The most important symbol in Night Watch is the lilac blossom. It starts off the story and recurs throughout it.
In Victorian Flower Language lilac is listed under both “young/first love” and “youthful innocence”. What could be more appropriate than “youthful innocence” for this book?
The Glorious 25th of May destroys the youthful innocence of Young Sam and his fellows. The stars are gone from his eyes by the end of this book. All of this happens under the saddened eyes of the older Sam Vimes. He looks at his younger self across 30 years with experience and maybe a bit wistfully about how innocent he was in his youth.
At first I thought that “young love” does not fit Night Watch, but wait. Wait. You will not convince me that the Watch is not Vimes’s first love. He loves that job and Ankh-Morpork in a way that he never loved a person until he met Lady Sybil.
Night Watch is about Vimes’s past and how he grows up and how the 25th of May changes the course of his life. He is young and innocent and loves his mother and life and would probably have ended up another Colon or Snouty, but then the revolution comes and we see the Vimes heart and grit emerge. He was never the same man after Cable Street. He fought twice under the lilac. He lost friends under the lilac. His son was born under the lilac.
His memories are locked up in the lilac, but so is the theme of the book. So sneaky, Pterry.
All the little angels rise up high.