Pratchett creates an ending that favors British government and ideals. While not a perfect system, it does grant individuals basic rights and freedoms, oppressing no one group in favor of another. The benefits to the Chinese would result in individual growth and success.

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