Friday, 13 June 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Bad Beginning, Chapter 5

I’ve decided to bump up the number of times I post these each week because I worked out that at the rate I’m posting them at the moment we’re going to be here for about three years! Plus the chapters are so short, it’s kind of silly to just read one a week. I’m planning on double-posting for the next couple of weeks, starting on Monday (regular posts in the morning, Chapter-by-Chapter reviews in the afternoon).

So, without further ado.

What Happens?
The children discuss what they should do about their situation at Count Olaf’s. They decide to visit Mr Poe at the bank to see if he can help them. He can’t, or rather, he won’t. The children feel at a complete loss, not knowing what to do next. Once again they retreat to the security of Justice Strauss’s library, rejecting the possibility of telling her what is going on and asking for her help.

Thoughts as I read:

This chapter begins with a picture of a fountain and a building with big pillars at the front. There’s a sort of S shape in front of the building and the fountain is holding what appears to be a $ sign. I’m guessing we’ll visit Mr Poe at the bank during this chapter then.

Unless you have been very, very lucky, you have undoubtedly experienced events in your life that have made you cry. So unless you have been very, very lucky, you know that a good, long session of weeping can often make you feel better, even if your circumstances have not changed one bit.

I love how pretty much every chapter starts in this sort of way, they’re often quite true. Spending the whole night crying does make the Baudelaires feel better, although I’m sure if it was me I’d just feel tired and cranky.

Luckily Olaf isn’t around the next morning, having left them their morning’s duties. They debate what their options are, Klaus is bruised from Olaf’s outburst the previous day (seriously, these kids need someone to get them out of there). He would like to leave and risk life on the streets but Violet is slightly more practical, pointing out that they at least have somewhere to live at Olaf’s.

Klaus gets slightly childish (understandable as he is still a child) here and dreams of buying a castle with a guard for their fortune. They all start dreaming of what they could have in their castle; an inventing studio for Violet, a library for Klaus and for Sunny ‘Gibbo!’ which means ‘And I could have lots of things to bite.’

Violet tries to bring Klaus back to reality by considering what they should do about things right now. Klaus, probably because he is younger than her, doesn’t go for the most practical of solutions, he’s still dreaming about what they might be able to do. He suggests Justice Strauss could adopt them. Violet shoots down this idea but Klaus persists, saying that they should explain to her what’s been going on in the hopes she’ll take them in.

I think this is actually the closest thing to what they really should do. I’m sure if they were to tell her, given her legal background, she should be in a good position to do something about it. But they’re just children and they haven’t really had much help from adults recently so it’s not something that Violet seems prepared to do. I want to go into the story here and tell Violet that she should just talk to Justice Strauss, it’s infuriating.

Instead she wants to go and see Mr Poe, as he told them to see him if they had any questions. So I was right about the trip to the bank. I suspected that there was one coming up but I couldn’t actually remember so yay me. I told you there were clues in the pictures in this book!

Klaus is as reluctant to see Mr Poe as Violet is about telling Justice Strauss, but Violet is insistent and presumably being the oldest she’s the most commanding of the trio. She’s sure that when he hears how bad things are with Count Olaf, Mr Poe will find somewhere else for them to live.

They don’t actually know where the bank is, and despite Olaf saying he had a map, they can’t find it anywhere, so they set out hoping they can find it. The journey to the bank is reminiscent of the journey to Count Olaf’s. The city has a meat district, a flower district and a sculpture district – I love how things can seem quite normal one minute and then kind of random the next. The fountain at the beginning of the chapter is apparently the ‘Fountain of Victorious Finance’.

The banks have great names as well, ‘Trustworthy Bank’, ‘Faithful Savings and Loan’ and ‘Subservient Financial Services’, finally finding Mr Poe at ‘Mulctuary Money Management’. He’s not exactly welcoming to the three children; he’s disgruntled that they didn’t call ahead to book an appointment.

Mr Poe once again proves himself to be completely useless. Klaus tells him that he was hit by Count Olaf and Mr Poe ignores them to answer the phone. They go on to list all the problems they’ve had with the man; the poor sleeping arrangements, the chores he sets them, the drinking, the name calling, the theatre troupe, the hassling them about their money. Mr Poe barely pays attention, constantly answering the phone and talking them down.

Mr Poe wants the children to take more time to settle in with Count Olaf and he decides not to believe a word they say. He goes on to define the term ‘in loco parentis’ for them, basically saying that Olaf is their guardian and he can do with them what he likes. Jeez! The man is useless, he’s not going to look into their accusations or anything. He even has a coughing fit when Violet tries to point out Klaus’s bruise so he doesn’t even hear that and apparently he’s not noticed it, or if he has, it’s okay because Olaf’s their guardian now!

Phew! This is making me angry.

So the children leave, with no help at all, still trapped in the same awful situation. Violet does suggest that they might go and see Justice Strauss, not to ask for help though, just to look at books. I suppose that part of her reluctance to speak to Justice Strauss might be a pride thing; Strauss is little more than a stranger to them so she’s maybe not keen on bringing her into their problems. Mr Poe was an okay person to visit because he was a friend of their parents and he’s already involved, Strauss isn’t and they don’t want to involve her.

They do stop in at Justice Strauss’s house on the way back to Count Olaf’s (I notice that it’s always ‘Count Olaf’s’, never ‘home’, I’ve even subconsciously avoided calling it ‘home’ myself in these posts). They find a little ray of happiness in her library as they pick out books that interest them, even Sunny finds a book with pictures of teeth in it. However the narration can’t help but point out that this is only a temporary respite, they might be able to escape temporarily but sooner or later they’re going to have to return to Count Olaf’s and things definitely won’t be as pleasant there.

This is a relatively short chapter and it’s quite dialogue heavy without a huge amount happening, other than the useless trip to Mr Poe. But I think it serves a purpose to show that the kids really do think they’re on their own. I couldn’t understand why Violet was so against telling Justice Strauss, but I think I’m right in thinking it’s a pride thing (at least at first) and the lack of help from Mr Poe, who they did trust to help them has led them to feel a lack of trust of adults too.

While Klaus is prepared to tell Justice Strauss, and Sunny is too young to have a say, Violet is the leader of the group in these matters and she’s now developed a sense of distrust of adults now. And who can really blame her.

As I said above, starting on Monday I'm aiming to post these posts in the afternoons throughout the week (though probably not at the weekends, I need to have some time to write my regular posts). I've not yet decided whether Fridays will get a double-helping or just once. We'll see when we get there.

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