Study Guide

Nation Death

By Terry Pratchett


I am become like Locaha, measuring the contours of death. (2.23)

Mau thinks this when he has to bury his entire tribe at sea. It's a very serious moment, but we have to ask: how do you measure the contours of death? With a tape measure? And does knowing how big it is make it easier to deal with?

This [man] didn't worry [Mau], not after the memory of yesterday. [...] This was just a dead man. He didn't know him. People died. (2.72)

To deal with the insane amount of death the wave brought, Mau has to detach himself from reality. What other defense mechanisms does Mau employ, and does he do so consciously?

Now it was time for [the crabs'] perfect world. (2.75)

In the forest, Mau finds a dead trouserman being devoured by tiny little crabs. News flash: humans aren't the only creatures on the world. When humans die, life begins for other animals. Like flesh-eating crabs. Mm, tasty.

Everything died if you watched it for long enough. (2.98)

Except cockroaches. They're never going anywhere. (And possibly naked mole rats.)

It would be the end of grief, a blanking of all bad memories. (3.136)

Mau considers the pros and cons of dying when he dives deep into the ocean to save Daphne from drowning. In this moment, he doesn't realize it would also be a blanking of all good memories.

It would have been so easy to heed the wily words of Locaha and sink into the blackness. (4.71)

Even though he's saved Daphne from drowning, Mau kind of regrets not drowning himself. It's incredible how easy this decision can be, when it's the last decision Mau would ever make. How can it be so easy to give in to death?

"Sometimes you laugh because you've got no more room for crying. [...] Sometimes you laugh because you're alive and you really shouldn't be." (4.76)

Even though Mau's entire family is dead and Daphne may never see her home again, the two share some humor. This is why people laugh at funerals. Especially clown funerals.

Some of the children were coping better than the adults. (9.191)

Mau observes this phenomenon as more people arrive on the island. These children have lost their parents, but they're adjusting to it. Kids are resilient—just ask anyone who's dropped one.

"Locaha is no one's servant." (11.250)

Mau observes that First Mate Cox seems to fancy himself Death incarnate. He's not; Death answers to no one. It cannot be controlled. When Death calls, you have to answer.

"I've died before. I know how it's done." (13.126)

Mau has journeyed to the land of the dead and returned, like many great heroes before him. This journey has made him fearless when confronting his enemies.