Thursday, 21 August 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Miserable Mill, Chapter 3

While flicking through the pages of this book to see how long this chapter would be (they’re on average about five pages longer than the early chapters in the last few books) I found a ticket from a play I was in while I was at university. It’s been sat there for nearly ten years I’m just not sure how I missed it when I was reading this book three years ago!

What Happens?

The children are woken by the mean foreman banging pots to wake everyone up. Foreman Flacutono looks slovenly and is horrible to the Baudelaires. They’re set to work in the mill where they are given the task of debarking the trees, a job which is hard and boring, until lunch, which is just a piece of gum. Luckily they are saved from the drudgery of the afternoon’s work as they are summoned to see the boss.

Thoughts as I read:

Remember the image on the front of the book, with the man with the pans. Well looks like we’re going to meet him in this chapter. The picture shows some really quite hairy hands and arms holding a pair of pans. I’m guessing they’re banging them together rather than preparing to make pasta puttanesca.

Once again, Snicket starts a chapter by saying something that is relatively true (though in a relatively funny way), this time it’s about the way that the sort of morning you have can tell you what sort of day you’re going to have. Basically he’s saying that a bad way to wake up is to find a mean foreman banging pots as a sort of alarm clock as this is unlikely to bode well for the rest of the day.

Phil, who clearly is trying to see the best in Foreman Flacutono, tries to introduce the children to the foreman. Remember our suspicions about Flacutono? Well he refers to the children as midgets. Who have we met before who called the children midgets? Hmm.

I’m sure you have heard it said that appearance does not matter so much, and that it is what’s on the inside that counts. This is, of course, utter nonsense, because if it were true then people who were good on the inside would never have to comb their hair or take a bath, and the whole world would smell even worse than it already does.

Basically Snicket is saying that Flacutono’s appearance just serves to highlight what an awful person he is. His clothes are stained, his shoes held together with tape, he is totally bald but wears an awful white wig, he has dark and beady eyes, and covers the rest of his face with a sort of surgical mask. Just to further highlight how horrible he is, as if the banging pots and midget comment wasn’t enough, he called the children ‘Baudeliars’. Sunny corrects him with “Bram!” meaning “and our last name is Baudelaire.”

It’s also revealed that for lunch they will be getting chewing gum, which unless it’s of the Willy Wonka variety (in which case I’d spit it out before the third course) is not going to be a very nutritious meal.

The Baudelaires are more than a little bit worried about the coming day, with good reason, but especially because they have never really had jobs before so this is all a bit of a steep learning curve for them. The lumbermill is all full of dangerous looking machinery, suggesting a place that is most definitely not the sort of place for three children to be hanging out in.

The children are assigned the task of stripping the bark from the trees with these things called ‘debarkers’ which are so heavy that Sunny gives up using hers and just uses her teeth instead. Not only is it hard work, it’s really boring and they’ve not had any lunch so all in all, it’s not a particularly pleasant experience. Lunch break is not much of an improvement either; they’re each given a square of gum. All three Baudelaires protest, with Sunny’s contribution of “Tanco!” which sounds like ‘thank you’ actually meaning “And babies shouldn’t even have gum because they could choke on it!”

Despite being pretty pessimistic, though more from experience rather than actually being pessimistic people, Violet and Klaus try to come up with a solution to this problem. Making sandwiches is out because they have no sandwich making supplies, they can’t buy ingredients because they have no money, and they have no money because they’re only paid in coupons. The coupons are doubly useless because they are for things like banjos and a shampoo at a salon, and also because they have no money to pay for the things on the coupons. In response to this Sunny says “Nelnu!” but we don’t get to find out what this means.

With lunch over everyone else has to get on with their work in the lumbermill, except the Baudelaires who have been summoned to the boss’s office. As can be imagined, they feel a certain sense of apprehension about meeting the man who treats his employees, and children, in this way. Things are unlikely to get better any time soon!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Let me know what you think. :-)