Monday, 23 June 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Bad Beginning, Chapter 11

This week we’re wrapping up The Bad Beginning. I’ve really enjoyed speeding up my reading of this book because it’s stopped me from getting pulled out of the story and saved me time while I’m reading because I don’t have to keep going back to remind myself of what has happened before.

What Happens?

Violet is captured by the hook-handed man who holds her in the room at the top of the tower. She is then locked in with Sunny while the hook-handed man goes to get Klaus. Violet explains to Klaus what happened and they try to figure out how to escape but before they can come up with a plan Count Olaf shows up, separating Klaus and Violet from Sunny in order to get on with the performance. But as they head down the stairs Violet gets the merest hint of an idea.

Thoughts as I read:

This chapter’s picture is of a whole bunch of framed pictures of eyes. There’s twenty in total which basically doubles the number we’ve seen so far, taking up us to thirty. I particularly like the Dali-esque one with eyes melting.

Having found herself face-to-face with the hook-handed man. Violet attempts to escape but isn’t quick enough. The guy pulls her into the room and drops the makeshift grappling hook, trapping her in the room with him. The hook-handed man is once again really creepy, talking about how he wanted to see her ‘pretty face’ and ordering her to sit down. I can’t help but constantly be reminded that Violet is a young female and the men around her are all too aware of that too.

The book then goes on to detail how people’s rooms can tell you a lot about them:

“I am certain over the course of your own life, you have noticed that people’s rooms reflect their personalities. In my room, for instance, I have gathered a collection of objects that are important to me, including a dusty accordion on which I can play a few sad songs, a large bundle of notes on the activities of the Baudelaire orphans, and a blurry photograph, taken a very long time ago, of a woman whose name is Beatrice. These are items that are very precious and dear to me.”

I love all these little clues about who the author is and where he has come from. I remember really enjoying them on the first read and trying to piece them all together to figure out where the story is going.

Anyway, the point of this is to help illustrate what sort of a person Count Olaf is. His room is filled with evil plans written in his bad handwriting, the book he took from Klaus, chairs and candles, empty wine bottles (he appears to have a bit of a habit), and lots and lots of pictures of eyes which we saw at the beginning of the chapter but we’ll assume that was just half of them so we’ll add another twenty onto the count. We’re up to fifty now. Plus there’s a really big one on the door handle out of the room. So that’ll make fifty-one.

I like how the book acknowledges how impractical it is for the hook-handed man to have two hooks for hands. He struggles a bit with the walkie-talkie which he uses to communicate with Count Olaf, owing to his hook-hands. Again this kind of complicates the time period this is set in; they have horse-drawn carts and walkie-talkies but I can’t spend too much time focusing on that because I’m fretting about how hookie handles going to the bathroom!

The hook-handed man informs Count Olaf that Violet has just climbed up to the top of the tower. There’s a bit of a discussion about how she managed it but the most disturbing bit is when the hook-handed guy says “Yes, boss, of course I understand she’s yours’.” That makes it sound like even Olaf doesn’t trust his henchmen and knows what’s likely to happen to Violet if he leaves her with him without a warning. *Shudders* Am I really reading this much into a children’s book?!

Violet is then locked in the room with Sunny while the hook-handed man goes to get Klaus to keep the Baudelaire’s together. I can’t help but think that if Olaf wanted to really get to the kids he’d keep them separated. I can’t think of a better way to demoralise them. That’s kind of scary if I’m starting to think of ways to be more evil than Olaf! But when you put them all together they can use their respective skills to tackle their problems; they’re weaker when they’re apart. However, Count Olaf thinks this will keep them out of ‘mischief’.

Violet goes to comfort Sunny but doesn’t dare untie her in case she gets into more trouble. What follows is a brief recap of everything that has happened so far in the book. Just in case you’ve forgotten over the last 127 pages (or have spent a lot of time only reading one chapter a week). This just serves to highlight the Series of Unfortunate Events that the children have encountered.

Klaus is pushed into the room, reuniting the three Baudelaire orphans. Violet then has to fill Klaus in about how they have come to be held hostage at the top of the tower in the middle of the night. Klaus laments the fact that Violet’s invention didn’t work and she is then forced to explain that it did work but that the hook-handed man was waiting for her.

Together Violet and Klaus search the room in the hopes of finding something to help them get out of the tower. Occasionally they try to comfort Sunny. I would think that they could untie her at least, even if they can’t let her out of the cage. I’m sure they would hear someone coming up the stairs to give them enough warning to get her tied up again as though nothing had happened.

Once or twice they make a suggestion which for various reasons won’t work but they’re desperate and clutching at straws for any idea that might give them a way out of their predicament. Violet suggests that they might make Molotov cocktails with all Olaf’s papers, if only they had some kerosene – probably best that they don’t as being trapped in a burning building wouldn’t exactly make things any better for them at this point. Klaus suggests that if they were polygamists then if Olaf married Violet then he would be breaking the law, presumably because in this scenario either she or he would already be married to someone else. Violet suggests they use the bottles as weapons, although she realises that the henchmen would probably be stronger than they were, and I doubt whether they would have any qualms about using them against the children. Klaus points out that Violet could say ‘I don’t’ instead of ‘I do’ but that would probably result in Olaf dropping Sunny off the tower…

And at that moment we realise why my plan to untie Sunny and tie her back up again probably wouldn’t have worked. While the children have been absorbed trying to think of ways to get out of their predicament, Olaf has come up the stairs and entered the room. He agreed with Klaus that to say ‘I don’t’ would mean certain death for poor Sunny.

Olaf leaves the hook-handed man with Sunny in the tower, warning them that if they try anything funny they’ll communicate via the walkie-talkies to exact revenge. Violet and Klaus are then led away to take their places in the performance. But we then get a slight spark of hope as we’re reminded of a particular plot point that’s kept on cropping up since the very first chapter: Violet uses her right hand to grip the bannister as she descends the staircase and the cogs start turning.

This chapter is basically a continuation towards the final climax of the story as we’ve only got another two chapters to go after this. Think it shows a bit of character development on the part of Violet as she tries to help her siblings on her own and then when that first idea doesn’t work out, after a brief period of disenchantment, she beings to formulate a new plan. It also helps to illustrate just how cold-hearted Count Olaf and his henchmen are. Plus it kind of creeped me out.

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