Friday, 22 August 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Miserable Mill, Chapter 4

Don’t forget that as it’s Friday it’s a double posting of the Chapter-by-Chapter review today. Chapter five’s review will be posted this afternoon.

What Happens?

Outside their new guardians office the Baudelaires see themselves in a mirror and are dismayed by their appearance, they also are reminded of the day that they learned of their parents’ deaths. They meet Charles who is surprised to learn that they’ve been put to work and promises to rectify this at once, but their new guardian shows up. His head is wreathed in cigar smoke so that they can’t really see him properly. He refuses to let the children out of working in the lumbermill as the deal is they work for him and he protects them from Olaf. Charles does show them to the lumbermill library which is not as is to be expected.

Thoughts as I read:

The chapter image on this page is easily one of the most depressing. It shows row after row of bookshelves with absolutely nothing on them bar about three books on one shelf. There’s a nice comfy looking sofa and a good reading lamp too. I could quite easily fill up all those bookshelves; I’d love to have a library like Belle’s in Beauty and the Beast!

As they wait to go into their guardian’s office the Baudelaires can’t help but look at themselves in a mirror outside it. They don’t look good. We get a bit of repetition here as we examine each child in turn; Violet’s got bark in her hair, Klaus’s glasses are not on straight, and Sunny has bark in her teeth. As if seeing their appearance was not bad enough there is also a painting of a seaside which reminds them of the day they found out about their parents’ death.

They take a moment to reminisce about how crazy their life has become since that day. Violet says she wouldn’t have believed they’d end up living here; Klaus wouldn’t have believed Count Olaf would be after them; while Sunny says “Wora” meaning “If someone had told me, that day at the beach, that before long I’d find myself using my four teeth to scrape the bark off trees, I would have said they were psychoneurotically disturbed.”

A man wearing a bright blue vest and carrying a peach comes to see them and is surprised to learn that they have been working in the mill, as per the instructions they were given. Sunny finds herself craving the peach in the man’s hand and says “Molub!” meaning “We’re talking about the typed note that told us to go to work at the lumbermill!”

Things do start to look up for the children slightly here as the man is suitably shocked by this news and tells them that they should be treated as members of the family. He then drops the bombshell that he is not in fact their new guardian, he’s just Charles, some guy who works at Lucky Smells.

Charles offers them a peach but almost immediately a man wearing a dark green suit appears telling Charles they’ve already had their lunch. The man’s head is enveloped in the smoke from a cigar so that no one can actually see his face. He does not seem very pleasant as he snaps at Charles and denies that there has been a mistake in the children being put to work. He says that it is time they ‘laid eyes one another’ though as Sunny points out “Batex!” meaning “But we’re not laying eyes on one another”.

Charles is old Smokey’s partner and Smokey has come to an agreement with Mr Poe that he’ll keep the kids in the lumbermill because Olaf and his cronies won’t come near them until they come of age if they’re there. He calls this a fair deal which it blatantly is not. Charles once again tries to point out that the children shouldn’t really be working in a lumbermill but Smokey won’t hear of it:

“It will teach them responsibility. It will teach them the value of work. And it will teach them how to make flat wooden boards out of trees.”

Klaus tries to point out that they could learn these things by reading about them, and therefore avoiding all the debarking and heavy machinery. Charles concurs as he has put together a library for the employees at the mill. Smokey won’t even listen to Violet’s pleading to let Sunny stay in the dormitory as the factory floor isn’t really the right sort of a place for a baby. Smokey’s easily as bad as Count Olaf, I think it’s safe to say that Mr Poe has really excelled himself at finding a totally useless guardian!

Before he leaves he tells the children that no one can pronounce his name so they’ll just call him Sir as everyone else does. Charles is obviously afraid of Sir, or at least just totally submissive to him, but when he’s out of the way he does sneak the children his peach, so at least they’ve have a little bit of food. Sir might protect them from Count Olaf but they’ll be completely malnourished by the time they get their money.

Charles also excuses Sir’s behaviour because Sir had a very bad childhood. Violet can relate to this. Instead of getting them out of the horrible situation they’ve found themselves in, Charles shows the children the library and tells them they can visit it whenever they like. It’s not really much of a consolation really, is it? However the children think it might be, at first, until they see the room and discover that there hasn’t been any money to actually buy any books. The library consists of a grand total of three books The History of Lucky Smells Lumbermill, The Paltryville Constitution and Advanced Ocular Science.

It’s the cover of the last book that worries the children. It’s got that oh so familiar eye on the front cover.

Dun dun duuuun!

Check back later for the next chapter.

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