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Women in classical literature have been characterized as the submissives who lack the intellectual substance for lead roles. As the generations evolve into the modern culture, hints of sexist ideals latch themselves onto societal norms. Women’s bodies are not their own, but property of another man’s. Women’s thoughts are not highly regarded because men have deemed themselves more intellectually adept than women. The fear of the modern woman is embodied by what men claim to hold ownership of: their body and their mind. Terry Pratchett’s whimsical play introduces these feminist views with a band of supernatural characters who happen to be women. The name “Monstrous Regiment” in itself becomes synonymous to the unknown qualities and power of these women through their minds and their bodies, rather than their supernatural beings.
Terry Pratchett creates the narrative that women are more intellectually superior than men in his fictional world. The introductory scene of the main women joining the ranks starting on page 9 reflects how the women articulate their words better than Corporal Strappi, and are found to be more educated because of their ability to read and write their name: “My word, I can see we’ve got ourselves a bleedin’ college of recruits today” (Pratchett 11). By Strappi and Jackrum’s responses, it can be assumed that while the men are off at war, the women have spent their lives in school, gaining an education. Pratchett furthers this theme of intellectual women through the manifestation of the main heroine, Polly Perks. Pratchett uses the washerwoman scene and the barmaid scene to show the women and their power of manipulation over men. Polly uses pushes Lieutenant Blouse to her own idea of dressing as washerwoman to get into the Keep, while still maintaining Lieutenant Blouse’s ego by allowing him to think it was his original idea: “If a man gets inside, he could spy out the situation from a military perspective, disable any guards near the door, and let the rest of the troops in!’ … ‘Oh, you’re a brave enough lad, certainly, but what makes you think you stand a chance of passing yourself off as a woman?” (Pratchett 95-96). The women written by Pratchett are aware of their talents as a woman and know how to act in order for them to get by. However, as the audience discovers how intricate the women are in the military system, Pratchett continues to withstand the sexist ideals of modern society dispite their adversity.
The home life of all women characters in the play reveal that the roles of women are openly excluded in the progression of society and politics. In terms of recruitment for the war, women are on the bottom tear of the societal hierarchy in comparison to the trolls, vampires, and Igors. Even though it is now common to see women pretend to be men to join the ranks, the sexism prevails even in the face of defeat. Even when revealed to be women, General Froc refuses to submit to the ideals of equality in the military: “You people, with the exception of Lieutenant Blouse, will agree to be returned to your own homes and placed in charge of a responsible male” (Pratchett 125) The sentencing of this regiment becomes more troubling in the face of Jackrum’s discovery of the hierarchy of the military branches: “Who needs proof? Once they believe it, well, that is as good as it being true. Which at least in this case it is. And wouldn’t you be be in good coumpany, sir? Along with Colonel ‘Olga’ Cumbabund an’ Major ‘Janet’ Derbi, and Captain ‘Chloe’ Jodphurs. More’n a third of this country’s High Command, in fact, sir….And you promoted them. You promoted them because they was as good as men.” (Pratchett 129). Froc, who later is revealed to be a woman as well, is aware of the hardworking women that she as promoted based on their merit but still follows the ingrained sexist rules of their country despite breaking them herself.
By the premise of the play, Pratchett sets up the idea that the monstrous aspects of this group are their supernatural talents. The audience sees a troll, a vampire, and an Igor together in a group facing adversity and assume that their talents of their own species will benefit them in the long run. However, none of these women use their supernatural abilities to aid their effort in storming the Keep or winning the war. Their triumphs during the play are given credit to their femininity.
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