Friday, 11 July 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Reptile Room, Chapter 10

As I mentioned earlier, this is the last post of the week for the Chapter-by-Chapter reviews. Check back on Monday afternoon for the next review, for Chapter 11.

What Happens?

Sunny opens the Incredibly Deadly Viper's cage and starts screaming, bringing everyone running, except Violet and Klaus who know that her screams are fake. Sunny is bitten by the snake, which obviously isn't poisonous but Mr Poe doesn't know that.

Thoughts as I read:

Right under the Chapter heading for this chapter there's a top hat. It's flying into the air because at the very bottom of the page there is a bundle of limbs and snake with a handkerchief heading up to join the hat. My money's on that being the Incredibly Deadly Viper based on its interested stripe pattern at the end of its tail.

This chapter begins by pointing out how 'insipid' the story of the Boy Who Cried Wolf is. It actually celebrates the fact that the boy is eaten by the wolf at the end of the story because after that there is no more story. I was always fairly ambivalent about the Boy Who Cried Wolf but I have read other books which I've felt a similar way about. This book is not one of them.

Basically Snicket is pointing out how the morals that books are promoting can actually be interpreted in totally different ways from what was intended. I could actually link to TV Tropes right now because I was just reading a page about that the other day. The Boy Who Cried Wolf is intended to teach people not to lie, but the Sunny pays no attention to this moral because she opens up the IDV's cage and starts screaming. We get a mention of Little Red Riding Hood here, which I could talk about for hours having studied it almost a year ago. I learned things about that story which would make your hair stand on end!

The gist of this is that Violet and Klaus recognise that Sunny isn't genuinely screaming, but everyone else hears her and assumes that something has gone horribly wrong. They are encouraged by Klaus who calls to them in a 'rough and low' voice. We're also told at this point that when Klaus is worried his voice becomes squeaky. Apparently his voice did this when he found Monty's body but I don't recall that. I think that perhaps more could've been made of this, in a similar way to the way The Bad Beginning kept on reminding up about how Violet was right-handed.

Remember the last book when the children all told Olaf that they couldn't act? Well, they're doing a pretty good job of it in this book. Perhaps it depends on the circumstances. Klaus successfully pretended to be frightened, though it took some effort not to laugh, meanwhile Sunny is lying on the floor also pretending to be very scared. She would normally go very quiet when she was scared, which we have seen before when Olaf was abusing her in The Bad Beginning, instead she's making a huge fuss.

And why are the children pretending to be really frightened? The Incredibly Deadly Viper has wrapped itself around Sunny and it's preparing to bite her. Of course we know it's not going to do anything to hurt her, they're good friends. But no one else knows that.

Mr Poe completely, and comically, over-reacts at the sight of this:

"Goodness!" he cried. "Golly! Good God! Blessed Allah! Zeus and Hera! Mary and Joseph! Nathaniel Hawthorne! Don't touch her! Grab her! Move closer! Run away! Don't move! Kill the snake! Leave it alone! Give it some food! Don't let it bite her! Lure the snake away! Here, snakey! Here, snakey snakey!"

Followed shortly afterwards, when the IDV actually bites Sunny's chin:

"It's bitten her!" he cried. "It bit her! It bited her! Calm down! Get moving! Call an ambulance! Call the police! Call a scientist! Call my wife! This is terrible! This is awful! This is ghastly! This is phantasmagorical! This is-"

This is probably about the most active that we've ever seen him.

Stephano however, was paying attention when Monty showed him the Reptile Room, and he points out the fact its name is a misnomer, which we knew already. Mr Poe seems pretty relieved to learn this but Olaf just doesn't know when to stop, going on to brag about how he read up on the snakes in the Reptile Room and Monty's papers. Olaf's henchman tries to get him to stop, but Olaf might be a genius when it comes to disguises, but he's a bit dense in other respects. Sunny helps to drag attention to this with an ''Aha!'' as she drops the charade that she's being eaten by a giant viper.

Mr Poe, who isn't really a bad guy, but isn't much of a good guy either so he doesn't know what Sunny means by ''Aha!'' Luckily Klaus is there to translate. And it's a brilliant moment. He explains that Stephano had claimed to know nothing about snakes so couldn't possibly have killed Monty with snake poison, and that he's blatantly been lying. In this case, ''Aha!'' means exactly what she said.

This is a really short chapter considering the last few chapters have been up to or over 20 pages long. This one is just 10 pages so it took me quite by surprise when it finished. We're almost at the end of the book now, so all that's left in the next three chapters is to see how Olaf is going to get out of this one and what will happen to the kids next!

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