Monday, 16 June 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Bad Beginning, Chapter 6

As I mentioned last week, I’m increasing the frequency of my Chapter-by-Chapter review posts. Reading a chapter per week would work for me if I was reading The Lord of the Rings or the Earth’s Children Series but for a series which is short to begin with and is divided into very short chapters it just feels silly. I’m having to read through my past entries to remind myself of where I’ve gotten to each week!

So the new plan is to continue to post my 10am posts on a Friday, but I’ll also post at 4pm every weekday (except Wednesday, which will remain ‘wordless’). I might increase this to include weekends at some point, but this way will give me plenty of time to read and get the posts written. Hopefully I might be finished with these books before 2017 this way!

What Happens?
Count Olaf surprises the children by actually being nice to them. He reveals that Mr Poe told him about their visit to the bank and goes on to explain that the reason he’s behaved badly is due to nerves about his theatre performance. He then tells them that he wants them to join him in his latest production. Olaf wants Violet to play the role of his bride in the play The Marvelous Marriage; he’s also recruited Justice Strauss for the part of the judge. The children know he’s up to something but they don’t know exactly what it is. They decide to pay a visit to Justice Strauss’s library to read up on inheritance law.

Thoughts as I read:

This chapter starts with a little drawing of three bowls of steaming oatmeal, that’ll be porridge then. It has berries on top, quite appealing.

Rather shockingly the children get up to discover Count Olaf in the kitchen the following morning. Even more shockingly he’s made them breakfast. Naturally the children are suspicious but instead of poison or glass in the oatmeal, there’s raspberries. They also consider the possibility that these are poisonous berries disguised to look like raspberries. I don’t blame them at all. I know the kids have to eat but I wouldn’t trust anything he gave me.

Not only does Count Olaf actually eat a raspberry himself, he reveals he was actually once a youngster too. I’m not sure which fact is more shocking!

It turns out that the reason for the change in attitude towards the children is nothing to do with Count Olaf having a sudden revelation about how awful his behaviour has been, instead Mr Poe has told Olaf all about the children’s little visit. I can understand that he might want to voice the concerns that the children raised with him, in fact, I’m amazed that he paid enough attention to the Baudelaires to understand what they’d come to see him about! But I think that perhaps he should have spoken to them a little more, or perhaps
dropped by unannounced to witness Olaf’s behaviour first hand.

Count Olaf doesn’t really come across as a very good actor here, presumably this is the reason why his house is such a dump. The narration mentions that he looks as though he was serious but his eyes looked like he was telling a joke. I know it’s hard to hide your true feelings when you’re acting but I think it’s fairly obvious that he’s planning something. All the same, he apologises for the fact that they haven’t been settling in well.

He also drops the bomb that he is now their father. Um, no you’re not. They might come to see you as someone who is like a father, but if that’s going to happen you’re going to have to start behaving like one. It doesn’t say anywhere that he’s adopted them so his sole relationship to them at the moment is that of guardian and wannabe owner of a fortune.

Count Olaf comes to the crux of this little charade. He wants the Baudelaires to take part in his new play, snidely commenting that this will prevent them from complaining to Mr Poe. Now in a way this could be a nice bonding experience for each other, especially if he hadn’t been treating them like dirt from the moment they arrived. Olaf could find ways that the kids could use their hobbies; Violet could probably come up with some devices for stage management or props, Klaus could maybe handle script work or making the programmes, Sunny’s just a baby but she seems pretty advanced, I’d give her a paintbrush to gnaw on and let her paint scenery. Count Olaf obviously has different ideas.

The play in question is The Marvellous Marriage – I love the alliteration, you get it in the book titles throughout the series and then again actually within the books as well. The writer is Al Funcoot, which is an anagram of Count Olaf. I like spotting anagrams and I caught this one right away on my first read. I think that’s what clued me in to the importance of names in the series.

Klaus and Sunny are to play extras, basically. They question the logic of having short children playing adults but having performed in a local drama group, sometimes you just have to work with what you’ve got. At the age of twenty-something I was playing someone in her mid-forties or fifties!

Violet offers to help build the set but Olaf has other plans for her. He wants her to play the girl his character marries. Uh, that’s kind of weird, a moment ago you were telling her you’re her father, now you want to pretend to marry her. Violet feels much the same; she doesn’t even want to pretend he’s her father, let alone pretend to marry her.

Olaf then reveals that Justice Strauss will be playing the role of the judge. Apparently he wanted to ask Justice Strauss to be ‘neighbourly’. I can’t help but wonder what he said to her to make her say yes.

Violet tries a different approach suggesting that she isn’t talented enough to take on the role. When Olaf realises that she’s trying to get out of it he tries a different tactic. He quickly becomes very prickly and reminds Violet that she has to do as she’s told, after all, he’s her father now. So while he takes the physical approach with Klaus, with Violet it’s more psychological. He’s threatening her without actually saying anything overtly threatening. In some ways that’s more frightening because bruises can be seen (even if Mr Poe doesn’t pay attention) but the verbal threats aren’t so easy to spot.

After Olaf leaves Klaus speaks up, once again aiming for the optimistic note. He thinks it might be okay to take part in the play, but Violet already thinks Olaf is up to something. Whereas last time I disagreed with her lack of trust of Justice Strauss, this time I agree with her. It’s better that she prepares for whatever Olaf might be planning, rather than getting a nasty shock when whatever he has planned actually comes to a head. She’s well aware that he wants to get his hands on the fortune but doesn’t know exactly what he’ll do to get it.

I like how the children process what they should do next. Klaus wants to know more about inheritance law; they can’t go to Mr Poe because he’ll probably run to Olaf, ditto Justice Strauss. Luckily Sunny says something which may possibly mean ‘Would somebody please wipe my face?’ but comes out as ‘Book!’ That’s exactly what I’d do, look at a book I mean, not ask someone to wipe my face, I’m usually perfectly capable of doing that myself!

And so they plan a visit to Justice Strauss and her library. Leaving the kitchen, with its cupboards decorated with painted eyes (I’m not sure how many that would be exactly. Let’s call it five, that’ll take it up to thirteen in this book so far). So we leave the children trying to figure out just what Olaf is planning to do. Hopefully they’ll get an idea pretty damn quick!

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