When we first meet Sam Vimes, he is a drunk, ground down by circumstances and life. The Night Watch, which he commands, and is his sole reason for living, is a travesty, ineffectual, peopled with time-servers and petty criminals, and he feels powerless to do his job, and keep order in the city he loves.

In addition, it is explained that he drinks because his natural state is "one drink below normal" -- that state of extreme sobriety that follows on from a heavy drinking session.

His family has a long history in crime-fighting, and he is the descendant of the infamous Stoneface Vimes, who executed the last King of Ankh-Morpork. The fact that the king in question was a corrupt despot has been forgotten, the fact that Stoneface was a regicide has not.

With the recruitment of Corporal Carrot and a major threat to the city as motivation, Vimes' redemption begins. He kicks the booze, marries Lady Sybil Ramkin, and begins a steady, if very reluctant, rise through the strata of Ankh-Morpork society. (In fact, it's more than reluctant, Sam is extremely anti-aristocracy, and is resentful that he is being dragged, kicking and screaming into its ranks.)

In many ways, Vimes is the antithesis of The Patrician of the city. Blunt, where Vetinari is subtle, passionate, where the other man is cold. However, the two men have a grudging respect for each other, share a deep commitment to Ankh-Morpork, and both need the other to be able to function.

Sam Vimes is the archetypal "Copper". Honest, caring (but unable to express it) and doggedly determined to get his job done.

The best caption for Sam Vimes would probably be "Dirty Harry gone to seed". He is cynical, stubborn, rude and with an almost religious contempt for authority. He is also a closet idealist (albeit a disillusioned one) and a reluctant diplomat and nobleman.

Vimes' relationship with Vetinari is completely symbiotic - the conflict between them is what move the plots of the books as well as in-story events forward. Scenes of the classic "give me your badge and your gun" "you're suspended" and "I quit!" are written into almost every book.

Vimes is very much the gruff-but-decent copper, whose faults are really virtues that make him better at his job. Thus the reader is expected to fall in love with him despite the fact that, for eample, he never finishes a meal with his wife or goes anywhere without starting a riot in pursuit of a petty thief. Much supposed hilarity is derived from the he's-under-her-thumb-really school of comedy. I have never liked this aspect of the Ankh-Morpork City Guard series, and find it mildly annoying and not remotely amusing. Vimes himself, though a well written character, I find difficult to relate to in view of the fact that he's a total bastard.

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